Leviticus: The Sacrifice of Peace: The Fellowship Offering

Sermon by J. Ligon Duncan on October 10, 2004

Leviticus 3:1-17

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The Lord’s Day Evening

October 10, 2004

Leviticus 3:1-17

“The Sacrifice of Peace: The Fellowship Offering”

Dr. J. Ligon Duncan III

I invite you to turn with me to Leviticus, chapter three.
As we began our study of the Book of Leviticus, we observed a number of things
about the structure of this book. The first half deals with the various
sacrifices, the ordination of the priests, and culminates in chapter sixteen
with the description of the sacrifice of atonement on the Day of Atonement.

The second half of the book gives us the
consecration of the people of God in their fellowship with the living God.
Especially we focused on chapters one through seven, saying that here we have
the ritual voluntary, personal sacrifices described–five great sacrifices or
offerings described from two perspectives.

First, each of these five offerings are described
from the perspective of the offerer, the one who is to bring this offering, and
the various stipulations that are attendant with these sacrifices.

Then those same five sacrifices are described again from
the standpoint of the responsibility of the priest. And so we’ll have an
opportunity to revisit and see other aspects of these sacrifices that we haven’t
seen as we work through them the first time. The very first word in Leviticus is
“And.” It’s probably translated appropriately and accurately in your
translations as “Then”, but that And, that Then that connects
Leviticus with everything that goes before it in the book of Exodus shows that
Exodus, especially in the last ten or so chapters, focuses on the tabernacle,
and so Leviticus describes the service of the tabernacle. If Exodus describes
the building and the structure and the components of the tabernacle, then
Leviticus describes the various aspects of the service of the tabernacle; and so
it goes perfectly with the tabernacle narrative at the end of the Book of
Exodus.

Last week we looked at Leviticus 2. And in
Leviticus 2 we saw the grain offering described, and in that grain offering
worshipers offered either cooked or uncooked meal as an offering to the Lord.
Those ingredients symbolized God’s lasting bounty, and they excluded certain
elements that were capable of fermenting and thus represented corruption. And so
these offerings demonstrate dedication to the Lord: a recognition that God
provides that bounty; a recognition that as we offer that bounty back to the
Lord, we are dedicating ourselves to His service.

Leviticus 2 broke down into two parts. There was the
instruction of the meal offering in verses 1-10, and then there was a
description of the distinctive ingredients of that meal offering in verses
11-16.

Now the chapter we’re going to look at tonight is a
little bit different. It comes in three parts. If you look at Leviticus 3, it
deals with how cattle are to be offered as part of the fellowship, or peace
offering, in verses 1-5. It comes back again and repeats the same ground
showing how you are to do the fellowship, or peace offering if you use sheep
instead in verses 6 through 11. And then it says, “Well, if you don’t do it
with cattle or with sheep, this is how you would do it if you were to use
goats.” And so we’re going to see some of the principles repeated three times
in the passage. The nice thing about that is it lets you know exactly what God
intended you to learn from the sacrifices. He repeats it three times. He’s a
good teacher, and over and over the same structure is repeated as He discusses
cattle (vss 1-5); sheep (vss 6-11); and goats (vss 12-16).

Before we read God’s word and hear it proclaimed,
let’s look to Him in prayer and ask for His help.

Lord, we do need your help. We not only want to
understand what You have set forth here in Your word as Moses explains it; we
not only long to understand how these sacrifices functioned for Your old
covenant people, we want to see what these sacrifices teach us about the Lord
Jesus Christ and about our fellowship with You. And so we need spiritual eyes to
discern spiritual truth. Help us to understand by Your Spirit. Apply Your truth
to our hearts by Your Spirit. Help us to be diligent hearers, attentive
listeners, longing to see and embrace the truth for ourselves. Hear our
prayers. Give us aid. Get the glory for Yourself. We ask it in Jesus’ name.
Amen.

Hear God’s word in Leviticus 3.

Now if his offering is a
sacrifice of peace offerings, if he is going to offer out of the herd, whether
male or female, he shall offer it without defect before the LORD. ‘He shall lay
his hand on the head of his offering and slay it at the doorway of the tent of
meeting, and Aaron’s sons the priests shall sprinkle the blood around on the
altar. ‘From the sacrifice of the peace offerings he shall present an offering
by fire to the LORD, the fat that covers the entrails and all the fat that is on
the entrails, and the two kidneys with the fat that is on them, which is on the
loins, and the lobe of the liver, which he shall remove with the kidneys.
‘ThenAaron’s sons shall offer it up in smoke on the altar on the burnt offering,
which is on the wood that is on the fire; it is an offering by fire of a
soothing aroma to the LORD. ‘But if his offering for a sacrifice of peace
offerings to the LORD is from the flock, he shall offer it, male or female,
without defect. ‘If he is going to offer a lamb for his offering, then he shall
offer it before the LORD, and he shall lay his hand on the head of his offering
and slay it before the tent of meeting, and Aaron’s sons shall sprinkle its
blood around on the altar. ‘From the sacrifice of peace offerings he shall bring
as an offering by fire to the LORD, its fat, the entire fat tail which he shall
remove close to the backbone, and the fat that covers the entrails and all the
fat that is on the entrails, and the two kidneys with the fat that is on them,
which is on the loins, and the lobe of the liver, which he shall remove with the
kidneys. ‘Then the priest shall offer it up in smoke on the altar as food,
an offering by fire to the LORD. ‘Moreover, if his offering is a goat, then he
shall offer it before the LORD, and he shall lay his hand on its head and slay
it before the tent of meeting, and the sons of Aaron shall sprinkle its blood
around on the altar. ‘From it he shall present his offering as an offering by
fire to the LORD, the fat that covers the entrails and all the fat that is on
the entrails, and the two kidneys with the fat that is on them, which is on the
loins, and the lobe of the liver, which he shall remove with the kidneys. ‘The
priest shall offer them up in smoke on the altar as food, an offering by fire
for a soothing aroma; all fat is the LORD’S. ‘It is a perpetual statute
throughout your generations in all your dwellings: you shall not eat any fat or
any blood.'”

Amen.

And thus ends this reading of God’s holy, inspired and
inerrant word. May He write its eternal truth upon our hearts.

Now, we’ve already learned a number of great spiritual
lessons in the Book of Leviticus over the last couple of weeks. We remember when
we looked at Leviticus 1 and we saw detail not unlike the detail we’ve just read
tonight about which parts are to be offered, and how it’s to be done, in minute
detail, we were reminded again in these very detailed instructions that God
cares how we worship Him. You can’t just worship God in any old way. He cares
how we do it, and He makes that very clear in Leviticus 1.

We also were reminded of the truth that in true
worship there is always a voluntary personal and spontaneous aspect. True
worship is something that we desire to do, that we are willing to do, that we
long to do, that we delight to do. It is personal. It is in the context of the
gathering of God’s people, but it engages the hearts of each one of God’s people
as they enter into that true worship, and it is spontaneous. These sacrifices
are not the mandated festival sacrifices that are described elsewhere in the
books of Moses. These are sacrifices which the worshiper is given the privilege
of bringing when he desires to. There may be an instance in life that prompts a
worshiper to want to come and bring the sacrifice of the fellowship offering, or
of the peace offering. He’s not commanded to come and do it at a particular time
of year. It’s not a repetitive sacrifice that must be done every year. He
simply longs to do it, and we learn from that that there is in all true religion
and all true worship something of a voluntary and personal and spontaneous
aspect. That is not just the New Testament. That’s the Old Testament. That’s
Bible worship. The heart must be engaged in worship, or it is not true worship.
The heart must be willing, and desire to meet with God and to worship God, or it
is not true worship.

We’ve also learned from Leviticus 1 and 2 already
that the Lord accepts and communes with those who come into His presence through
the death of an atoning sacrifice. The very first sacrifice was the sacrifice
of burnt offering, an offering that was wholly given to the Lord which
established the worshiper’s privilege of coming into the presence of God. And
the Lord accepts those who come to Him, come into His presence through the death
of an atoning sacrifice. This principle was vital to the whole Levitical
system, and of course it points forward to a tremendously important New
Testament truth: that there is no way to come to God except by the once-for-all
real sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

We also saw, and we saw this even in chapter 1 of
Leviticus, that every sacrifice should cost the offering something. In
Leviticus 1 the olah, the burnt
offering we often call the holocaust, could be offered with various types of
material–animal or even birds–as the thing that was being sacrificed. Some of
these things would have been quite expensive. To offer, for instance, from the
herd a male without defect would have been completely beyond some people in
Israel. They wouldn’t have been wealthy enough to offer the head from the herd
that was without defect. But doves could also be offered, so that whether you
were rich or very poor there was something that you could offer to the Lord for
the burnt offering if you so desired to make that offering. But it cost you
something. If you were poor, it would have been a very significant thing to
give those doves as an offering to the Lord. And if you were wealthy, it would
have been something to give of the herd to the Lord. And so the principle is
established that every sacrifice should cost the offerer something, and this
constantly reminded the people of God of the costliness of fellowship with God.
Ultimately, it would point to the cost God Himself would bear for us, rather
than the cost to us of the object of sacrifice, because in the end the final
sacrifice that was offered for our peace we did not offer, but God the Father
offered–and it was the costliest sacrifice ever offered.

We also learned, and we saw this last week as we
studied the grain offerings–and the grain offerings could be called or
translated the pledge offerings–that these sacrifices, these offerings,
are acts of dedication to the Lord. They acknowledge that God is Lord over
all. That’s why the grain offerings are called memorials. They remember
that God has given us something–in this case, that God has given His people
bounty. And so from that bounteous grain, some of it is given back to Him as an
offering. And so, in acknowledging God as Lord over all, and in acknowledging
God’s kind provision, the worshiper dedicates himself to the Lord. He
acknowledges that God owns the blessings which He has given to him, and that God
owns him. That is, God owns the offering and the offerer. And so the sacrifice
is a sacrifice of dedication whereby you say, ‘Lord, I’m giving You back part of
what You gave me, but I know that You own me, too. And so accept this gift, a
part of what You have given me, as if it were me giving myself to You.’ And we
said that Paul’s principle from Romans 12:1 builds on that idea that we are to
give ourselves as a living sacrifice, he says, which is our acceptable worship.

Well, we’ve learned all of these things in our
studies so far. And the fellowship offering teaches us something more. There
are four or five things that I’d like you to see tonight from our study of the
fellowship offering.

I. Fellowship/communion with God is
experienced only by the shedding of the blood of a perfect substitutionary
sacrifice.

The first thing I want you to see is this.
God makes is clear in Leviticus 3 that our fellowship with God, our communion
with God, is experienced only by the shedding of the blood of a perfect
substitutionary sacrifice. This is, again, a blood sacrifice. And look at what
we read in verses 1-2:

“If his offering is a sacrifice of peace offerings, if he is going to offer out
of the herd, whether male or female, he shall offer it without defect before the
Lord. And he shall lay his hand on the head of the offering and slay it at the
doorway of the tent of meeting, and Aaron’s sons, the priests, shall sprinkle
the blood around on the altar.”

This fellowship offering is an offering that is
given to the Lord in thanksgiving for the peace which He has established when
there’s been some estrangement between the worshiper and his Lord. We don’t know
exactly what circumstances that would have been done in, but perhaps the person
had committed a sin, and he had offered up an atoning sacrifice for that sin.
The fellowship offering would follow that offering of guilt, or of atonement, as
an expression of thanksgiving that the relationship between the worshiper and
God had been healed, and that fellowship had been restored and renewed.

I have an outline for you in the Worship Guide
that explains a little bit about how these offerings work together. This comes
out of either the New American Standard Study Bible, or the NIV Study Bible.
There are many study Bibles that have good charts of the various sacrifices, but
just in case you didn’t have access to them, we got permission to include those
in the Worship Guide, just so you could see how these offerings relate to one
another.

And so this fellowship offering typically, if you
look at the bottom, followed another offering–a sin offering, or a guilt
offering–to express restored fellowship or communion with God. But the very act
of doing this fellowship offering reminded the worshiper that the only way he
had been able to come back into the fullness, the sweetness, the joy of
fellowship and communion with God, was through the blood of a perfect
substitutionary sacrifice. And you see how that’s repeated three times in this
passage, in the sacrifice from the herd, then the sacrifice from the flock, and
then the sacrifice from the goats is described. If you look at verses one and
two, and also in verses six through eight, and verses twelve through thirteen
that same principle is repeated. All of the effects of the atoning
substitutionary sacrifice tell the worshiper that he or she is at peace with God
again. And so the worshiper is being taught even in the offering of the
sacrifice that communion with God is experienced by us sinners only through the
shed blood of a perfect substitutionary sacrifice.

II. Fellowship/communion with
God involves surrender to God and testimony to His mercy.

There’s a second thing we
learn. Look at verses three and four. There we’re reminded that fellowship, or
communion with God, involves a surrender to God as well as a testimony to His
mercy. Now where do I get that? Let’s look at what verses three and four say.
“(3) From the sacrifice of peace offerings, he shall present an offering by fire
to the Lord, the fat that covers the entrails and all the fat that is on the
entrails, (4) and the two kidneys with the fat that is on them, which is on the
loins, and the love of the liver, which he shall remove with the kidneys.”

Now, what is being said there is that a specific
part of this animal that is being sacrificed is to be given wholly and only to
the Lord. Part of this animal will be given to the priest to eat. Part of this
animal will be given back to the one who brought the sacrifice to eat in the
communion of saints at the tabernacle on the day that the offering is made. But
part of this sacrifice is to be only given to the Lord; it belongs to God
alone. And this in and of itself reminds the worshiper that there are some
things that are to be surrendered to God as His alone; and that in and of itself
points to the importance of surrendering the whole of our lives to Him, giving
Him the best that we have of ourselves.

All of these parts that are given to God are inward
parts of the animal. It required the killing of the animal. You couldn’t get
to any of these parts without the sacrifice of the animal. But once the animal
was sacrificed, these parts were reserved for the Lord. That’s why you have the
statement in verse 17 that “it’s a perpetual statute throughout your generations
in all your dwellings: you shall not eat any fat or any blood.” That’s referring
to this offering, because this offering is a meal.

It’s a communion meal. You don’t pick that up as
much from chapter three. It will be elaborated on when we see this from the
perspective of the priests later on, as we look at it in chapter seven. But what
is happening here is that part of the animal is offered up to God as a burnt
offering; part of it is given to the priest to eat; the rest is part of a great
feast–a party, if you will–which is commanded of God to be held on the day that
the sacrifice is offered, with the rest of those of His people who are gathered
at the Tent of Meeting. And so God commands this communion meal to be enjoyed,
but part of the sacrifices is reserved for Him. And so the worshiper learns
that worshiping God means surrendering our lives to Him, giving Him the best we
have.

And this offering also involves a testimony of
thanksgiving to God. While the offering is being made and before the communal
meal was partaken of, the worshiper would often give testimony in the midst of
the people of God to how God had restored fellowship with him, in spite of his
sin. We see an example of the testimony in Psalm 107. Turn with me there.

Psalm 107:22 — where the psalmist calls on us to offer
sacrifices of thanksgiving and to tell of His works with joyful singing. So the
people of God are to offer this sacrifice of peace, this sacrifice of
thanksgiving, this sacrifice of fellowship–and they are to tell of His works
with joyful singing.

You know one person in the Old Testament who did
this–Hannah. You remember Hannah? She was a barren woman. She had no child.
She longed for a child, and the Lord gave her a child: Samuel. And she devoted
him to the service of the Lord. And do you know what the Old Testament tells us
she did? When she had Samuel, she came into the temple with a fellowship
offering for the Lord. She brought three animals from the herd! She must have
had a very wealthy husband! Three animals from the herd, an ephah of flour–she
brought an extravagant fellowship and grain offering and poured it out before
the Lord. And then what did she do? She gave testimony that the Lord had
answered her prayers and had shown her favor, and that she was here to give
thanksgiving to the Lord.

And you know, her words would become the foundation
for the words of Mary when she gave thanks that the Lord had called upon her to
be the bearer of the Lord Jesus Christ, who would save the world.

Now that came from a thank offering. That’s Hannah
showing her heart for the Lord pouring out in thanks at the fellowship offering,
at the thanks offering before the Lord. And so this fellowship offering
involves the surrender of ourselves to God and a testimony to His mercy.

III. God delights in
fellowship/communion with His people.

But there’s a third thing I want you to see. You’ll
see this especially in verses 5, 11, and 16. The fellowship offering teaches us
that God delights in fellowship, in communion with His people. Look at what’s
said in verse 5: after “Aaron’s sons… offer up in smoke on the altar on the
burnt offering, which is on the wood that is on the fire; …” it is described
as “an offering by fire of soothing aroma to the Lord.” An offering by fire to
the Lord, in verse 11, and then in verse 16 “an offering by fire for a soothing
aroma….” That’s Moses’ way of saying God delights in the communion He shares
with His people in this sacrifice. The devout believer sees every gift of God as
an occasion to worship Him in communion with other believers. That’s expressed
in this sacrifice of fellowship and peace, and Moses goes out of his way three
times to tell you God likes it. To put it crassly, it smells good to the Lord.
He delights in His people’s communing with Him in this sacrifice of peace, and
fellowship and thanksgiving. And so we learn this from the peace offerings of
Leviticus 3

IV. We experience peace with
God/restored communion/fellowship with God, through Christ’s shed
blood/justification by faith.

But we also learn something else, and this is
a New Testament truth. We learn that we experience peace with God, we
experience restored communion and fellowship with God through Christ’s shed
blood
. Turn with me to Romans 5 and listen to what Paul
says. He’s been talking to you about justification by faith, and he says this
(Romans 5:1):

“(1) Therefore having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through
our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained our introduction by faith
into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God.”

What’s Paul telling you there? He’s telling you
that the peace offering of the Old Testament was simply a foreshadowing of the
real offering that established peace. Jesus’ atoning work established the
grounds for peace between an offended, holy but loving God, and His sinful but
contrite people. Jesus’ sacrifice of atonement is the basis of our peace.
Therefore having been justified, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus
Christ. Paul is pointing back to this story of Leviticus 3, and he’s showing
you the fulfillment of the peace offering in Jesus Christ.

V. NT counterpart to fellowship
offering meal is found in the Lord’s Supper.

And that, of course, teaches us another New
Testament truth from Leviticus 3, and that is that the New Testament counterpart
to the meal of the fellowship offering, or the peace offering, can be found in
the Lord’s Supper. And like the Old Testament sacrifice, this food represents
the real atoning sacrifice in prophetic form. It’s not described in detail in
Leviticus 3, but we’ll see it better when we get to Leviticus 7. But this is
essentially a meal. This sacrifice entails a communing meal, and the substance
of that meal, the thing that is taken into the mouths of those who share in this
communing meal with one another and with God is the sacrifice which represents
the basis of restored peace with God.

Well, think of what Jesus says at the Lord’s
Supper: “This is My body…this is My blood.” Jesus says that the constituent
parts of the Lord’s Supper represent Himself as a sacrifice offered to the
Lord. So as the Old Testament fellowship offering entailed eating a sacrifice
that pointed to the atoning work of God, so the Lord’s Supper entails eating
elements which point to the reality of Jesus’ shed blood in prophetic form. And
so it is true that the Passover meal points to the reality of the Lord’s Supper
in the New Testament; so does the fellowship offering meal. And that’s why it’s
so beautiful that on this, a communion Sunday at First Presbyterian Church, that
we could be in Leviticus 3, because the Old Testament worshiper experienced in
the fellowship offering something of the culminating hope of every worshiper.

What is the point of trusting in God? How did Moses
put it over and over? He wanted to see God, and to see God’s glory. In other
words, he wanted to be in His presence and he wanted to fellowship with Him. The
goal of redemption was communion with God. Well, what is set forth in the
fellowship meal, in the fellowship offering? The obtaining of communing with
God, where God says, ‘Children, slide your knees up under My table and have a
meal with Me. Enter into restored fellowship with Me.”

Experience what it is to have a clean conscience,
to be accepted by a holy and righteous and perfect God; to enjoy shared life
with Him. You see, this is the desire of every worshiper: to know that kind of
communion with God. And the fellowship meal, as part of this peace offering,
beautifully foreshadowed that. We enjoy that same reality foreshadowed every
time we come to the Lord’s Table. And one day, just as we sang of it in How
Sweet and Awesome Is the Place
, we shall enjoy that fellowship in the
marriage feast of the Lamb, and it will be just the beginning of an eternity of
that communion.

May God bless His word. Let’s pray.

Lord God, thank You for Your word, and thank You
that You want fellowship with Your people, that You delight in the offerings of
Your people; and, more than that, that You delight in communion with Your
people. We find it hard to believe, Lord, that You would want to commune with
the likes of us. It is one of the most extravagant graces that You bestow, when
You tell us that You do want to be with us. You do want to talk with us; You do
want to sup with us; You do want to be near to us and to delight in conversation
and in fellowship with us. We bless You for this truth from Moses’ words in
Leviticus, and we ask that You would receive our thanks and praise, and that You
would only increase our thankful hearts and our desires to come before You in
worship with the people of God to commune with You, even as we contemplate the
truth of Your word. We ask these things through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Would you stand for God’s blessing. Peace be to
the brethren, and love with faith, through Jesus Christ our Lord, until the day
break and the shadows flee away. Amen.

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