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Peace: a hug

December 16th, 2012 by Vic

“Peace: a hug”

Leviticus 3

December 16, 2012

 

The words for the Christmas song “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” were written by Longfellow during the Civil War.  He says, “And in despair, I bowed my head; ‘There is no peace on earth,’ I said; ‘For hate is strong, and mocks the song of peace on earth, good-will to men.’”  So where is the peace that the birth of Jesus was supposed to bring?  I want to remind you that like joy, peace is found in relationship.  As we saw last week the phrase ‘good-will to men’ is not an accurate translation.  But before we get to that let’s look at peace.  This word is part of the Christmas story and we hear it a lot this time of year.  What does the word ‘peace’ mean?

This week Nancy and I had lunch with the Portland area Nazarene pastors and wives.  I was chatting with a couple pastors and asked them their thoughts on peace.  One quickly raised his two fingers and said, “Peace.”  The other took me seriously.  He has a ministry to people dying of cancer.  His desire is to help them find peace in God.  When I mentioned the symbolism of the Peace offering in the O.T. he agreed that this is what Christians are called to do.  We have had our sins forgiven.  We can invite friends into God’s presence to enjoy His peace by trusting in the sacrifice that Jesus made for us.  We can help others find peace.

 

The word ‘peace’ is used 92 times in the NT.  There is a wealth of nuances to its meaning.  Prince of Peace was a title given by the prophets to the coming Messiah.  For the Roman world peace was that interlude between wars.  The Romans offered peace through legal security, but if you did not agree with their politics there was no peace.  For the Greeks, the goddess of Peace was depicted as a nurse with a child and the horn of plenty.  She offers blessings of the land and pleasures to people.  For the Stoics, peace was a state of mind.

 

In the OT the root idea of peace meant well-being related to satisfaction.  It implies stability of relationship established by a covenant.  Gideon says, “The Lord is peace” (Judges 6:24).  False prophets preached peace when there was no peace (Jer 6:14).  The Peace Offering in the Tabernacle can help us picture peace.  It was a little different than the other sacrifices.  It concluded with a meal celebrating renewed covenant relationships.  This sacrifice was like a hug or handshake that confirmed our covenant with God and His people.  The greeting, “Shalom,” encapsulates this offering.  A hug encapsulates this offering.

 

In Leviticus chapter 1 the Burnt Offering teaches us that what we give to God must be the best of our flock.  It must be loved. “Do you love the Lamb?”  Without love there can be no acceptable sacrifice.  Anything we offer to God must cost us something.  The worshipper symbolically leaned on his sacrificial offering trusting it to take his place.  Now by faith we lean of Jesus.  This sacrifice teaches us that God provides a way any worshipper can draw near to Him.  It teaches us that God takes sin very seriously.  It teaches us that we need a High Priest to complete our sacrifice.  It teaches us that obedience gives us access to God.

 

But a major focus of the Burnt Offering was the fact of total and continual burning.  The priests offered daily burnt offerings and they were to be totally consumed.  So the main teaching for us is that because Jesus died for our sins, we are expected to commit ourselves completely and continually to God.  We are to present ourselves daily as living sacrifices holy and acceptable to God.  God expects complete consecration continually.

 

The Meal offering in Leviticus 2 introduced some new symbolism.  It teaches that oil represents the Holy Spirit, frankincense represents prayer, leaven and honey represent corruption, and salt represents a covenant.  The handful portion represents the whole.  The main teaching was thanksgiving that God gives us strength to harvest.  This offering is a commitment of the work of the worshipper’s hands.  We give a memorial portion of the labor of our hands to God remembering that He has given us everything and we get to enjoy the rest.  The handful of grain is given to honor God.

 

THE PEACE OFFERING

In Leviticus 3 we are introduced to the Peace Offering.  Some additional regulations for this offering are found in chapters 7, 19, and 22.  The Thanks Offering, the Free Will Offering, and Vows are related to the Peace Offering.

 

The Peace Offering was the 2nd most common of all the offerings.  This offering concluded with a feast with family and friends.  The Peace Offering is mentioned in Genesis 31:54; Exodus 18:12; Exodus 32:6; 1 Corinthians 10.  This offering seems to express the desire of all mankind to have peace with God and one another.

 

Many other religions brought food to their temples for potluck dinners.  However God gives precise instructions for this meal because He is modifying the common pagan custom to teach us symbolically about Himself.  God chose to reveal Himself to man, not by using a new heavenly language, but using what man was already familiar with and modifying it a little.

 

It may help to remember the Eastern emphasis on eating together.  If you accept an invitation to eat at someone’s table, you can no longer be enemies.  When Joshua was conquering the Promised Land some kings tricked Joshua with moldy bread.  They pretended they had come from a far country.  Joshua apparently shared some bread with them and then he found out they were on his hit list and he had been tricked.  However he could not make war with them because he had eaten with them.

 

The ritual of the Peace Offering began like the Burnt Offering.  First the worshipper brought and presented a valuable sacrifice.  Second was the laying on of hands.  The worshipper had to lean on his offering.  Third was the killing of the sacrifice and presentation to the priest.  Fourth was the sprinkling of the blood.  Fifth was the burning of the fat.  The fat was burnt to honor God.  And now a sixth step is the sacrificial meal.  A designated portion is given to the priest to eat and the rest is given back to the worshipper to feast and celebrate.

 

The worshipper did not eat meat often.  This was a special time.  He would often invite his friends to celebrate with him.  Maybe like our BBQ’s.  The host provided the meat and the friends brought the trimmings.  They may have been celebrating the completion of a vow or an answered prayer, or a graduation, or a special blessing.  The fat was given to honor God and the offering was dedicated as an expression of thanks to God and a prayer for peace with God.  (Romans 1:21)

 

Here’s what I want you to see this Christmas season.  Jesus said, “You are my friends if you do what I command” (Jn 15:14).  In a unique way Jesus invited His friends into God’s presence.  Jesus sacrificed Himself as our peace offering, our priest, and also the worshipper who invites His friends to come celebrate peace of God with a thankful heart.  We have been invited to bring nothing but our living sacrifice of obedience and our sacrifice of praise.  We have been invited to dinner.  We celebrate because fellowship and peace with God has been restored through the sacrifice of Jesus.

 

This offering is different from the Burnt Offering.  It does not have to be perfect, but edible.  Several defects were allowed if the defect did not destroy the value of the meat as quality food or corrupt the fatty portion that was given to honor God.  The focus is not on the sacrifice but on the relationship.

 

In the Peace Offering only the fat is burnt on the altar.  Fat or fatness was often used in Scripture as symbolic of riches, excess, or the best.  The same idea was in the meal offering: God deserves the best we have.  All the fat is the Lord’s.

 

There is a breed of sheep still found in the Middle East that has an unusually large tail.  It was basically all fat.  It could weigh over 15 pounds.  This fat was considered a delicacy, the most valuable part of the sheep.  It was rich like bone marrow.  So when God invites you to dinner He takes the fat out.  He serves lean meat.

 

The symbol of the fat reminds us that God wants what we consider the best.  He will not be satisfied if we reserve the fat and give Him the lean of our lives.

 

Minor defects may be allowed in some situations, but God’s plan for our lives is holiness.  Even if there are some defects, the offering we offer God must honor Him.  Defects may be allowed if they do not affect the quality of our obedience.  God may not be totally pleased with our theology or our understanding, but He sees our heart.  He will accept our commitment if the defects do not affect the quality of our obedience.

 

Jesus Christ was the Lamb of God.  By faith we lean on Him as our sacrifice and He becomes the food of our soul.  Jesus is called the Bread of Life.  By feeding on Him we have fellowship with God.  Jesus is our Peace Offering.

 

God planned for this Peace Offering to express fellowship between man and Himself.  It expresses a new relationship that brings great joy.  It was to be eaten in His presence.  In the pagan worship ritual it is man who feeds his god, but in this offering it is God who feeds man.  The worshipper had brought the sacrifice and presented it to God.  God received the fat and returns the rest.  All the fat is burned and then God instructs the priests to have a feast with the worshipper with the remaining part of the sacrifice.

 

This is a major teaching.  We often try to be religious and make God our friend by doing something or giving something, but God is teaching us just the opposite.  We please God when we receive with thankfulness and joy what He has provided.

 

God has provided a plan by which we can have our sins forgiven.

God has provided a plan by which we can draw near to Him.

God has provided a plan by which we can give gifts to Him.

God has provided a plan by which we can have peace with Him.

 

Sin separates us from God.  Sin destroys relationships.  When we believe satan’s lies we give satan authority to tempt us and cause major chaos in our life.  Jesus died to render powerless the authority that causes chaos.  We can confess our sin and come to Jesus.  By faith we lean on the Lamb of God as our offering of peace.  By faith we restore our relationship with God and receive nourishment from the Bread of Life that has been given to us.  Peace is established when chaos is defeated.

 

The Lamb of God whose blood was shed for us is now given back to us by God as food that we might enjoy abundant life.  The offering and the food are the same.  When we celebrate Communion, we are renewing our covenant with God.  Behold the Lamb of God.

 

Do you see what God was trying to demonstrate to the Jews in the Peace Offering?  He is anxious to maintain covenant relationship with us.  God has initiated a new covenant relationship, a peace plan.  Everything in the offering was fulfilled in Jesus.  Jesus is our peace (Ephesians 2:13-18).  God sent Jesus to give us a hug.

 

Right now you can have peace with God.  Place your hands of faith on Jesus.  He died for you.  His blood gave you access to God.  He offers Himself to you as the Bread of Life.  “This is My body which was broken for you.”

 

Last week we heard the first angel announced good news of great joy for all mankind.  The choir of angels praised God because they saw that this Christmas event would bring ‘peace on earth to those who accept God’s Gift.’  They sang glory to God in heaven and glory to God on earth and peace to people who have a good relationship with God.  To be of God’s good pleasure is to be established in a favored relationship with God.  Real peace on earth exists only among those who are the subjects of God’s favor, who have an established relationship with God and a love toward man.  People in relationship with God and man have joy and peace.

 

I read several articles this week regarding peace.  Everyone recognizes that there is no peace even though the angels announced peace.  They fail to read the whole verse in Luke 2:14, “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace among men who receive His gracious Gift.”  These writers fail to see that Jesus did not overthrow the Romans.  He did not establish political peace.  He did not start a cult or commune.  The peace of God is a gift and cannot be fought for or negotiated.  It expresses a new relationship with God to replace former hostility.  We were enemies, but Jesus died that we might be reconciled with God.  Those who have by faith in (leaning on) Jesus, come into God’s presence with their sacrifice of praise and obedience, have received the Gift of peace.

 

In the meal offering we give a handful of grain to honor God and give Him thanks for the rest He has given to us.  In the Peace offering we give the fat to honor God and then give Him thanks for the peace and the bounty we can share with our family and friends.  What does the Lord require of you?  When we fail to honor God and give thanks, we break the covenant.

 

It’s Christmas!  Honor God and give Him thanks for what you have been given, who you are, where you are, and why you are where you are!

 

Matthew 5:9 – Blessed are the peacemakers (those who invite their family and friends to come with them into God’s presence) for they will be called sons of God.

 

John 14:27 – Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you (peace is a gift).  I do not give to you as the world gives (political justice).

 

John 16:33 – I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.  In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart I have overcome the world.

 

2 Corinthians 13:11 – Brothers, aim for perfection, be of one mind, live in peace and the God of love and peace will be with you.

 

Philippians 4:4-7,9b – Rejoice in the Lord always.  The Lord is near.  Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  And the God of peace will be with you.

 

Colossians 3:15 – Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace.  And be thankful.

 

James 3:17-18 – The wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.  Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.

 

Romans 12:18, 19, 21 – If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.

 

2 Peter 1:2 – May grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.

 

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