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Bible Commentaries

Seiss' Lectures on Leviticus and Revelation

Leviticus 3

Verses 1-17

Fourth Lecture.
The Peace-Offering

Leviticus 3:1-17

Religion a thing of gladness—Our whole Salvation dependant on the Blood of Atonement—True Peace requires a full surrender of Self first—God must have the Best—The Christian’s ground for Joy—Feasts on Sacred Food—The subjects of his rejoicing.

We have here another class of offerings, differing from either of those which we have thus far considered. Like the first, they are of a bloody nature, but still having peculiarities of their own.

In the first class, treated of in the first chapter, only a bullock, or a lamb, or a dove, of the male kind, could be taken. In this class, the offering might be a bullock, or a sheep, or a goat, whether male or female, only so that it was without blemish. All bloody sacrifices, of course, always represent Christ, in his character of an expiation. The reason for the allowed difference in the victims here, is, that this class of offerings fixes more upon the results, impartation, and reception of Christ’s sacrifice, than upon the precise manner of it. The holocaust is the picture of the Savior, as the propitiation for sin. This is more especially a picture of his offering availing for and conveyed to those who believe.

The offerings of the first chapter were holocausts; that is, they were to be burned entirely upon the altar. But such is not the case with these peace-offerings. The only parts of these to be burned, were the suet pertaining to the inwards, the two kidneys with their fat, the "caul" (sacking, or whatever it was,) of the liver, and, in the case of the sheep, the large fat tail, which, in Syrian sheep, was a most remarkable and highly prized part of the animal. These the priest was to take away, and burn upon the wood on the altar. It was the Lord’s part, an offering made by fire of a sweet savor unto the Most High. The breast and shoulder became the property of the priests, to be eaten by them. All that remained belonged to the offerer, to be eaten by him, his family and his friends, in a joyous sacred festival. This peculiarity settles the point to which I have just adverted, that these peace-offerings refer mainly to the benefits and blessings of Christ’s sacrifice as distributed and feasted upon by his people. To this also answers their name.

This particular kind of offering is called the peaceoffering. The word peace, in the language of the Scriptures, has a shade of meaning not commonly attached to it in ordinary use. With most persons it signifies a cessation of hostilities, harmonious agreement, tranquillity, the absence of disturbance. But in the Scriptures it means more. Its predominant import there is, prosperity, welfare, joy, happiness. The original Hebrew word includes both these meanings. The old Greek version renders it by terms which signify a sacrificial feast of salvation. This, perhaps, comes as near to the real import of shelamim as we can come. The Scriptures elsewhere mention the peace-offering under a name which denotes victims slain for banquets, especially for sacrificial banquets. The idea of great blessing, prosperity, rejoicing, evidently enters into the designation. We may therefore confidently take the peace-offering as a joyous festival, a solemn sacrificial banqueting, illustrative of the peace and joy which flows to believers from the atoning work of our Lord Jesus Christ, and our sanctification through his blood and Spirit.

Religion is not a thing of gloom, hut of gladness. It is not a sullen sourness, requiring a dull and morose kind of life, barring all delight, all mirth, all pleasant cheer. It mingles with it a never-failing stream of true, pure, and steady peace. The first Gospel word that ever was uttered upon earth, was a joyful promise, kindling fond expectation and cherished hope. The angel who came down to announce the fulfilment of that promise in the birth of the Long-expected seed, said, "Behold, I bring you glad tidings of great joy." God is to his people "the God of peace"—a fountain of consolation—a dew of freshness and joy. He cheerfully smiles upon them with his favor, and anoints them with the oil of praise, and throws around them the sunshine of his loving kindness, and stretches forth his own paternal hand to wipe away their tears. Laying our hands in humble confession upon the holy brow of his Son as our sacrificial Lamb, and presenting ourselves a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto him that same altar becomes to us a source of blessing and furnishes us substance for a happy festival "Being justified by faith, we have peace." "The kingdom of heaven is righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost." A gloomy, dull, unsocial, dark-spirited Christian, is a very imperfect Christian. He has not entered into the full experience of his calling and prerogatives. He yet needs to bring his peace-offering. It yet remains for him to fulfil the command,—"be joyful in the Lord." Whatever some may say, Christianity is meant to be a feast—a great royal banquet for every invited guest—as well as a penitential confession, and a living sacrifice. "Light Is sown for the righteous, and gladness for the upright in heart."

Let us look, then, at some of the peculiarities and relations of the Christian’s happiness, as it is pictured to us by God himself in the rites which he prescribed for the ancient peace-offering.

I. The peace-offering was a bloody offering. Everything in Christian life, justification and sanctification, the forgiveness of our sins, and the acceptable-ness of our services, our hopes and our spiritual festivities, run back into Christ’s vicarious sufferings, as their fountain and foundation. If he had not submitted to be slain and offered for us, we could not be forgiven; and if not forgiven, we never could be holy and acceptable; and without being holy and acceptable, we never could have peace. There is not a spiritual joy which the believer has, but must be traced back to atonement by blood. This is the centre from which all Christian doctrine, and all Christian experience, radiates, and into which it ultimately resolves itself. Without this, Christianity dwindles down into a cold, flat, and powerless morality, with no warming mysteries, no animating sublimities, no kindling and melting affections, no transforming potencies. Without this, the soul languishes and droops like a plant excluded from the sunshine, or flourishes only in its own disgrace. The sinner must have it, or he sinks into a dead and gloomy Deism, or into a mere idolatry of self, with his highest and tenderest affections shrivelled, crisped and destroyed. If we would have peace, it must be founded upon blood. If we would rejoice, our sacrifice must die.

If we would have a feast of fat things, the provision must come from the altar of immolation.

II. The peace-offering comes after the meat-offering. We must present the "fine flour" of our best affections, and the fresh first fruits of uncorrupted obedidience, before we can come to feast upon the rich provisions of the altar. We must surrender ourselves to God, and give up to him in a "covenant of salt," before we can taste of the "peace-offering," or be happy in the Lord. There is a strong disposition in the human heart to reverse this divine order. People wish to have some comforting assurance that they are accepted and pardoned, before they start out upon the work of obedience. They stand aloof from swearing allegiance to God, decline to offer themselves wholly to the Lord, refuse to join themselves unto the people of Jehovah, and draw back from the appointments of the church, until they have satisfactory proof that they are "converted." as they say. They want to have some spiritual consolation first, to assure them that they are right. They wish to experience the redeeming love of God before they will venture to do all the will of God. They desire to put the peace-offering before the meat-offering. And many people, in their ignorance, work themselves into the persuasion that all is well with them, that they are now God’s people, that the happiness they feel is the sweet peace of a well-founded hope, before they have even so much as made up their minds to join the Church at all. Nor do I doubt the reality of their alleged happy state of mind. But, I do say, that such a peace is a delusive peace. It is not the divine feast which comes from the altar, and which the Scriptures warrant. Before you can taste of the peace-offering, you must present the meatoffering. You must first give yourselves to God, and be fully made up to do all his will, and surrender every possible reservation, and yield your whole being a living sacrifice to him; or your joy is a delusive joy, and your hope, a hope that shall perish. Many very sincere people will recoil at this doctrine. They will say, "I know that I am a Christian, because I am so happy. I know that my God is reconciled, and that I am his adopted child; for I feel it. True, I am not a member of any church; I never go to the communion table; my business and some of my dealings with my fellow-men are not in all respects considered reputable; but God certainly is my God; I cannot be mistaken in it; I have the evidence of it in my own heart; I know it, for I feel it; I am so happy." How often do we meet with persons just of this class? And what are we to say to them? It is not pleasant to disturb people in their joys; but I tell you that such individuals are deceived. They are miserably imposing upon themselves. They must give up to do all God’s will, or their joy is not the solid peace of true Christianity. As long as they are content to stand aloof from God’s Church and sacraments, or to harbor grudges against this one and that one, and to deal dishonorably towards any of their fellow men, they fail to surrender themselves wholly to the Lord, they have not yet brought their meat-offering; and, with all their raptures and ecstacies, they are yet "in the gall of bitterness, and in the bonds of iniquity." They may say, "Lord, Lord;" but he knows them not; he never knew them. They may cry "Peace, peace!" but there is no peace. The meat-offering must go first.

III. The peace-offering was so arranged, that the most inward, the most tender, and the most marrowy part of the sacrifice became the Lord’s part. The inner fat of the animal, the kidneys, the caul of the liver, and, if a sheep, the great fatty outward appendage, were to be burned on the altar, a sweet savor unto the Lord. God must be remembered in all our joys. Especially when we come to praise and enjoy him, and to appropriate to our hearts the glad provisions of his mercy, must we come offering to him the inmost, tenderest and richest of our soul’s attributes. It was thus that Jesus was made a peace-offering for us. Every deep affection, every tender emotion, all that love could feel, all that desire could yearn over, did he give, when, "through the Eternal Spirit, he offered himself to God," to make our peace. It was upon these that the fire fed as they flashed forth from the face of indignant heaven. But he hesitated not to yield them up to all the consuming heat of wrath. And as he devoted every rich thought, every strong emotion, every intense feeling, for us, we must now send back the same to him without stint or tarnish. We may love our friends; but we must love Christ more. We may feel for those united to us in the bonds of domestic life; but we must feel still more for Jesus and his Church. We may be moved with earthly passions; but the profoundest and best of all our emotions must be given to the Lord. The fat, the kidneys, and the most tender and marrowy parts, are his. To withhold them, or to expend them upon friend or self, would be desecration, robbery of God, violation of his law and a total vitiation of our offering.

IV. The peace-offerings were sacrifices of gratitude and praise—a species of joyous, thankful banquetings. When the Jew came to make a peace-offering, it was with his heart moved and his thoughts filled with some distinguished mercy. Any remarkable favor was a call for a peace-offering. When Hezekiah succeeded in abolishing idolatry, and saw the true worship restored, he had the people to join him in a peace-offering. When Manasseh was brought back from his captivity and restored to his kingdom, "he sacrificed peace-offerings." And if any one had been the subject of some great deliverance, or had been remarkably preserved or prospered, or had achieved some noble object, he gave expression to his grateful joy in a peace-offering. The true Christian has been the subject of wonderful favors. He has had deliverance wrought for him, to which he may ever refer with joyful recollection. Frightful dangers once encompassed him. All the fierce artillery of heaven was once aimed at him as a rebel and a traitor to the righteous government of God. Perdition’s fiery floods were rolling under the very ground on which he walked. The frown of terrific condemnation was on him, and hell from beneath was moved to meet him at his coming. And when all was dark and desperate, the loving Savior rushed between him and destruction, and snatched him as a brand from the everlasting burning. He considers the length, and breadth, and depth, and height of that love which thus interposed for his rescue—the mighty woes which the Lord endured for him—the secure ground upon which he now stands in Christ Jesus—and his soul overflows with tremulous gladness. He is melted, and yet is full of delight. He is solemnly joyous. What to say or do he hardly knows. He weeps, and yet exults while he weeps. He smiles with tears. He rejoices in awe. And the burden of his soul is, "O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together. I sought the Lord and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears. This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles." The whole thing to him becomes a feast of profoundly solemn joy, in which he would gladly have all the world to participate.

V. But the feasting of the peace-offering was on sacred food. The people might have feasts at home, and have other banquets; but they were not peace-offerings. And so the Christian may have feasts and viands apart from the sacred food furnished directly from Christ. There is much virtuous enjoyment in this world of a merely secular sort, from none of which does Christianity exclude us. Talk of the enjoyments of learning and science; the Christian, as well as any other man, may tread those inspiring walks, and hold converse with nature and the past, and trace the footsteps of Omnipotence in the rocks—his finger-prints in the heavens—his praises in the rolling spheres—and his wisdom and goodness in everything. Talk of the happiness of domestic life, and the fond associations of friendship and love, and the silken cords which bind the household into a bundle of happiness; there blooms not a flower by the hearthstone, the beauty and fragrance of which the Christian may not enjoy; nor is there a chain of tender and noble attachments in which he may not be a link. Talk of the pleasures that spring from refined art—of the sublime creations of the past, the musician, the painter, the sculptor, and the curious artificer; it is enough to say, that God made his prophets poets, and has commanded us to praise him with songs and with harps, with stringed instruments and organs; and that Jesus himself went with his disciples to view the temple, to "see what manner of stones, and what buildings" were there. And as to the beauties of the physical world, where has ever Jehovah forbidden man to consider the lilies of the field, how they grow—or the heavens, the work of his fingers—or the deep broad sea, in which are things innumerable—or the massive mountains, which proclaim his majesty—or his great waterspouts which shake the world and brew the thunder—or the sharp lightnings which go as his messengers, and say: "Here we are!" Nay, the Christian, above all men, is the best qualified to enjoy life in its real substance, and to draw from nature her ten thousand oracles of truth, good, and beauty.

But all these are mere home-feasts on common viands. The food that was eaten in the joyous feast of the peace-offering fell from the altar. It was holy. No defiled person or stranger was allowed to touch it, or to partake of it. And so, above and superadded to the common joys of ordinary life, the Christian has a feast with which the stranger dare not meddle—a feast of fat things, of which the pure only can taste—a banquet of holy food proceeding directly from the altar at which his sacrifice was made. Of worldly comforts and bliss, some may be providentially deprived; but Christianity carries with it a consecrated good—a spiritual peace—a holy meat—the same for the rich or the poor, the sick or the well, the living or the dying. Whosoever will come penitently to God, and present himself as a willing subject of Divine grace, shall from the altar receive a portion with which he and his house may be glad Let us briefly review some of the faithful Christian’s peculiar joys. Let us follow him a little into the sources of his consolation, and see of what sort his feast is.

And when I speak of the faithful Christian, I picture to myself a man who has gone through all the various services and experiences adumbrated in the Hebrew ritual as far as we have now considered it. I picture to myself a man who has brought his whole burnt-offering unto God, by a true confiding faith in Jesus Christ as the Lamb slain for the expiation of his sins; who has presented his meat-offering by the entire surrender of himself a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God; who has brought his peace-offering with the distinct consciousness that he owes everything to the blood that was shed for him on Calvary, and who is now fully pervaded and absorbed with the redeeming mercies of the Lord. Let him be what the world calls a learned man, or not; let him be what we would call a man of taste, or not; let him be a minister at the altar, or an humble laborer at his daily toil, unnoticed by the gay multitude; it matters not. He is a happy man. He has a feast with God.

First of all is the great and cheering conviction of his heart, that there is a god; that the universe is not an orphan, but has a righteous, almighty, and loving Father, who sees all, and provides for all, and takes care of all. Whatever disorders other men may see, he knows that the Lord reigneth, and is superintending all for good. Injustice and oppression may rise up before him, and trample innocence to the dust; but he is not overcome with fear. He knows there is a hand which will soon requite iniquity, and rectify all inequalities. He knows that "the triumphing of the wicked is short, and the joy of the hypocrite but for a moment;" and that the time is coming, when righteousness shall be brought forth as the light, and judgment as the noonday. He may have misfortune, but he knows that it is guided by a Father who pities his distresses, and loves him with an everlasting love. He knows he has a Friend mightier than the powers of evil, and he sings in spite of his adversities—"The Lord is my strength and my shield, my heart trusteth in him, and I am helped: therefore my heart danceth for joy, and in my song will I praise him!"

The next is the joyous light that shines upon him from God’s revelation, relieving his native perplexities, comforting his heart, filling him with pleasant wisdom, and kindling radiance along all his path. Here the riddle of life is explained to him, his duty made plain, and his conscience put to rest. Here is food for delightful meditation, and living water for his thirsty soul. Drinking ever from these wells of salvation, he repeats again the grand experiences of the ancient saints. He becomes another Enoch walking with God, and a Moses on the Mount, and a Noah outriding the waves which flood and overwhelm the unbelieving world. He is Isaiah, filled with visions of God, the living temple, and the everlasting throne, where seraphs in their worship cry,—"Holy, Holy, Holy!" He is John, leaning on his Savior’s breast, drinking in lessons of truth and grace warm from the great Teacher’s lips, or exulting amid the stupendous scenery of Apocalyptic visions. He is Paul, caught up to the third heaven, lost in the contemplation of things which man may not utter. He is Stephen, gazing into the gates of glory upon the Son of God in his celestial home, where the angels attend upon him. He is Simeon, ready to depart in peace, for his eyes have seen God’s salvation. He is Elijah in the bright chariots of the Almighty, ascending without knowing the bitterness of death.

Along with these, are the gifts and graces of a present redemption. Though penitently sensible of his sins, Christ has borne their penalty for him, and he stands justified before his Lord. Though according to his earthly nature he is very weak, and blind, and erring, he has grace to help in every time of need, the Spirit to enlighten him, and the truth to guide him. The burden that once weighed upon his conscience is gone. The apprehensions of dread with which he once anticipated death and the judgment, have been hushed to peace by the soothing voice of his Savior. His heart, once so unruly and corrupt, has been brought into subjection, released from the reign of cruel passion, and fashioned to the Spirit of Jesus. Though once an alien and a stranger, he is now a member of the family of heaven, a Son of God, and an heir of eternal life. Though penniless here, he has treasures which shall never perish, reserved for him on high. Though friendless here, he has a home and friends to whom he is going, to be for ever at rest. Though a sufferer here, he is accumulating thereby "a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory." He is in the goodly fellowship of the saints; he is in the noble army of the martyrs, he is united with the glorious company of the apostles; he is allied to angelic orders; he is a Son of the ever-living God.

And beyond all present experiences, he is authorized to look forward to still higher and greater things in the future. The present is only his seed-time, which is yet to yield an unspeakable and eternal harvest. His Redeemer has gone to prepare a place for him, the glories of which cannot now be conceived. Let the earthly house of this tabernacle be dissolved; he has a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. Even his body, now so full of aches, and ills, and symptoms of decay, shall be touched with the healing hand of God’s Almightiness, and fashioned into a glorious and unfading tenement. He is a pilgrim now; but he is on his way to an eternal rest. The dust of earth is on him now; but it soon shall be brushed off, that he may shine as an undying star of light. Lifting up his eyes, and pointing away beyond the sky, he says, with tears of joy,—

"Yonder’s my house and portion fair;

My treasure and my heart are there—

And my abiding home!"

And everlasting love and power are pledged by the oath of God to bring him safely to that "home," where the last sorrow shall be over, the last tear dried, and the last taint of sin and folly for ever washed away.

Oh! how happy are they, who their Savior obey,

And have laid up their treasures above!

O what tongue can express, the sweet comfort and peace,

Of a soul in its earliest love!

O the rapturous height, of that holy delight,

Which we feel in the life-giving blood!

Of the Savior possessed, we are perfectly blest

As if filled with the fulness of God.

Such, then, is the Christian’s feast of joy and thankfulness, as symbolized by the ancient peace-offering. Indulge me yet with a few inferential observations, and I will leave you to your own reflections.

And first, let me say, that this subject entirely does away with all ground for that common feeling on the part of non-Christian people, that to be religious and good would be an abridgment of their comforts and their joys. It is not so. To be gloomy, ever sighing, ever dull, is not piety. Joining one’sself to Jesus, is not like joining a nunnery, or a total casting away of all the pleasures and enjoyments of life. "Wisdom’s ways are pleasantness, and all her paths are peace." The Bible requires nothing morbid or morose. Christ demands nothing incompatible with the highest possible earthly good. His whole system breathes peace, joy, cheerfulness, and love. If religion were that leaden and sombre thing which deadens and paralyses every gush of youthful feeling into a stupid and lifeless monotony, it Would be unfitted for many, and could hardly be sustained as of God. But the Savior never meant to graft the demure gravity of age upon the laughing brow of childhood and youth. The natural temper of young people is proverbially joyous and cheerful. Untouched as yet by the cares and sorrows of life, it belongs to their years to be buoyant, sunny, and gay in their spirits. Youth is the period of glee. God himself has made it so. Nor was religion ever meant to make it otherwise, or to tie down the young heart to solemn cant or slavish bondage. It was intended to moderate youthful lust, intemperance, and vanity. It forbids wild and unreasonable excesses. It draws the check-reins upon idolatrous extravagance. It will not allow levity to be carried on to madness, or pleasure to degenerate into impurity, or the gay heart to rush on without a balance for boisterous exuberance. But it does not disallow the common joys of life. With the rest of its offerings, it presents its feast of gladness. No, no; we do not ask you to cease to be happy, when we ask you to be pious and good. We only ask you to cease sinning, and by ceasing to sin, to cease sowing for a harvest of inevitable misery.

Finally, let us be admonished how incongruous it is for Christians to be all the time sad, sorrowing, and desponding. Who have so much cause for cheerfulness and joy as they? God is their Father; Christ is their faithful Savior; heaven is their covenanted home; and why should they go bowed down with gloom? The commonest birds will sing when the sun shineth; and the ugliest weeds will stretch up their arms, and spread open some pleasant flower when the summer is around them; and why should we be depressed when the radiance of celestial love is flowing down upon us, and everything invites to joyousness and praise. Ask thyself, dejected disciple—"Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? Hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise Him, who is the health of my countenance and my God!" Jesus says, "Let not thy heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid." The word of Jehovah is, "Let them that put their trust in the Lord rejoice; let them ever shout for joy."

"Let the saints be joyful in glory; let them sing aloud; let the high praises of God be in their mouths." "Let Israel rejoice in Him that made him, let the children of Zion be joyful in their King." "Let the righteous be glad; let them rejoice before God; yea, let them exceedingly rejoice." "Sing unto God, sing praises to his name; extol Him that rideth upon the heavens."

And now, let glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost, as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end Amen.

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Bibliographical Information
Seiss, Joseph A. "Commentary on Leviticus 3". Seiss' Lectures on Leviticus and Revelation.