Wednesday, May 8, 2013

What is the Peace Offering?


At some time or other you've been restless. Would you say that is true? I know in my life it is. I wrestle with doubts, fears, confusions, decisions that need to be made, direction for my life, hard questions and so much more.

I've had sleepless nights. Worrisome days.

But there is peace to be had. For every single issue that you wrestle with. Every circumstance, every horrendous event. Peace is attainable.

Leviticus Chapter 3. Don’t click off the page yet! Leviticus is a beautiful book.  In these pages you'll discover God setting up a system of holy living for His people, including how-to instructions for sacrifices, the ordination of priests, laws concerning unclean/clean, atonement, morality, other laws for holy living). They were set in place for a reason and we can learn from them today. 

Though they were temporarily put in place. They foreshadowed something permanent. And that's the fun treasure we get to dig out of it! Yes, yes it can be fun!

"The law is only an unclear picture of the good things coming in the future; it is not the real thing. The people under the law offer the same sacrifices every year, but these sacrifices can never make perfect those who come near to worship God. If the law could make them perfect, the sacrifices would have already stopped. The worshipers would be made clean, and they would no longer have a sense of sin. But these sacrifices remind them of their sins every year, because it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins." Hebrews 10:1-4 NCV

Now, back to Chapter 3 of Leviticus: The Peace Offering

The Hebrew word for the peace offering is, "shelem" which means, "to sacrifice to be in an alliance or friendship with." "a voluntary sacrifice of thanks." "a requital" (which is something given or done as repayment for kindness or a friendly act).

This word, "shelem" comes from the root word, "shalam" and it's a verb. Yeah, how bout that. It means, "to be in covenant of peace, to be at peace, to be complete, whole, sound, finished, sealed, uninjured."

Uh, yes, please! I'll have some of that.

The peace offering was given willingly.
In essence it was like the person was saying, "Thank you, God, for your acts of kindness and friendship. Thank you for this covenant of peace. I'm bringing you this sacrifice in the way you've asked me to. May it be a sweet aroma to you. Let it waft around you sweeter than honeysuckle, sweeter than lilacs. Thank you for making me complete and whole, and sealed. Your friendship means everything to me. It was worth the time it took to bring this animal without any spot or blemish--because you are holy Lord and I can bring nothing else-- lay my hands upon it, kill it at the door of the tabernacle, where you meet with me. Bless your name, LORD!"

Then the priests would sprinkle the blood all around the altar. Blood offends us and has become synonymous with death thanks to TV and movies and Bram Stoker. But blood was never meant to be dark or represent death. Blood has always been about life. Life is in the blood. Blood cries out when it's been taken, cries for avenging. And God hears. God avenges. Blood is... I'm about to chase a rabbit here.

The priests, who were the only ones who could minister to God--thank you, Jesus for your life-giving blood that tore the veil in two and made us a royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:9)! We now have direct access to your throne. No longer do we have to stand outside the door and let the priests do what we could not! We come all the way in. And we get to stay!

Somebody get excited over that! Somebody lift a praise! A shout!

Now back to Leviticus 3. The priest would arrange the wood on the fire. Then the peace offering was to be laid over the burnt sacrifice (offering), which was the only sacrifice that was entirely consumed on the altar. I believe another sacrifice was wholly laid on wood in the form of cross and went through fire for us. So the specifics here aren't incidental. The arrangement of the sacrifices pointed to the ultimate sacrifice. The Lamb of God. Pure and spotless. Because of Jesus we have peace, soundness, wholeness, we're sealed. We offer him our sacrifice because of his great act of kindness toward us.

But wait, there's more! Yes, I said that just like an infomercial.

Look at the organs that were required in the Peace Offering (if from the herd, a lamb also required the fatty tail which is by the backbone):

The fat--because fat is the best. (I know we're in a whole generation of non-fat lovers, but then it was the most prized portion.)

The two kidneys.

The fatty lobe attached to the liver.

Why these parts? I mean did God flippantly say, "Hey, just toss in the kidney and liver. Meh, while your at it chunk the fat too."

No.

In ancient times, the kidneys were considered the seat of your emotions (not the heart like today which I like better by the way) Let's talk about our emotions, when they get in the way and we let them lead, what happens to our peace? God says, give me your emotions. I will give you soundness. Wholeness.

The fat--the best part. The part they wanted to keep, to hold onto. "Yes," says the Lord, "I'll take all the parts you think you need to hang onto. I'll take the part you treasure most, the part you think you can control. I like to call it your own strength, talent and abilities, which by the way I've given you. I'd like those for my glory, thank you very much."

And the liver. Which was used by diviners to tell the future. The uncertain future. How it steals our peace. But God says, "I hold your future. I guide you with my eye. I have plans for you. You don't need to know everything. I do and isn't that enough, insert name here?" Also, the liver is what filters out impurities in our life. So we could say, time to burn up the sins and impurities in our life on the consuming fire, on the burnt sacrifice of Jesus Christ so that we can live in peace. God knows our sins and impurities will rob us of our peace. Keep us in turmoil and bondage.

And if it was a lamb or goat, the same thing was required but of the lamb, the fatty tail which is connected to the backbone. I'd like to say we need to offer God our fear. Ever heard, "Get a backbone!" How you ask? Place your fear on the altar.

But when we give all these things back to the One who drew us with kindness into a relationship--a covenant of peace, who removed our guilt, it's an offering from us to Him for all of that! Thank you for your sacrifice, Jesus. Thank you that you are my friend. You call me friend. You are mindful of me and I offer you everything I have. I trust you. Lord consume it all on your altar. Every part. For your glory. Burn away what doesn't belong and refine me. The consuming fire is a place of change. A time to be rearranged. 

May it be a sweet aroma to you, God.

Do you have hard time laying these things down on the altar? And what else would you say robs you of peace? 

18 comments:

  1. Circumstances have made the laying down of those things quite easy - when your mortal horizon shrinks, you realize exactly what you don't need.

    But, as one newspaper, eulogized George Patton - I am not a man of peace. Strife has been my profession, and that has been a preparation for the life through which I've blundered in the years since.

    I would say that the only peace I've found has been when I'm girded for war, and that the only thing that robs me of peace...

    ...is peace.

    (Y'all may now say, in appropriate antiphony, please..."What a nut!")

    http://blessed-are-the-pure-of-heart.blogspot.com/

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    1. I'll have you know, I did not say "What a nut!" :)

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  2. Oh wow...so, I had a short night of sleep last night, so maybe that has me extra emotional, but seriously...I teared up at this post. Especially that last paragraph. It's the prayer of my heart today...

    You are so full of wisdom, my friend.

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    1. Thank you, my friend! It's the prayer of my heart as well.

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  3. Jess, I'm with Melissa. Tear time. I believe the Holy Spirit just fell on you! Wow!!

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  4. Your wisdom amazes me.

    And I love how God has a purpose for everything!!

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    1. I love intentionally looking for that in the Bible. The minute something seems skimmable (is that a word?) or irrelevant, that is where I like to stop and ponder, "Why is that in there? God open my eyes to see that." Then I start digging. He truly is so purposeful. It gives me comfort.

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  5. Beautiful post! So grateful we can go to God and find that peace, whether those struggles are big or small.

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    1. So true. If it bothers us and unsettles us no matter what it may be. God is interested!

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  6. Just ditto what Melissa said. WOW, Girl. LOVE this post and your wisdom. I chuckled at Melissa's post that Leviticus was like calculus. TRUE dat! But a peace offering? I can deal with that. :)

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    1. I can get up with that too, fiend! LOL

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  7. Beautiful post today, Jess. Thankful for His sacrifice that brings peace!

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  8. Great post! I have trouble sometimes with worrying and about what the future will hold. It goes back to that trust issue :-) I love the truth of your wise words, especially that of sacrifice. By offering God the best of the best, the fat portion that I focus on and want to control, I demonstrate my willingness to let Him lead and provide.

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  9. Jessica, wow, what a beautiful and insightful article! (Why do we call them "posts" anyway?) I didn't know the symbolism behind the OT sacrifices and the use of particular organs, and knowing makes it so much more meaningful. Bless you for sharing!

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  10. Beautiful as always, Jess. Love that last paragraph...so much soul here.

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