On one furlough during my missionary days, I was hosted at the home of a family in England whom I didn’t know but supported our work. My luggage had been lost in Amsterdam, and I was moving around England, visiting different groups each day, chasing my suitcases by phone. So I was tired and somewhat frazzled when dinner was served on the day I arrived at the home of the lovely people who welcomed me very warmly. They served a pork roast with all the fat lovingly basted and preserved as a special treat. My portion had a large strip of fat, which I would typically remove before eating the lean meat. However, seeing that others were enjoying it, I took my fork and knife to it, trying not to think about what it was doing to my arteries. I ate it for the sake of my relationship with my new friends, who offered it for my encouragement. My hosts had a Old Testament biblical viewpoint, unlike those who now eat pork belly for gastronomy. Their concern for a missionary having the best possible part of the animal was similar to the peace offerings described in Leviticus. Israel was instructed to seek peace with God through fellowship offerings, which symbolized a shared meal between the offerer, priest, and the Lord, for God’s help and thanksgiving. They were to offer the Lord the most honorable parts of the animals—especially the fat. We, who are joined to Christ, have found eternal peace with God. We are called to meet with him often, offering him our deepest, best, and even most vulnerable needs—something exceedingly more valuable than animal fat, which symbolized this.
A Fellowship Meal with the Lord
Depending on which Bible translation you use, Leviticus calls this third category of offerings (after the burnt and grain offerings) either peace or fellowship offerings. But the intention of the sacrifices is the same. “The burnt-offerings had regard to God as in himself the best of beings, most perfect and excellent; they were purely expressive of adoration, and therefore were wholly burnt. But the peace-offerings had regard to God as a benefactor to his creatures, and the giver of all good things to us; and therefore these were divided between the altar, the priest, and the owner. Peace signifies reconciliation, concord, and communion. And so these were called peace-offerings, because in them God and his people did, as it were, feast together, in token of friendship. The priest, who was ordained for men in things pertaining to God, gave part of this peace-offering to God…burning it upon God’s altar; part he gave to the offerer, to be eaten by him with his family and friends; and part he took to himself…it was a symbol of friendship and fellowship between God and man, and a confirmation of the covenant of peace.” (1) “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.” (Leviticus 3:1-5) “The burnt offering was entirely consumed on the altar, whereas the fellowship offering was not. Instead, only the fat of the fellowship offering–the very best part of the meat–was burned on the altar. The rest of the animal was divided…[a] fellowship offering consumed by three parties: the Lord, the priest and the offeror…expressing covenant fellowship between the offerers and the Lord…The fellowship offering meal was a way for Israelites to honor the Lord by giving him the very best of the meat, as well as to reaffirm and celebrate the covenant relationship they enjoyed with him and with one another…As a celebration, the offering underscored for Israelites that their covenant partner was none other than the Lord, their redeeming God, who had rescued them from Egypt and was now dwelling in their very midst. This type of worship is the natural reflex of all those who understand the Lord’s character. The concept of the covenant meal was not just for ancient Israel; it is the very concept Jesus employs when he establishes the Lord’s Supper for members of the new covenant. Like the fellowship offering, the Lord’s Supper serves as a time for believers to celebrate the redemption the Lord has won for them, in this instance through the sacrificial death of Jesus. And, like the fellowship offering, such remembrance propels believers to reaffirm their commitment to their covenant Lord and to their fellow covenant brothers and sisters. Remembering the Lord’s redemption is the spring from which a life of wholehearted faithfulness gratefully flows.” (2)
Finding Peace With God
“The Bible says that we’re not automatically at peace with God. In fact, outside of our faith and His salvation, all humans are at enmity with Him. Romans 5 [v. 10] says before people come to Christ they’re ‘enemies’ of God. Colossians 1:21 says, ‘You were alienated and hostile in your minds because of your evil actions.’ Many people are not ready to admit their sin and alienation from God. Pride wars against such an admission. People often want to think of themselves as just fine the way they are…The Bible’s pronouncement that we’re alienated from God, hostile in mind, and engaged in evil deeds does sound harsh. But it’s terribly true. And it’s true of all people, regardless of rank or breeding…God is holy—so holy that no sin is allowed in His presence. God is just; He always punishes sin. The penalty God has ordained for sin is death. People are sinners, so in our sinful state we’re not allowed into God’s presence, and our sin will lead to death…How did the one true God who is holy, just, gracious, loving, and faithful respond to sinful human beings? He responded by establishing a system of sacrifices through which sinful people could be reconciled to Him and worship Him. (3) Israel was instructed to seek peace with God through peace (fellowship) offerings, which symbolized a shared meal between the offerer, priest, and the Lord, for God’s help and thanksgiving. They were to offer the Lord the most honorable parts of the animals. We, who have Christ and are joined to him, have found eternal peace with God. So, we are called to meet with him often, offering him our deepest, best, and our most vulnerable needs. “Christ is our peace, our peace-offering; for through him alone it is that we can expect to obtain mercy, and an answer of peace to our prayers; and in him an upright prayer shall be acceptable and successful, though we bring not a peace-offering…And we must offer to God the sacrifice of praise continually, by Christ our peace; and then this shall please the Lord better than an ox or bullock.…[which] must be killed; and, although this might be done in any part of the court, yet it is said to be at the door of the tabernacle, because the mercies received or expected were acknowledged to come from God, and the prayers or praises were directed to him, and both, as it were, through that door. Our Lord Jesus has said, I am the door, for he is indeed the door of the tabernacle. (4)
“All fat is the Lord’s.”
So says verse 16, and the instructions for the peace offerings conclude with: “It shall be a statute forever throughout your generations, in all your dwelling places, that you eat neither fat nor blood” (v. 17). “Here is a general rule laid down, that all the fat is the Lord’s, and a law made thereupon, that they should eat neither fat nor blood, no, not in their private houses. As for the fat, it is not meant of that which is interlarded with the meat, but the fat of the inwards, the suet, which was always God’s part out of the sacrificed beasts; and therefore they must not eat of it, no, not out of the beasts that they killed for their common use…The blood was universally forbidden likewise, for the same reason that the fat was, because it was God’s part of every sacrifice. The heathen drank the blood of their sacrifices; hence we read of their drink-offerings of blood (Psalms 16:4). But God would not permit the blood, that made atonement, to be used as a common thing (Hebrews 10:29), nor will he allow us, though we have the comfort of the atonement made, to assume to ourselves any share in the honour of making it.” (5) “The fellowship offering was the one offering from which the offeror ate, the chapter ends by underscoring the two parts of the animal that the offeror must never eat, namely, the fat and the blood…the blood represented the animal’s life and thus belonged to the Lord, the Creator of all life. Israelites were thus prohibited from eating an animal’s blood –that is, its life–as though it belonged to them instead of to the Lord. Stated positively, by abstaining from the blood, they were acknowledging that the Lord is sovereign over every life…the prohibition against eating fat or blood applied not only to meals eaten at the tabernacle, but also to meals eaten at home (and thus presumably to the fat and blood of any edible animal, whether sacrificial or not). As a result, whenever Israelites ate meat, they would be reminded that the Lord was most worthy of honour (by refusing to eat the fat as though they deserved honour), and that he was sovereign over every life (by refusing to consume the blood as though it belonged to them).” (6)
The Unique Peace of God
My furlough experience in 2006 was unique—I visited with about twenty different groups, stayed in the homes of several new supporters, and received my luggage on my last day in England before departing for the US. I admit that peace eluded me at times during those five days, but whenever I prayed for the Lord’s peace, I found it because of his gracious, omnipotent Holy Spirit. And you can be sure that I not only ate pork fat, but blood sausage, a staple of England. Now we have Christ, our true offering of peace. “Ephesians 2:14 says of Jesus, ‘He is our peace,’ and Ephesians 6:15 calls Jesus’ gospel ‘the gospel of peace.’ Romans 5:1 says it plainly: ‘We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ’…We can look for peace from other sources, but they’re like applying a Band-Aid to cure cancer. If we look to possessions, power, or passion to bring peace we’ll live and die as fools and suffer eternally without God. That’s not peace, and it’s certainly not peace with God. Through Jesus we have peace with God, and through Jesus we have the peace of God. Jesus said, ‘My peace I give to you’ (John 14:27).” (7) Are you seeking peace in fellowship with the world or the Lord? Let us turn to him for his unique, eternal soul peace.
Related Scripture: Genesis 9:4-5; 24:31; 26:28-31; 45:17-18; Exodus 29:22-25; Leviticus 7:23-32; 9:18-24; 17:10-14; 24:9; Deuteronomy 12:5-7; Judges 19:16-21; 1 Samuel 2:12-17; Psalm 96:7-9; Ezekiel 44:6-8; Luke 22:19-20; Romans 5:1; Acts 15:20, 29; 1 Corinthians 10:14-22; Ephesians 2:14; 6:15; Colossians 1:20; Hebrews 9:11-15.
1. Henry, Matthew, Matthew Henry’s Complete Commentary on the Bible, Leviticus 3, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/mhm/leviticus-3.html.
2. Sklar, Jay, Leviticus, An Introduction and Commentary, Leviticus 3, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries, IVP Academic, 2014.
3. Moseley, Allen, Exalting Jesus in Leviticus, Christ-Centered Exposition Series, Leviticus 3, B&H Publishing Group, 2015.
4. Henry, Ibid.
5. Henry, Ibid.
6. Sklar, Ibid.
7. Mosley, Ibid.
February 23, 2023