What a Fellowship! What a Joy Divine!
A Pocket Paper
Here’s the way it should be…
· When we wake up in the morning and look out the window, we should say, “Lord, this is the day you have made! I will rejoice and be glad in it!”
· When we leave our house and arrive at work, we should pause, glance around the sky to see if any birds are singing, and we should pause to thank God for the sky, the clouds, the rain, the sunshine, or the snow.
· When we encounter problems and frustrations during the day, we should say, “Now, Lord, give me wisdom to deal with this and cause it to work out for good as You have promised.”
· When we have a stressful encounter with another person, we should remain at peace with ourselves, praying for wisdom and doing our best to “live at peace with everyone” (Romans 12:18).
· When we take our meals, we should bow our heads in thankful recognition of the abundance of God’s provision.
· When we commit a sin, we should take it seriously and confess it earnestly, readily removing it from our hearts and lives.
· When we close our eyes at night, we should say, “Thank you, Lord, for the blessings of this day. Now I’m going to put everything ‘on hold’ for a few hours while I sleep and my body rests. I am trusting You to stay alert and take care of things while I’m sleeping. May the Holy Spirit bless my subconscious mind during the night.”
· The next morning we should wake up, look out the window, and say, “Another day the Lord has made!”
That’s the way it should be. An attitude of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control. A firm confidence that God is in charge of every day. An absence of fear and failure.
I’m not describing a carefree life or a life without stress and strain, but I am describing a life that carries with it a sort of “heavenly carelessness” that trusts God with all things, prays without ceasing, rejoices in all things, and lives in the abundance of God’s peace. That’s the kind of life Jesus Christ wants to develop in us, for He is the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6). The apostle Paul said, “For He Himself is our peace” (Ephesians 2:14). Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27).
In other words, Jesus Christ died on the cross that our lives might dwell in the midst of this kind of peace, for He is our Peace Offering. And that brings us to our study today in the book of Leviticus. I know that Leviticus is considered the dullest and driest book of the Bible, but that’s because most of us have never taken the time to really study it.
For the sake of those of you who have just dropped in today or who might be on vacation, let me share a word of background about this book and about our series of studies. When you read through the Bible, you begin with Genesis, which tells how the world began, how life began, and it tells us how the Jewish nation began. That’s very important in God’s eyes, because the Jewish nation is the bloodline through which the Messiah would come into the world to provide redemption for all. We have three great men in Genesis: Abraham and his son and grandson, Isaac and Jacob. The sons of Jacob migrated to Egypt and by the end of the book of Genesis, the Jewish people had become a slave-nation under the lash of the Pharaohs.
The second book of the Bible takes up the story. Exodus tells us how God raised up a deliverer named Moses who liberated the Children of Israel and led them out of Egypt and toward the Promised Land. This nomadic people stopped at an isolated mountain in the desert, Mount Sinai, and there God gave them the Ten Commandments. There they also built a special tent for worshipping God. This tent and its courtyard was known as the Tabernacle; and when you entered the Tabernacle courtyard, you saw a very austere piece of equipment—it was a large bronze altar on which animals were sacrificed. That’s where the book of Exodus ends.
When we begin reading the third book in the Bible—Leviticus—the first thing we encounter in chapter 1-7 are descriptions of the five great sacrifices that were to be offered on that altar. That’s how the book of Leviticus begins—with seven rather tedious chapters giving us the details of these five primary offerings.
Now, all of that would be recondite and abstruse – as boring and meaningless to us as ashes – were it not for one thing. These sacrifices and offerings were designed by God to be prototypes of Jesus Christ, and each one of them is prophetic. It is a prophetic object lesson. These are symbols and pictures of Christ. And Almighty God wanted us to know 1400 years in advance what our Lord Jesus was going to do on the cross, so He gave us five incredible emblems of Calvary in the five ancient sacrifices.
Without question and without doubt, these offerings point directly to Jesus Christ. They are like laser beams of light that burn through the centuries until they pinpoint with unfailing accuracy the wooden beams of Calvary. There are five different offerings because God wanted us to know, in advance, five different aspects of the sacrifice of Christ on the cross.
Leviticus 1 describes the burnt offering. What distinguished this offering? It was totally consumed by the flames. The key words in Leviticus 1 are: All on the altar. It speaks of the totality of the sacrifice that Jesus Christ made for us.
Leviticus 2 describes the grain offering. What distinguished this offering? It was the only offering that did not involve blood. It wasn’t an animal offering; it was an offering of bread. It represented, not the death of Christ, but His life. The key words in Leviticus 2 are: fine flour. It represented the perfect humanity of Christ.
Now today we come to the third offering, which is the Peace Offering or the Fellowship Offering. It signifies the fact that by offering Himself as our Sacrifice, Jesus made possible our peace with God, our peace with Himself, our peace with one another, and our peace with ourselves. It signifies the fact that, as Paul said, He is our peace. As Isaiah said, He is our Prince of Peace. Let’s read portions of this passage, then I’ll point out a few things about it.
Leviticus 3:1-5: When his offering is a sacrifice of a peace offering, if he offers it of the herd, whether 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 door of the tabernacle of meeting; and Aaron’s sons, the priests, shall sprinkle the blood all around on the altar. Then he shall offer from the sacrifice of the peace offering an offering made by fire to the Lord. The fat that covers the entrails and all the fat that is on the entrails, the two kidneys and the fat that is on them by the flanks, and the fatty lobe attached to the liver above the kidneys, he shall remove; and Aaron’s sons shall burn it on the altar upon the burnt sacrifice, which is on the wood that is on the fire, as an offering made by fire, a sweet aroma to the Lord.
Verse 11: …and the priest shall burn them on the altar as food, an offering made by fire to the Lord.
Verses 16-17: …and the priest shall burn them on the altar as food, an offering made by fire for a sweet aroma; all the fat is the Lord’s. This shall be a perpetual statute throughout your generations in all your dwellings: you shall eat neither fat nor blood.
If that sounds like advice you might hear on the Food Network when they’re talking about how to carve up and slice various pieces of meat for the grill, that’s exactly what it is. Think grilling out. Think the meat section at the supermarket. Think the local butcher. Think barbeque. This is an offering that was designed to be eaten. Here’s what happened. A family wanted to celebrate a special event, so they brought the fattened calf to the Tabernacle in thanksgiving to God. The animal was slain, the fat was removed and burned, and the blood was drained and sprinkled on the altar.
God knew that that the fat would only clog up our arteries anyway, so He allowed that to be His portion. The blood was sprinkled on the altar and the fat was burned on the grill. The rest of the animal was cooked over the flames to become a meal for the worshipper and for the priests.
Some of you grew up on the farm where animals were raised and slaughtered and the meat was eaten or salted and stored away. My family didn’t raise our own beef. I remember every once in a while my dad telling me that he had bought half a cow, but I never quite understood that terminology. I always wondered which half of the cow he had purchased. I had an uncle who raised and killed a hog every year, but we never attended the festivities. The reports were that everyone had a great time (except, I suppose, for the hog).
But it all seems a little messy to me. I’m squeamish, and I don’t even carve our Thanksgiving Turkey. All these years, Katrina has cooked the turkey and handed it to me, and I’ve handed it right back. I told her, “I don’t do turkeys.” I don’t even eat chicken with the bone in it.
When I acquire a piece of beef or chicken, I like for it to be all nice and tidy and bloodless and ready for the grill. But people who grow up on farms or people who are butchers by trade think nothing of it. It’s a part of the culture. And in biblical times, when people ate beef or mutton, they had to raise and slaughter the animals themselves.
This passage tells them how and where to do it, how to cut up the animal, and what parts to eat and what parts to avoid eating. Twenty-five hundred years ago, in His infinite wisdom, God warned His people against eating the fat that we now know to be unhealthy for consumption. This passage says, “When you kill an animal for food, here are the parts to eat and the parts to avoid. The parts to avoid can be My part. I’ll take that part. You can drain out the blood and sprinkle it on the altar as a symbol of the blood of my Son who will die on the cross, and you can burn the fatty portions on the altar as an act of thanksgiving to Me. But then you take the rest of it—the good parts, the protein, the lean meat—and enjoy it. Eat the steak and enjoy it. Eat the roast beef and enjoy it.”
There is some indication in Leviticus 17 that every time an Israelite family slaughtered an animal for food, they were to do it in this way and to consider it a Peace Offering. In other words, this offering was simply to be woven into their normal, everyday lives. It was somewhat akin to our bowing our heads and giving thanks before our meals. Let me give you an example in 1 Samuel 9. This is the story of how Israel gained her first king. A young man named Saul was sent by his father to track down some runaway donkeys, and when he was unable to find them, he decided to consult the prophet Samuel, so he met some girls and asked them if they knew where Samuel was.
As they went up the hill to the city, (Saul) met some young women going out to draw water, and said to them, “Is the seer here?” And they answered them and said, “Yes, there he is, just ahead of you. Hurry now; for today he came to this city, because there is a sacrifice of the people on the high place.”
In other words, this is the Fourth of July. This is Labor Day. This is a holiday, and we’re going to have a community picnic. We’re going to all grill out together. Samuel is coming to oversea the Peace Offering as we prepare the animal for the grill.
As soon as you come into the city, you will surely find him before he goes up to the high place to eat. For the people will not eat until he comes, because he must bless the sacrifice; afterward those who are invited will eat.
This is the Peace Offering. Another example is in the story of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15. When the boy returned, what did the father do? He told the servants to kill the fatted calf. They were going to celebrate the reconciliation of the boy to his dad by offering a sacrifice of thanksgiving and having a feast together.
The Peace Offering, then, was an offering in which the fat and blood were removed from the animal. The blood was sprinkled on the altar and the fat was burned on the grill. The rest was enjoyed in a communal meal by the worshippers.
What does it convey? The blood sprinkled on the altar and the fat offered on the grill represented the fact that we now have peace with God. And the communal meal signified the fact that we now have peace and fellowship and communion with one another. That’s why some translations call this the Peace Offering and others call it the Fellowship Offering. It conveys harmony. It conveys blessing. It conveys that fact that Jesus Christ came to establish peace with God
Ephesians 2 puts it this way:
Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh—who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands—that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle way of separation, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity. And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near. For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father.
When Jesus Christ died on the wooden beams of Calvary, His blood splattered against the cross, giving us a basis for having peace with God. And His broken body also made us one with each other, giving us a basis for communion with each other. Blood splattered and flesh enjoyed. Peace with God and a feast with one another. Even as John told us: If we walk in the light as He is in the light we have fellowship one with another and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.
How, then, do we enter more earnestly and successfully into God’s peace? Here are four suggestions.
First, make Jesus Christ the Lord of all your difficulties. Give your problems to Him. Let go and let God. Place them on the altar. Cast all your cares of Him for He cares for you. Do this consciously and deliberately.
Second, memorize the great verses in the Bible about God’s peace, some of which I’ve quoted in this message.
Third, meditate on those verses. This is the missing ingredient in Bible study. We have too much noise, too many technical contraptions around us all the time. We need quiet walks, quiet bicycle rides, quiet car trips, and quiet moments to think. When we study and memorize Scripture, it’s like swallowing a jewelry box whole. Meditation is the key that unlocks that internalized box and allows us to start bedecking our lives with the jewels.
Fourth, master your emotions. In the power of the Holy Spirit and using the tools of the Scripture you’ve memorized and meditation on, cast our discouragement and fear, anger and anxiety. Cast these things out like Jesus casting out demons. Make up your mind that you aren’t going to let these emotions and moods master your heart. Take yourself in hand and choose to live in God’s peace. Sometimes it’s a matter of sheer, sanctified, Spirit-empowered will-power.
What happens when we do these things?
· When we wake up in the morning and look out the window, we can say, “Lord, this is the day you have made! I will rejoice and be glad in it!”
· When we leave our house and arrive at work, we can pause, glance around the sky to see if any birds are singing, and thank God for the sky, the clouds, the rain, the sunshine, or the snow.
· When we encounter problems and frustrations during the day, we can say, “Now, Lord, give me wisdom to deal with this and cause it to work out for good as You have promised.”
· When we have a stressful encounter with another person, we can remain at peace with ourselves, praying for wisdom and doing our best to “live at peace with everyone” (Romans 12:18).
· When we take our meals, we can bow our heads in thankful recognition of the abundance of God’s provision.
· When we commit a sin, we can take it seriously and confess it earnestly, readily removing it from our hearts and lives.
· When we close our eyes at night, we can say, “Thank you, Lord, for the blessings of this day. Now I’m going to put everything ‘on hold’ for a few hours while I sleep and my body rests. I am trusting You to stay alert and take care of things while I’m sleeping. May the Holy Spirit bless my subconscious mind during the night.”
· The next morning we can wake up, look out the window, and say, “Another day the Lord has made!”
He is our Burnt Offering who lay all on the altar and gave Himself fully for you and me.
He is our Grain Offering for He represented the fine flour of a perfect manhood.
He is our Peace Offering because His sacrifice of Himself gives us peace with God and communion with one another so we can say: “What a fellowship! What a joy divine!”
Does the peace of Christ rule in your heart? Does the Prince of Peace reign in your life? Have you given yourself to Him, and taken for yourself His blessings of eternal life. The Bible say: “Being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” And those who do can say:
Jesus, I am resting, resting,
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