From Peace to Praise (Leviticus 3:1-17; 7:11-36)
Topic: One Lord: So Great a Salvation Passage: Leviticus 3:1–3:17
From Peace to Praise
Leviticus 3:1-17; 7:11-36
(One Lord: So Great a Salvation)
September 3rd, 2017
I. Reminders of Rescue
If you watched the news anytime in the past week, or checked your favorite news page online, Hurricane Harvey has provided us with plenty of reminders of rescue. Here's one...
A mother of three who was rescued with her family from the roof of a two-story home was reunited for the first time with the man who saved their life. When Iashia Nelson, 36, finally saw a boat take the children to safety after being stranded for days, she said, her emotions overcame her. "I was so emotional, I couldn't hold back my tears...Nelson and her family were rescued by James Murphy and other members of the "Cajun Navy," an informal volunteer group with small watercraft...I don't know what I would do if James and the Cajun Navy [had not come] and volunteered their service," she added. When Murphy first passed the house in the boat, Nelson said, "we were hollering, and he said, 'I'll be back for y'all, I promise,' and he kept his word, and I'm forever grateful for him. (ABCNews.com)
As Christians, as followers of Christ, we know about being rescued, don't we, and about gratitude toward our Rescuer. Harvey and Houston can be reminders of that very thing.
But this morning, God wants to give us another reminder of rescue and gratefulness. Look with me at Leviticus 3. As we continue our study in this strange, but spectacular book, let me remind of the main idea we've discussed in previous weeks: this book is about how to live a life with God in the midst.
And as we've seen from the opening chapters, the first thing we can say about a life with God in the midst is that it is a life of sacrifice. Does God dwell among us? Does God dwell in your hearts through faith? If He does, is our life together, is your life personally, a life marked by sacrifice?
II. The Passage: "A Sacrifice of Peace Offering " (3:1-17; 7:11-36)
Let's talk more about what that means by digging into Leviticus chapter 3. Listen as I read from the first five verses of this chapter. This is what Yahweh, the God of Israel, tells Moses about the kinds of sacrifices the people should bring...
“If his offering is a sacrifice of peace offering, if he offers an animal from the herd, male or female, he shall offer it without blemish before the LORD.  And he shall lay his hand on the head of his offering and kill it at the entrance of the tent of meeting, and Aaron's sons the priests shall throw the blood against the sides of the altar.  And from the sacrifice of the peace offering, as a food offering to the LORD, he shall offer the fat covering the entrails and all the fat that is on the entrails...
 and the two kidneys with the fat that is on them at the loins, and the long lobe of the liver that he shall remove with the kidneys.  Then Aaron's sons shall burn it on the altar on top of the burnt offering, which is on the wood on the fire; it is a food offering with a pleasing aroma to the LORD.”
Now we're not going to read the entire chapter, since verses 6-16 are pretty much the same instructions for a worshiper who brings, instead of a bull, a lamb or a goat to sacrifice as a peace offering. But chapter 3 isn't the only part of Leviticus that deals with these “peace offerings”. A good portion of chapter 7 also gives additional instructions about this kind of offering.
So here's what I'd like to do. Using chapters 3 and 7, I'd like to show you four things about this kind of offering, this “peace offering”. Ready? First of all, this peace offering is...
1. A Distinct Offering (3:1-16a)
The first three chapters of Leviticus describe for us three distinct offerings: chapter 1 told us about the “burnt offering”, chapter 2 described what's been called a “grain offering”, and in chapter 3 we read about the “peace offering”.
But you may recall that the grain offering was almost always offered with the burnt offering, and both were to be offered twice a day, every day, in the Tent of Meeting. But this “peace offering” was not a mandatory offering. According to chapter 23, only once a year, during the Feast of Weeks, are there any requirements for offering a peace offering.
For the average Israelite, there was no obligation to make a peace offering. But in spite of that fact, 38 times in the OT, burnt offerings and peace offerings are mentioned as being offered together, in that order.
But there's something else distinct about this offering. We also learn the peace offering was...
2. A Devout Offering (3:16b,17; 7:22-25)
Remember, in the burnt offering of Leviticus 1 the entire animal was burned on the altar. But did you hear the instructions in 3:1-5? According to verses 3 and 4, only the fatty parts of the intestines, and the kidneys, and part of the liver was to be burned on the altar.
And if you look down at the end of verse 16, and verse 17, we find a clue as to why: “All fat is the LORD's.  It shall be a statute forever throughout your generations, in all your dwelling places, that you eat neither fat nor blood.”
And if you look over at chapter 7, verses 22-25, we find an expanded treatment of this same principle: The LORD spoke to Moses, saying,  “Speak to the people of Israel, saying, You shall eat no fat, of ox or sheep or goat.  The fat of an animal that dies of itself and the fat of one that is torn by beasts may be put to any other use, but on no account shall you eat it.  For every person who eats of the fat of an animal of which a food offering may be made to the LORD shall be cut off from his people. (most likely means death; God-enforced)
Now, we don't know the exact reasons for this, especially for burning just the entrails when making a peace offering. But I think it's safe to say that the Hebrews used the idea of fat to describe the very best of something, like in the expression “the fat of the land” from Genesis 45:18. So think about what this means in terms of the worshiper's devotion to God.
I believe the principle God was teaching the Israelites is that, like the unblemished animal of the burnt offering, the very best of what the Israelites had belonged to God, and was to be offered back to God. It may have been that those select, fatty parts of the entrails were considered a delicacy in that culture. Thus again, the best is reserved for God and God alone.
But in chapter 7, we learn something else about this “peace offering”. This offering was...
3. A Diverse Offering (7:12, 16)
Look at verses 11, 12 and 16 of chapter 7. God tells Moses:
“And this is the law of the sacrifice of peace offerings that one may offer to the LORD.  If he offers it for a thanksgiving, then he shall offer with the thanksgiving sacrifice unleavened loaves mixed with oil, unleavened wafers smeared with oil, and loaves of fine flour well mixed with oil... But if the sacrifice of his offering is a vow offering or a freewill offering, it shall be eaten on the day that he offers his sacrifice, and on the next day what remains of it shall be eaten.”
Did you notice there that God describes three different versions of the “peace offering”. There was a peace offering for giving thanks, there was a peace offering connected with making and/or fulfilling vows, and there was a peace offering given as simply a general gesture of praise.
But those verses also highlighted something else that was distinct about the peace offering. The peace offering was....
4. A Delicious Offering (7:14, 31-36; 7:15-18)
If only certain fatty parts of the entrails were burned on the altar, what happened to the rest of the animal? Well, a number of verses in chapter 7 deal with that exact question. The answer is twofold.
First, just like with the grain offering, certain parts of the sacrificial animal were given to the priests. If you scan over verses 31-3 of chapter 7, you will see that the breast meat, and the animal's right thigh were given as God's provision for the priests. In addition to this, as we just heard in 7:12, peace offerings given as an offering of gratitude also required loaves of bread to be given as well.
But second, beyond this food that went to the priest, the rest of the animal was given back to the worshiper, to be eaten by the worshiper while there in God's presence. If, according to verse 15, it was a thanksgiving offering, the meat was to be eaten that very day. But if it was a vow or freewill offering then, verse 16, it could be eaten the next day as well.
But if you look at verses 17 and 18 you will find a clear warning: no part of this sacrifice was to be eaten by the worshiper on the third day. Any leftovers needed to be burned up.
But think about this for a minute. As we talked about last time, the daily offering, the morning and evening offering of the burnt offering, and the grain offering, and according to Numbers 28, a drink offering, all of it was most likely a picture of a covenant meal; this “food offering” was the people paying tribute and demonstrating humble hospitality to the God dwelling among them.
But as we see here, these “peace offerings” made it possible for the worshiper to join in the meal. In fact, this kind of meal was the setting for what took place in the first chapter of Samuel, when Hannah makes her prayer, her vow to God. Listen to how Deuteronomy 12:17-18 describes this...
You may not eat within your towns the tithe of your grain or of your wine or of your oil, or the firstborn of your herd or of your flock, or any of your vow offerings that you vow, or your freewill offerings or the contribution that you present,  but you shall eat them before the LORD your God in the place that the LORD your God will choose, you and your son and your daughter, your male servant and your female servant, and the Levite who is within your towns. And you shall rejoice before the LORD your God in all that you undertake.
The Tent of Meeting was a place of death and blood. It was a holy place. But it was also a play of gratefulness and joy and celebration. Just think about everything we've already learned this morning about this distinct offering, this devout offering, this diverse offering, this delicious offering, about this peace offering, and what it tells us about God's provision.
III. We Have an Altar
Now all those details, all those factoids about the peace offering are important. But we cannot miss the heart of God's instructions here. Moving forward in time from Moses, let's allow David to help us understand the heart behind the worshiper who brings a peace offering...
Psalm 26:6-7: I wash my hands in innocence and go around your altar, O LORD,  proclaiming thanksgiving aloud, and telling all your wondrous deeds. Or...
Psalm 54:6-7: With a freewill offering I will sacrifice to you; I will give thanks to your name, O LORD, for it is good.  For he has delivered me from every trouble, and my eye has looked in triumph on my enemies.
The word for peace used in connection with this offering comes from the famous Hebrew word shalom. And as some of you might know, shalom is more than the absence of conflict. It is wholeness and goodness and abundance.
You see, at the heart of the peace offering is a heart that has experienced shalom peace with God. How? Because of the burnt offering. Remember, of the three main sacrifices, the three sacrifices from Leviticus 1-3, only the burnt offering is said to make “atonement”. But this is precisely why burnt offerings are paired with peace offerings 38 times in the OT.
The burnt offering is for the man in need of shalom with and from God. The peace offering is for the man who has received shalom with and from God. It is a response, it is a reminder of rescue and gratefulness.
Brothers and sisters, listen to Paul's astounding declaration in Romans 5:1, made over a thousand years later...Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Way of Grace family, is the peace we have with God better than the peace they found with God? Yes, because the atonement we have through the blood of Jesus is far better than the atonement they had through the blood of animals. Far, far better. And if that's true, then what is our response? Shouldn't it also be shalom-inspired sacrifices?
Turn over, if you would, to Hebrews 13:10-15. Listen how this writer talks about food from the altar and our sacrifices. Remember, he is helping Jewish converts who feel pulled back.
We have an altar from which those who serve the tent have no right to eat.  For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the holy places by the high priest as a sacrifice for sin [those Day of Atonement animals] are burned outside the camp.  So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood.  Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured.  For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come.  Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.
And should there be any confusion about the altar from which we do have a right to eat, look at verse 9: Do not be led away by diverse and strange teachings, for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by foods, which have not benefited those devoted to them.
Brothers and sisters, through Jesus, God has fed us with His grace. And each day, He wants to strengthen us by that grace. Like at the Tent of Meeting, God calls us to come and eat from the altar, to be nourished by the cross of Jesus. And then, as we see in verse 15, “through him”, to “offer up a sacrifice of praise”. How often should we do this? What does the text say? It says “continually”.
When it comes to your everyday life, what do you do “continually”? Sleep? Drive? Eat? Worry? Complain? Spend? Hurt? Envy? Work? Study? Dream? Cook? Clean? Wrestle? Burn with anger? Stew in bitterness? Wish it was tomorrow?
God has called us to “continually” sacrifice. You see a life with God in the midst is a life of sacrifice. It is a life inspired by the burnt offering and characterized by the peace offering. A life set free by Jesus the Lamb of God, and charactized by praise in light of that freedom.
What will it look like for you to make praise, more and more, a regular part of your routine. Whether through prayer, or song, or giving thanks, let's commit ourselves to a life of offering up sacrifices of praise. How do you begin? As David did: For he has delivered me from every trouble. It is through Jesus, our Deliverer, that we offer our praise. It is to Jesus we look and see God's provision that brought us shalom, for all eternity. Let's begin now; in the quietness of your heart, would you offer up this sacrifice?