Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
Leviticus 31 John 1:6, 7; John 6:33. We have found in the burnt offering the principle of entire personal consecration, and in the meat offering that of consecrated life-work. We have seen how these have their perfect fulfillment only in the case of Jesus Christ, while in other cases they are preceded by an acknowledgment of sin and shortcoming, and of acceptance as coming through another. In the peace offering we have a further stage of religious experience. Part of the sacrifice, whatever it may be, is binned on the altar, part is assigned to the priests, and part is returned to the offerer, to constitute the staple of a social feast. Moreover, the portion laid upon the altar is expressly called "the bread of God" (לֶחֶם אִשֶׁה לַיהוָה), verse 11. Hence the idea of the offering is that God and his mediating priests and his sacrificing servants are all partaking of the one animal, the one food; that is to say, are all in fellowship. This is the crown of religious experience - conscious fellowship with God and with one another. It is what John refers to when he says, "If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: but 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 cleanseth us from all sin" (1 John 1:6, 7).
I. IN HOLDING FELLOWSHIP WITH GOD AND MAN LARGE LIBERTY OF SELECTION IS ALLOWED. The animal presented might be a female or a male, and even, in the case of a free-will offering, an animal might be presented which had something superfluous (Leviticus 22:23). For, if fellowship is to be expressed, then, provided God is presented with what is perfect, what remains to represent man's share in the fellowship might fairly enough be imperfect. This wider range of selection emphasizes surely the fact that we may hold fellowship with God through any legitimate thing. We shall presently indicate the subject-matter of fellowship with God; meanwhile it is well to notice the large selection allowed.
II. IT IS A PRELIMINARY OF FELLOWSHIP WITH GOD TO ACKNOWLEDGE SIN AND RECEIVE ACCEPTANCE THROUGH A SUBSTITUTE. God's rights are thus respected and acknowledged as our Moral Governor. To venture into the charmed circle of fellowship without the benefit of the bloodshedding is to presume before God. Hence the peace offering was done to death, and its blood sprinkled on the altar before the feast began. The fellowship with God, which has not been preceded on the part of sinners like ourselves by confession of sin and acceptance, is sure to be hollow at the best.
III. IN ANY FELLOWSHIP WITH GOD WE MUST RECOGNIZE HIS RIGHT TO THE BEST PORTION OF THE FEAST. The priest was directed to take the fat that covereth the inwards, and all the fat that is upon the inwards, with the kidneys and the lobe of the liver, and, in case of a sheep, the tail of fat, and he was to burn all these upon the altar of burnt offering, in the ashes of the burnt offering. This was recognizing God's right to the best portion - to the flos carnis, the "tit-bits," as we would call them. Now, it is only natural to suppose that, whatever be the subject-matter of our fellowship with God he will enter more fully into the fellowship and make more of it than we can do. This will be more apparent when we notice in the sequel the different legitimate subjects of fellowship.
IV. IN FELLOWSHIP WITH ONE ANOTHER, MOREOVER, WE MUST RECOGNIZE THE POSSIBILITY OF OTHERS ENTERING INTO the SUBJECT MORE FULLY THAN OURSELVES. The priestly class had the wave breast and heave leg assigned to them as their share. Next to God's portion, these were the best portions of the beast. It indicated plainly the liberal scale of "ministerial support" which God would foster, and it prompted the self-denial of true fellowship. For a feast is a poor thing in which the host retains the best things for himself. His pleasure should be to confer the best on others. For the time being he literally "esteems others better than himself."
V. LET US NOW INDICATE THE LEGITIMATE SUBJECT-MATTERS FOR FELLOWSHIP WHICH ARE TYPIFIED IN the PEACE OFFERINGS. Here, then, we have three sets of individuals partaking of the one organic whole - God on his altar, his mediating priests at the tabernacle, and the offerer and his friends. What does the organic whole represent? And the only answer is, what God and man can have fellowship about. This evidently includes a very wide range indeed.
1. Jesus Christ. He is the great subject-matter of fellowship as between God and man, and between man and man. Hence he is called "the bread of God" which came down from heaven, the bread on which, so to speak, God feeds, as well as the bread he gives to nourish the world. If we think for a moment of the supreme delight which God the Father takes in his well-beloved Son, it is only faintly imaged by the portions placed upon the altar. What fellowship must God have in looking down upon his Son dedicated to life and death to redeem and sustain a sinful race! Indeed, we cannot enter into such an unparalleled experience; no wonder it should be said, "All the fat is the Lord's." Yet this does not prevent us on our part from feasting joyfully and by faith upon Jesus. He becomes the subject-matter of our fellowship and joy.
2. God's Word. This is another subject-matter of fellowship. How often does God use it in communicating with our souls! and is it not the choicest phraseology we can find in returning his fellowship through prayer? How much more, besides, does God see in the Word, and get out of it, than we do! If the crucible of criticism is only revealing the splendours of the Word, how much more must God see in it! "Thy word is very pure, therefore thy servants love it."
3. Ourselves. For fellowship is having something in common with another. If, then, we are altogether consecrated to God, if we say from the heart, "Lord, we are thine; undertake for us," we become, so to speak, the medium of fellowship as between God and us. God's delight in us is beyond conception. "The Lord taketh pleasure in them that fear him, in them that hope in his mercy." And, as we realize God's right and delight in us, life becomes a joyful feast to us. The exercise of all our powers becomes a conscious joy, a feast of love, and all around us are the better for our being.
4. Every legitimate subject or engagement. For all may be made subject-matter of fellowship with God. Nothing worth living for but may be made the medium of communion with him. All learning will prove more delightful if undertaken with God. All social engagements will prove more enjoyable if spent with God. Every occupation, in fact, becomes increasingly blissful in proportion to our fellowship with God in it. It is the feast of life: he sups with us, and enables us to sup with him (Revelation 3:20).
5. Every blessing received and vow registered. For this peace offering was either the expression of praise for some mercy received or the covenant-sign of some fresh resolution. It corresponded very largely to our Eucharistic celebrations. Just as in feasting upon the symbols of our Saviour's dying love we hold fellowship with God and with each other in thinking of all we have received and all we now resolve, so was it in the older feast. The offerer, as he entertained his friends, rejoiced in the goodness he had got from God, and pledged himself in gratitude. The peace offering thus expresses the truth regarding the fellowship possible between God and man, and between the brotherhood. - R.M.E.
I. EACH SEASON AND CIRCUMSTANCE HAS ITS APPROPRIATE OFFERING. Different names are bestowed upon the offerings. A general name for all is corban, a gift, a means of approach. It may be "a burnt offering" (Leviticus 1:3), significant of entire dedication; or "an offering of an oblation" (Leviticus 2:1), a present of flour or grains, an acknowledgment of God's goodness, and an expression of desire to obtain his good will; or "a sacrifice of peace" (Leviticus 3:1), denoting a wish to live in concord with Jehovah, recognizing his will and enjoying his favour. Thus the devout Israelite could never be without a fitting means of approach, whatever his state of mind or whatever the crisis in his life. So we may always have something to offer our heavenly Father, whether in suffering or health, in adversity or prosperity, in age or youth, desiring increased sanctification, or blessing, or usefulness, whether thankful for the past or requesting grace for the future. Even the one atonement of Jesus Christ, like a prism that exhibits different colours according to our position, may appear a diversified offering, according as the pressing need of the moment may seem to be deliverance from wrath, peace, happiness, self-dedication, temporal prosperity, or the light of God's countenance.
II. BY THE DIFFERENCE IN OFFERINGS GOD SEEMS TO DESIRE TO AWAKEN AND DEVELOP DIFFERENT MORAL SENTIMENTS. Our chequered experience has its part to fulfill in calling into play every faculty of the mind and spirit. God likes a good "all-round" character, strong at all points, and only exercise can secure this. He would have his people attend to all the requirements of the Christian life, to manifest all the virtues, knowledge and faith, gratitude and hope, patience and vigour. We must not deem any voyage or journey superfluous; no accident but may benefit us; the holiness meeting, the evangelistic service, the workers' conference, - each may be profitable in turn.
III. ONE OFFERING DOES NOT INTERFERE WITH THE PRESENTATION OF ANOTHER OF A DIFFERENT KIND. In verse 5 we read that the fat of the peace offering is placed upon the burnt offering, probably upon the remains of the morning sacrifice. So that the one becomes a foundation for the other, and clashing is obviated. The sacrifice of the congregation does not prevent the sacrifice of the individual, nor does the general offering prove a hindrance to the special. Family prayer is no obstacle to private supplication, nor does the stated worship of the sanctuary exclude extraordinary gatherings. The fear of some good people lest regular meditation and service should grow formal and check any outburst of enthusiasm, or any sudden prompting to special effort, is seen to be groundless.
IV. CERTAIN REGULATIONS ARE COMMON TO ALL OFFERINGS. Burning on the altar belongs to bloody and unbloody sacrifices, death and sprinkling of blood of necessity only to the former. In every case the offering must be of the best of its kind, if an animal "without blemish," if of grain "fine flour." What we say or do for God should be with our might; in whatever service for him we engage, it must be with full affection and earnest zeal. And every sacrifice required the mediation of a priest. Christ must be the inspiration of our acts, the way of acceptance consecrating all our gifts of money, strength, and time. By him we die (as did the sentient victim) to the world, by him we live to the glory of God. - S.R.A.
I. IT DIFFERS IN ITS TITLE.
1. The burnt offering is in the Hebrew called (עולה) olah.
(1) This term comes from (עלה) alah, to ascend. The reason is that the whole animal was converted, by the action of the fire of the altar, into flame and sparks, vapour and smoke, in which forms it rose from the altar, and as it were ascended to God.
(2) It described the completeness in which Christ offered himself to God in the flames of the "spirit of burning" (Hebrews 9:14).
(3) It also sets forth how completely we should devote ourselves as living sacrifices to God (Romans 12:1), and how constantly our thoughts and affections should rise into the heavens (Philippians 3:20; Colossians 3:1-3).
2. This is called (שׁלמים) shelamin.
(1) The verb from which this noun is derived is (שׁלם) shalem, to complete or make whole; and the noun is well rendered peace offering.
(2) It was, therefore, considered as making up that which was lacking in the sinner, in order to reconcile him to God. In cases of distress, peace offerings as well as burnt offerings were offered up (Judges 20:26). So are we "reconciled to God by the death of his Son."
(3) In making covenants, or entering into the covenant, peace offerings were associated with burnt offerings in like manner (Exodus 24:5). Paul manifestly alludes to the peace offering in Ephesians 2:14-19. "He is our peace" is equivalent to saying, "He is our peace offering."
II. IT DIFFERS IN ITS VICTIMS.
1. In respect to the kinds.
(1) Three classes of animal were specified as proper for the holocaust: there were those of the herd; there were those of the flock; and there were those of the fowls.
(2) In the peace offering there are only two. Animals from the herd and from the flock are specified, but there is no mention of turtle-doves or young pigeons here. The reason of this is that it would be difficult to treat fowls as peace offerings were treated in relation to the fat; and the animals are so small that if divided as peace offerings the portions would be small. There is thoughtful consideration for the welfare of his people in all the laws of God.
2. In respect to the sexes.
(1) The animals devoted as burnt offerings were males. This is specified in relation to the burnt offering of the herd. Also to that of the flock. Masculine pronouns are used in relation to that of the fowls. The neuter, "it," verse 15, should have been rendered" him" (see Hebrew text).
(2) In respect to the peace offering, the matter of sex is optional.
(3) The reason may be this. The burnt offering appears to have been partly an expression of adoration, in which it is proper to give to God all our strength and excellence. The peace offering was divided between God, the priests, and the offerer. Here, then, was a feast of friendship, and the sexes are helpful to our friendships.
III. IT DIFFERS IN THE TREATMENT OF ITS VICTIMS.
1. There were points of agreement here.
(1) The offering must be without blemish. Acceptable service must be without blemish, and this can only be rendered to God through Christ (Jude 1:24, 25).
(2) The hand of the offerer must be laid on the head of the offering. This was intended as a solemn transfer of sin, and acknowledgment that the suffering is vicarious. How graphically expressive of the faith of the sinner in the great Saviour!
(3) The sacrifice must be killed at the door of the tabernacle. Christ is the door. There is no other entrance into the holy place of his Church on earth but by him. The holy led to the holiest. If we do not belong to his spiritual Church on earth, we cannot belong to his glorious Church in heaven. There was a visible Church near, but still, in the bulk of its members, outside the door! Still there are multitudes only in the outer courts.
(4) The blood must be sprinkled upon the altar round about. It is by the blood of Jesus that we enter the "new and living way."
2. But there were points of difference.
(1) Instead of the holocaust the fat only was offered here (verses 3-5). The fat in the peace offering appears to correspond to the oil in the meat offering.
(2) In this view it will represent those graces of the mind which are the fruits of the Spirit.
(3) Burnt offerings and peace offerings were consumed together (verse 5). The great sacrifice of Christ prepares the altar for sacrifices of praise. These were not accepted till we were reconciled through him. - J.A.M.
7. (see Homily there). The sacrifice enjoined in this (third) chapter is preliminary to the sacred feast which was to follow. Its significance is found in the fact that the act of communion with God could only come after the oblation had been presented. We learn, therefore -
I. THAT SACRED JOY BEFORE GOD CAN ONLY FOLLOW RECONCILIATION WITH HIM. the Hebrew people might not come to the tabernacle and have a solemn feast near the sacred Presence until the animal had been slain and its blood sprinkled on the altar (verses 1, 2, 8, 13). Conscious unworthiness must first be taken away by the shed blood of bull or lamb, and then priest and people might rejoice together before the Lord. First purity, then peace (James 3:17). We may aspire
(1) to sit down with the people of God at the table here, or
(2) to mingle with those who shall partake of the marriage supper of the Lamb hereafter; but there is no welcome from lips Divine until sin has been confessed and forgiven. First, penitence at the cross of the Redeemer and trust in his atoning sacrifice; then fellowship with God and his people.
II. THAT A FULL SELF-SURRENDER MUST PRECEDE THE ACT OF COMMUNION. When the animal had been slain, the priest was to present to God the fat, the kidneys, etc. (verses 3, 4, 9, 10, 14, 15), special stress being laid on "the inwards;" the best and richest parts, those which had been the life of the animal, were offered to the Lord, as representing the animal itself, and so the offerer himself. He symbolically offered himself to God through these vital parts of the victim. When we draw near to a service of sacred fellowship and joy, or when we anticipate the communion of the skies, we should act on the truth that "our God has commanded our strength" (Psalm 68:28), that the appeal for his mercy through Christ should be accompanied with a free, full surrender of our whole selves, the consecration of our very best, the "inward parts" - the understanding, the affections, the will - to him and his service.
III. THAT FAITH IN CHRIST AND THE CONSECRATION OF OURSELVES RESULT IN HIS PERFECT PLEASURE WITH US: "It is an offering... of a sweet savour unto the Lord" (verses 5, 16). When the oblation was complete, then the offerer stood in the position of one who might rejoice in the Divine Presence and feast with the holy people and with God. Accepted in Christ, and having "yielded ourselves unto God" in unreserved consecration, we may feel that God's good pleasure, his full Divine complacency, rests upon us; we may walk in the light of his reconciled countenance all the day long. Two supplementary truths offer themselves to our thought in these verses.
1. That every soul must personally and spiritually engage in acceptable service. The offerer was "to lay his hand on the head of the offering," - striking and significant act, by which he clearly intimated his consciousness of sin, and his desire that the victim might represent him in the sight of God - its blood his life, its organs Ms capacities. We may not trust to our mere bodily presence while God is being approached and besought, or while Christ's redeeming work is being pleaded, or while words of dedication are being uttered in prayer. There must be the positive, sympathetic, personal participation, or we stand outside the service and the blessing.
2. That we must intelligently discriminate between the obligatory and the optional in the service of God. Certain things were imperative in the act of worship, other things were left to the choice of the individual. In the gospel of Christ and the worship of God there are things essential that none may depart from, e.g. the humble heart, the act of faith and self-surrender, the spirit of obedience toward God and of love toward man; there are other things which are left to personal discretion, e.g. times and methods of devotion, scale of contribution, sphere of usefulness. Yet in these optional matters we are not to act inconsiderately or irrationally, but according to the direction of wisdom and the teachings of experience. - C.
thank offerings or salvation offerings. The twofold object - to acknowledge salvation received, to supplicate salvation desired. Three kinds - praise offerings, vow offerings, free-will offerings. Considerable freedom permitted in them, though still restrictions observed. Male and female victims, of the herd and flock, but only those without blemish. No pigeons permitted, because a pair of pigeons insufficient for the sacrificial meal, which was so important a constituent of the service. Combination of the burnt sacrifice with the peace offering in the consumption by fire of the suet or fat of the internal organs, and of the fat tail of the sheep. The fat and the blood offered to the Lord in a special manner, by fire and sprinkling "on the altar round about."
Oblation denotes its voluntary character; sacrifice its intimate connection with the altar, that is, its participation in the atoning significance of all the bloody sacrifices which carried in them the idea of reconciliation with God through the blood of the covenant. Peace offering, the specific distinction, recognizing the fact that, whether the prominent feeling expressed was praise or prayer, still the offerer was standing on the ground of covenant fellowship with God. We may take these offerings generally to symbolize salvation as a realized fact. We find under this general fact these three constituent spiritual realities included:
I. Intercourse re-established between God and man, and expressed in grateful praise and willing dependence.
II. Salvation as a fact resting on continued faith; the three parts of the sacrifice being the offerer's part, the priest's part, and Jehovah's part, - all essential and harmonized in one offering.
III. Joy of salvation, both individual and social, typified in the sacrificial meal, God, as it were, giving back the victim to be the source of delight both to the priest and the offerer.
On each of these points the details of the sacrifice have their significance.
I. RECONCILIATION. Re-established intercourse between God and man, grateful praise, willing dependence. Here we may notice the two sides of the sacrifice: that turned towards man - it is willingly brought, it is a valuable gift, it is brought as a peace offering to give praise or to accompany vows and prayers; that turned towards God, it is a confession of sin, an obedience rendered to the Law, a renewal of the covenant, a confirmation of the promises, a seal of grace. Intercourse between man and God.
1. Distinguish between the truth as set forth in Scripture, and man's self-derived ideas.
(1) Consider the non-scriptural views: the notions of the mystic or of the transcendentalist - man's lifting himself to God, or being lifted up by ecstasy; the rationalistic conception that God and man meet in nature, or in human consciousness, and that such intercourse in the mere laws of fact or thought is sufficient. All such reconciliation ignores the fallen state of man, can supply no gospel of peace, is contradicted by the plain development of righteousness in the course of the world; and therefore the necessity made evident that man, as going on to meet the future, should be prepared to meet his God in judgment, in the great adjustment of right and wrong. The mere moralist falls into a similar error when he teaches that the partial obedience of human life to Divine Law, the recognition practically of an ideal moral standard, is a reconciliation between the highest moral Being and his creature.
(2) Place opposite to these defective and erroneous views the teaching of Scripture. Out of the original source of all, the will of God, that is, his infinite nature or character, in actual relation to his universe, comes forth the reconciliation. Revelation from the beginning an invitation of God to man to intercourse. The Mosaic Law was the development of the preceding covenant, which, under patriarchal ministry, was a gospel of peace. The reconciliation was placed on the foundation of sacrifice, that is, man's surrender, blending with God's promise of forgiveness and life, the preservation of righteousness in the acceptance of man's homage to the Divine character, the assurance of peace in a covenant of friendship and interchange of love.
2. This intercourse between God and man being thus established, it is expressed in grateful praise and willing dependence on man's part, in the bestowment of peace and sanctification on God's part. The peace offering typified the life of man as a continual reciprocation of covenant intercourse: the presentation of gifts to God, the acceptance in return of Divine grace. Thus was religion set forth. It is not separated from the earthly life, but it is its consecration. It is not a meritorious purchase of Divine favour, or turning away of wrath, or covering of the reality of transgression with sacrifice, but a thankful dedication of saved life, a subjection of all to the will of the Father, an appropriation of heavenly gifts. Perhaps the fact that no poor man's offering is prescribed may indicate that the truth was already implied, though not so distinctly expressed as afterwards in the Psalms and Prophets, that God would have mercy and not sacrifice, that he laid no stress upon the actual presentation of a peace offering so long as the man himself and his life were offered in devout obedience and thankful spirit. "Whoso offereth praise glorifieth me: and to him that ordereth his conversation aright will I show the salvation of God" (Psalm 1:23).
II. SALVATION AS A FACT RESTS ON CONTINUED FAITH. In every peace offering there were three parts - the offerer's, the priest's, Jehovah's. On each occasion, therefore, the main elements of salvation were recognized, which were these:
1. Free grace.
In each the offerer's faith makes salvation a fact.
1. In bringing a peace offering to Jehovah, the worshipper cast himself by faith on the free grace which opened the way for him to reconciliation and peace. "We love him because he first loved us." The Jew failed to see this freedom of Divine love, and hence became a bond slave under the power of his ritual The gospel has exalted the Divine element so high above the human in the advent of the Son of God, that it is no longer possible to hide it. "God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself." "The Lord hath visited his people." We build all on the foundation stone which God himself hath laid. We begin with the person of Christ, divinely glorious. Our faith lays hold of eternal life in him who was the Life and the Light of men.
2. The offerer brought the victim, but the priestly mediation, was a necessary part of the ceremony. Salvation as a fact rests not only upon the free and infinite love of God, but upon the manifested righteousness and ceaseless intercession of the Saviour. "Aaron's sons sprinkle the blood; Aaron's sons burn the fat on the altar on the burnt sacrifice; a sweet savour unto the Lord." Our life as a saved life is a continual application to ourselves by faith of the merit and efficacy of the Saviour's atonement and ministry as our great High Priest. The "truth as it is in Jesus" is the food of our thoughts, the joy of our hearts, the strength of our obedience. Salvation as a fact is realized forgiveness, progressive holiness in communion with Christ, victory through his grace over the world and all enemies, and at last participation in the glorification of the Divine Man, and admission into his eternal kingdom.
3. Self-surrender was both in the presentation of the offering and in the position of the offerer, laying his hand on the head of the victim, killing it, and giving up the assigned portions to the altar and fire; all was confession, consecration, obedience. Our faith is essentially a yielding of ourselves to God. We find oar salvation a fact, just as we "put off the old man and put on the new man;" just as we "count all things loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus our Lord." Our offering is a peace offering, both of the past and for the future. We are no longer our own. Christ is all to us, and so we are Christ's, and Christ is God's.
III. JOY OF SALVATION, typified in the sacrificial meal, in which the representatives of God and man, in the priests and offerer, met together in social festivity. This was anticipation of the sacred meal, the Supper of the Lord, in which sacrificial joy was celebrated in the new society, in the kingdom of God. The Christian's joy is preeminently joy of salvation. He builds all happiness on the fact of reconciliation with God. He lives his new life not unto himself, but unto Christ and to Christ's people. The social gladness, which was an element in the peace offering, points to the fact that the redemption of Christ effects a deliverance of society from its bondage and misery, as well as the individual soul from its sin and ruin. Such a message is specially wanted in these times, when the world groans under its burdens, and strives in vain after a true liberty and peace. What offerings are laid on the altar of war! Yet they are consumed in vain. There is no happy banquet of fellowship and brotherhood coming out of such sacrifices. God invites us to the joy of a new-made world. He bids us proclaim the way of peace to be through the obedience of Christ. How sweet the savour to the Lord when the whole human family shall offer up its peace offering, acceptable, because identified with the offering of Calvary, uniting all together in a sacred festivity of gladness! - R.
"all the fat is the Lord's" (verse 16). The sweet fat, or suet, was burned as a sweet savour to the Lord. This might be either because fat of this kind was a sign of perfection in the animal life, or because the offering in the fire would be increased by the oily matter, and would make the burnt offering more imposing. Any way the dedication to the Lord is the main idea.
I. RELIGIOUS SERVICE SHOULD TAKE UP INTO ITSELF THE HIGHEST FACULTIES AND NOBLEST AFFECTIONS. The worship of the sanctuary; the active efforts of Christians in the spread of the gospel; charity; - in all such sacrifices let "the fat be the Lord's." II, THE PROSPERITY OF HUMAN LIFE IS ONLY SAFE AND BLESSED WHEN THE SUBSTANCE OF IT IS CONSECRATED ON THE ALTAR. Men become victims of their own success because they withhold the fat from the Lord, and it becomes a curse to them. - R.
upon the burnt sacrifice, which is upon the wood that is on the fire: it is an offering made by fire, of a sweet savour unto the Lord." Notice the preparation thus made for the acceptance of man's offering. There is the altar, the fire, the wood, the burnt sacrifice, the offering of the consecrated fat. Thus Leviticus 6:12, it is said, "the priest shall burn wood every morning at the altar, and lay the burnt offering in order upon it; and he shall burn thereon the fat of the peace offerings." The abiding sacrifice, on the abiding altar, with the abiding fire, receives the occasional offering of the individual worshipper. Here is the great truth of an abiding merit, an ever-living intercession set forth.
I. God, by his grace, has provided for us THE TRUE METHOD OF RIGHTEOUSNESS AND ACCEPTANCE.
1. The superiority of Christ's sacrifice to all other - because of his person, his active and passive obedience, his declared acceptance by his baptism, transfiguration, resurrection, ascension.
2. The simple work of faith, in laying the offering on the ashes of the burnt sacrifice, in attaching the imperfect obedience of man to the infinite merit of Christ. A peace offering in the highest sense when we thus lay all upon the altar of the true mediation. The fire consuming denoted acceptance. God, in Christ, declares himself not only well pleased in his beloved Son, but in all who spiritually are identified with him. The lesser burnt offering is absorbed into the greater and abiding burnt offering, our obedience in Christ's.
II. Thus is set forth THE TRUE ORDER OF THE ETHICAL LIFE. The lesser sacrifice upon the greater. The peace offering on the burnt offering.
1. Common mistake to attempt to reverse this order. Man supposes himself capable of building up merit by moral acts. God teaches him that all ethical worth must rest upon religious completeness. The relation between God and man must be true and perfect, otherwise morality is not real, but only disguised selfishness.
2. The offering up of human life in activity, in suffering, cannot be peace offering unless it be religious. We want the greatest motive to actuate and sustain. We seem to waste our offering unless we can see it in its relation with God's work, with a redeemed and renewed world.
3. The sweetness of life is a return into our own hearts of what the Lord hath found delightful. The "sweet savour" of a consecrated obedience pervades the whole existence, and makes it fragrant both to ourselves and others. Wonderful transmuting power of religion in giving value to the apparently worthless in human character, and beauty to the commonest, and nobleness to the humblest; the whole garment of sanctity covering the native imperfections. Yet no sweet savour without fire. There must be the reality of a spiritual life - the power of God, not the mere form and appearance of the offering. - R.
1. THE DESCRIPTION OF THE FAT OF THE LAMB. Verses 8-10.
1. Note the expression, "The fat thereof, and the whole rump." The "and" here is expletive rather than copulative, thus, "The fat thereof, even the whole rump." But the "rump," as vulgarly understood among us, is muscle, not fat. The part here indicated is the tail. This is evident from what follows, viz." It shall be taken off hard by the back-bone." The tail of the sheep even in our climate is fat, but in the East it is remarkably so, some of them weighing from twelve to forty pounds.
2. The portions burnt were very inflammable.
(1) Here, in addition to the fat of the tail, was all the fat of the inwards, which in a sheep might weigh eight or ten pounds. This, when ignited, would be consumed, whatever else may have been laid upon the altar.
(2) These parts were considered to be the seat of the animal passions. In this view the lesson of their consumption upon the altar would be that our passions should be in complete subjection to God. Also to impress upon us that, if not consumed in the milder fires of his love, how obnoxious they are to the fierce fires of his wrath!
(3) The rapid consumption of the fat of lambs upon the altar is therefore appropriately used to describe the extermination of the wicked. "But the wicked shall perish, and the enemies of the Lord shall be as the fat of lambs: they shall consume; into smoke shall they consume away" (Psalm 37:20). Fire, it would seem, will be the chief instrument which Providence will summon for the destruction of the threes of Antichrist (Revelation 17:16; Revelation 18:9; Revelation 19:8, 20; Revelation 20:9, 14).
II. THE EXPRESSION, "FOOD OF THE OFFERING MADE BY FIRE UNTO THE LORD" (verse 11).
1. Thus, what was consumed by fire is called God's food.
(1) Some construe this to mean that what is consumed is food for the fire. But this is to give no information. Nor would this be a sufficient reason for the prohibition of the fat as food for an Israelite (see verses 16, 17). Note, the fat intermingled with the flesh was not forbidden, but those portions only which were prescribed to be offered upon the altar (see Nehemiah 8:10).
(2) But how could God be said to feast upon such food? Not literally, certainly (see Psalm 1:13). But figuratively. Thus his attributes of justice and mercy are, so to speak, hungry for satisfaction; and this satisfaction they find in that sacrifice of Christ, in virtue of which he is not only merciful, but just in justifying the ungodly (Romans 3:24-26).
(3) To avail ourselves of this mercy of God, we must justify him, viz. by hearty repentance and true faith. While God magnifies his justice in his mercy, we, too, must magnify his justice in his mercy.
2. The portions of the peace offering not consumed upon the altar were eaten by men.
(1) Here, then, was the expression of a fellowship between God and men, which is established through sacrifice. This glorious privilege is set forth also in the Christian Eucharist. We feast with the Lord at his table (1 Corinthians 10:21).
(2) Here also was fellowship between religious men. The priest had his portion, and the offerer his. That the offerer should feast with a Gentile would have been profanity. So the fellowship of Christians is with the holy universe (Hebrews 12:22-24).
III. THE NOTE PROHIBITING THE EATING OF BLOOD. Verse 17.
1. What are the reasons for this?
(1) The first is that the blood is the life of the flesh. The prohibition of blood as food is a Noachian precept, and this reason is given there. The object is to set a store upon life (see Genesis 9:4-6).
(2) The second is that blood is given upon the altar to make atonement for the soul, viz. life for the life (Leviticus 17:10-14). The atoning blood of Christ must not be treated as a common thing (Hebrews 10:29).
2. We may here refer to a circumstance in connection with the bleeding of the sacrifice.
(1) The Jews tell us that the animal, after the slaughtering, was suspended on hooks near the place of rings for the removing of the skin. How suggestive of the hanging of Jesus upon the tree of his cross!
(3) To human appearance this prophecy seems to have been fulfilled as by accident. The same remark may be applied to the fulfillment of many prophecies. There are no mere accidents. The careful hand of an all-wise Providence is in everything. - J.A.M.
I. Here is the TRUE RELIGIOUS LIBERTY. Obedience according to ability, "doing the will of God from the heart." The variety which is necessitated in God's children by their different capabilities and circumstances is not displeasing to him. If we cannot bring an offering from the herd, then from the flock; if not a sheep, then a lamb; if neither, then the will for the deed. Yet all can do something. "Unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ" (Ephesians 4, and 1 Corinthians 12).
II. Here is the secret of SOCIAL PEACE AND STRENGTH - the only true equality; God's altar bringing together rich and poor, high and low. All, offering what they can to him, find out each other's nearness and worth. In the house of God the poor man may be a higher servant of the sanctuary than the rich. Society rests on religion as its basis. Mistake of philosophy, which gives us not brotherhood but altruism - not family life but mere expediency. The true conception of a State is every one having a place, and every one in his place. None but the religious view, which makes the altar of God the center, really effects this union of the individual interest with that of the community. The true mother does not despise the sickly child. Philosophy exalts the great and depresses the little. Religion humbles the great and exalts the low. The revelation is to babes. The offering is accepted from the weakest hands. All are one in Christ. The perfect Sacrifice blends all together. - R.
I. LEARN THAT NOT THE MEANEST BUT THE CHOICEST PORTIONS MUST BE RESERVED FOR GOD'S SERVICE. Low conceptions of his majesty and perfection lead to such religious observance as is an insult rather than an honour. To defer reading the Scriptures or prayer till the mind and body are fatigued, is an infraction of this rule. Let our freshest moments, our sweetest morsels of thought and power, be set apart for the Lord! And similarly, ask not, How near can I walk to the dividing line between the Church and the world? or, Which of my amusements can I with least self-denial renounce in order to do his will? May we not behold the same lesson inculcated in the distinction indicated in this chapter, between a peace and a burnt offering? The latter, being wholly devoted to the Lord, must consist of a male victim; the former, intended principally for the participation of the offerers, may be male or female (verse 1). It cannot be right, then, to imagine that any qualifications will suffice for entire consecration to God's work. Ministers and missionaries should be numbered amongst men of highest intellect and intensest spirituality.
II. SEE HOW GOD ACCEPTS THE OFFERINGS OF HIS CREATURES AS THE MATERIALS FOR HIS DELIGHT AND GLORY. The burnt fat is "food" for the fire offering, and is termed in another place, the "bread of God." It becomes "a sweet savour" that is, eminently pleasing to the Holy One. In the word "food" we discern the purport of the peace offering as a sacrificial meal, in which, by returning to God what he had previously bestowed, the worshipper:
1. Acknowledged his indebtedness and thanks.
2. Was made a guest at the table of the Lord, inasmuch as he ate part of the animal that was "food for the fire offering;" and
3. Had all his other provisions sanctified for the sustenance of life, being allowed to consume the entire portions of animals not fit for sacrifice.
III. RECOLLECT THE OBLIGATORINESS OF DIVINE STATUTES.
1. They prohibit as well as command. "Thou shalt not" occupies as prominent a position in the Decalogue as "Thou shalt." Not only does man need both to try him (as with our first parents) and direct him, but one really involves the other. Observe that what man might not consume himself might be properly consumed on the altar; so the adoration and. unquestioning fidelity that are out of place in reference to any finite beings, are becoming in relation to God.
2. They are equally binding on all generations. They respect us as well as our fathers, and herein the laws of God differ from the mutable proclamations of human lawgivers. The precepts of God only change with a new dispensation. This is the meaning of the word "perpetual." There is a sense, indeed, in which no Divine statute alters, being continued in spirit though the letter may have varied.
3. They enter into all phases of life. The prohibition was to be acted upon in "the dwellings" as well as at the tabernacle. Let us not make too great a distinction between the homage of the house of God and the home or the workshop and the factory! It is the characteristic of the gospel times to have the Law written on the heart, so that we carry it with us wherever we go. Thus are we prevented from sinning against God. - S.R.A.
Nehemiah 8:10). We may look at -
I. THE MEANING OF THIS PROHIBITION IN THEIR CASE. Evidently both the fat and the blood were disallowed as food because they were offered in sacrifice to Jehovah. On this account they were to be preserved sacred. They were not to be treated as ordinary things, vulgarized, lowered in public estimation; a feeling of their sacredness was to be cherished and carefully preserved by daily habit. To be continually using these parts as meat and drink at table would have the effect which was to be deprecated. It was, therefore, an act of religious duty to abstain from them. By such abstinence their feelings of reverence and piety would be guarded and preserved. Was it not for a similar reason, viz. that no violation should be done to the sacred sentiment of maternity, that the law was thrice repeated, "Thou shalt not seethe a kid in his mother's milk" (Exodus 23:19, etc.)? The influence of daily habit on the finer sentiments of the soul is very gradual and imperceptible, but in the end it is very great: it is often decisive for good or evil.
II. ITS BEARING ON OUR OWN RELIGIOUS LIFE. We are to guard most sedulously our sacred feelings; to "keep our heart above all keeping" (Proverbs 4:23). Among other perils to be avoided is that of allowing sacred things to be vulgarized by too frequent use, to lose their force and virtue by reason of over-familiarity. With this end in view, there will be, on the part of the prudent, a certain measure of:
1. Wise limitation. This will apply to
(1) the use of the Divine name (the avoidance of profanity);
(2) the employment of pious phraseology in ordinary speech (the avoidance of offensive and injurious cant);
(3) the repetition of sacred formulae (the avoidance of a Pharisaic formalism);
(4) the multiplication of holy days (Romans 14:6).
(5) These matters, and such as these, are questions of expediency, to be determined by practical Christian wisdom. Both extremes are to be avoided - the neglect of good things and so the loss of spiritual help, and their excessive use resulting in the loss of the sense of sacredness. The latter is a subtle and strong evil, for when sacred things have lost their sanctity to us, there is little left to elevate and restore. "If the salt have lost its savour," etc. But beside wise limitation, there must be:
2. Positive spiritual endeavour. It will by no means suffice to conform to good rules of speech and behaviour: such abstinences will not preserve a reverent and loving spirit; we must think seriously and pray earnestly.
(1) By serious thought we must be frequently realizing how great is our indebtedness to the heavenly Father; how real is our need, as sinners, of the Divine Saviour; how urgent is our want, as weak and struggling souls, of the influence of the Holy Spirit!
(2) By earnest prayer we must be drawing down from on high that spiritual replenishment which God is willing to bestow on all seeking souls, and without which all life will languish, all means and methods prove fruitless and vain. - C.