Displaying Holiness – A conversation on the book of Leviticus

Chapter 3

Human nature has a need to feel that all is well. We all strive for a sense of satisfaction in life. But we try to achieve it in different ways. Yahweh wanted his people to understand how spiritually damaging self-centeredness and striving for the wrong goals in life are. The instruction he gave them about the sacrifices were lessons in self-denial. He wanted them to know that altruism is the way to a satisfied life, including love, joy, and peace. This offering, along with the two proceeding ones, broadly define Yahweh’s way of life: doing all things within the context of His purpose in love. The definition of love is keeping the commandments, and the essence of love is sacrificial giving[1].

Humans are satisfied when they know they are accepted by, and in fellowship with Yahweh.

Yahweh, as our Father and Master regulated how sacrifices should be made to him. [2] Bob Deffinbauch[3] says, “The law prescribed the plan, the way in which every offering was to be made. Before men could follow the plan, they had to determine the purpose, that is they had to decide which offering they were about to make, and why. Thus there was a built-in safeguard against mindless ritual, in which one went through the motions of making an offering without really thinking about what he was doing or why. The Israelite’s worship was to involve his whole heart, soul, mind, and strength. The precise regulations encouraged the Israelite worshipper to engage his mind in his worship.”

The peace offering could be either male or female but it had to be spotless – the best of the flock or the herd. The donor was to personalize it by laying their hands on the animal as it was butchered, as in the other sacrifices. Aaron and his sons were to throw the blood on the altar as in the other sacrifices because the life is in the blood and must not be consumed by Yahweh’s people. The part that was to be given to Yahweh by burning it was the fat. The fat was always to be for Yahweh as it was the richest part of the sacrifice and symbolized giving our best for our Lord and God, Yahweh. The priests were to burn it on the altar along with the Whole Burnt Offering that was on the wood prepared for that sacrifice.

It was a free gift and that is always pleasing to Yahweh. It showed that the Israelite offering it understood that Yahweh had rescued him/her from the the condemnation sin deserves through the the Whole Burnt Offering and the grain offering. Since Yeshua ha Mashiach came and by his eternal and definitive sacrifice plucked us from the domain of darkness and gave us eternal life in his kingdom our hearts should be burning with an attitude of gratitude that compels us to give our own free will offerings to him through his creatures[4].

The narrator repeated the instructions three times, one for the offering from the herd, one for an offering from the flock, and one for the offering of a goat because it takes an application of information three times to get it into the memory cells of the human brain so it won’t be easily forgotten. Our God, Yahweh, always approaches humans from our understanding and abilities instead of asking us to climb up to him. His thoughts and ways are so much higher than ours that we could never hope to reach up and understand him; so he comes down and reveals himself to us in ways that we can understand.[5]

None of Yahweh’s people, no matter where they live or how much time passes, are supposed to eat the fat or the blood. The fat belongs to Yahweh and the blood is the life of the animal.

Jack Wellman says, “The Peace or Fellowship Offering … was the only offering that was not commanded. It was a freewill offering of thanksgiving to God. The Hebrew term for this offering is “zebach sh’lamim” from which the root word for “shalom” comes and this word means “peace” or “whole” … it is the only major offering that is given by a person’s own voluntary choice.”[6]

As Jack pointed out, today we see that we can have peace with Yahweh through Yeshua ha Mashiach at a costly price[7]. His body was bruised, battered, and pierced for our transgressions[8]. He took what we deserved and paid a debt we couldn’t pay. Yeshua could pay the price for us because he is the perfect son of Yahweh. He alone was not living in corruption, flawed by sin. He alone did not fall short of the glory of Yahweh because he was the exact representation of the Father, Yahweh. This offering by Yeshua ha Mashiach enabled us to have peace with Yahweh and have fellowship with our God. Peace comes first, then fellowship.

Lois Grossman of the Jewish Encyclopedia tells us how the nation of Israel’s conceptions of this sacrifice evolved over the years. He says, “There are three kinds of peace-offering: (1) the thank-offering (); (2) the votive-offering (); and (3) the free-will offering (). The thank-offering is a response to acts of divine beneficence; the votive and the free-will sacrifices are connected with the expectation of benefit; but the significance of the thank-offering is wider than that of the other two. The votive offering is prompted by a feeling of gratefulness at the fulfilment of a petition; while the free-will sacrifice, which has the character of complete voluntariness, has its origin not so much in the gratitude elicited by a happy experience as in the spontaneous motive of piety…. The meals were in general of a joyful character, wine being freely indulged in. Meat that was unconsumed might not be profaned.”[9]

There is a lot more to lean about this sacrifice but the narrator left it as is here for us to meditate on. The animal could be either male or female, the donor had to lay hands on the animal while it was being slaughtered to identify with it, Aaron and his sons were to drain the blood and splash it against the altar, the fat belonged to Yahweh and was to be burned with the remains of the Whole Burnt Offering, it was a “pleasing fragrance to Yahweh.” Paul said, In the Messiah, in Christ, God leads us from place to place in one perpetual victory parade. Through us, he brings knowledge of Christ. Everywhere we go, people breathe in the exquisite fragrance. Because of Christ, we give off a sweet scent rising to God, which is recognized by those on the way of salvation—an aroma redolent with life.”[10] The metaphor of Yahweh’s pleasure as a pleasing fragrance is contrasted to the stink of sin. The burning sacrifice was a picture of the sacrifice of Yeshua ha Mashiach that made his people a sweet smelling savor to Yahweh[11]. “…he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.”[12]

Summary of chapter 3

  1. A. Ironside said, “In Leviticus 3 there are three different victims mentioned, any one of which might be brought to the altar as a peace offering. First we read, “…from the herd … male or female, he shall offer it without blemish before the Lord … of the flock, male or female, he shall offer it without blemish. … a lamb for his offering, then shall he offer it before the Lord…. goat, then he shall offer it before the Lord.” When looking at the burnt offering, we have already seen something of what these various creatures suggest in a typical way. The sacrifice of the herd speaks of Christ as the devoted Servant of God and man, and whether we think of Him as the rightfully independent One, as suggested by the male, or the subject One, as suggested by the female, we can have communion with God from either standpoint. Then the lamb speaks of Him as the One who was consecrated even unto death; and the goat, of the One who took the sinner’s place. … The offeror was to lay his hand upon the head of his offering, and kill it himself at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. This again speaks of the identification of the offeror with his offering. It brings out most vividly the truth of substitution, and should impress upon every one of us the fact that we ourselves need a Substitute, a sinless Savior who could suffer in our stead. Christ is that Substitute, and we are directly responsible for His death. … the entire peace offering was not placed upon the altar; only a very small part of it, namely, “the fat that covered the inwards, and all the fat that is upon the inwards, and the two kidneys, and the fat that is on them, which is by the flanks, and the caul which is above the liver with the kidneys” —these were the parts that were to be burned upon the altar as a sweet savor unto the Lord. And observe; these parts could only be reached by death. This speaks surely of the deepest inward emotions and sensibilities of the Lord leading Him out of love to the Father to devote Himself to death in order that men might be reconciled to God. Who can fathom the meaning of those words, “He poured out His soul unto death?”[13]

Prayer: Dear Lord, first I want to thank you for the sense of smell. I don’t think I’ve ever thanked you for this before, which seems rather strange, given how much smells matter to me. Thank you especially for the ability to smell such wonderful things. Ah, Lord, I just remembered another favorite – the smell of a maple wood fire burning in a fireplace on a winter’s evening in snowy Wisconsin. What a joy that was! Thank you! Thank you for using the metaphor of smell to teach us about how our actions matter to you. For the children of Israel, their literal sacrifices were a pleasing aroma to you. For us, our acts of love for others generate this aroma. Help me, Lord, to delight you again and again with the aroma of my life. Finally, I thank you for the sacrifice of Yeshua ha Mashiach, who gave his life for the world, including me. How much his death honored you like a pleasing aroma! Thank you for the life I have because of Yeshua’s sacrifice. And thank you for the model he sets for me. Help me, Lord, to imitate Yeshua by living a life of love.[14]

 

 

Things to think about

  1. Why do you think it was important for Yahweh’s people to engage their minds in their sacrifices?
  2. Why do you think humans need to give sacrifices?
  3. What do you think sacrifice has to do with love?
  4. Why do you think gifts please Yahweh? After all, everything is his to begin with.
  5. Why do you think the instructions for the free will offering was repeated three times?
  6. Why aren’t Yahweh’s people allowed to consume the fat or the blood?
  7. Why do you think the narrator called the sacrifice of fat a sweet smelling savor to Yahweh?

 

 

[1] I John 3:16-24

[2] Malachi 1:6-10, Ecclesiastes 9:10

[3] https://bible.org/seriespage/4-fellowship-offering-leviticus-31-17-711-34-195-8-2229-30

[4] Colossians 3:17

[5] Isaiah 55

[6] http://www.whatchristianswanttoknow.com/what-is-the-peace-or-fellowship-offering-in-the-bible/

[7] Romans 5:1

[8] Isaiah 52:13 – 53:12

[9] http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/11966-peace-offering

[10] II Corinthians 2:15

[11] Hebrews 9:23, 24

[12] IBID 26

[13] http://www.plymouthbrethren.org/article/5896

[14] From the prayer in  https://www.theologyofwork.org/the-high-calling/daily-reflection/gods-favorite-smell

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