Knowing Christ Intimately: The Peace Offering
Bible Study with Jairus – Leviticus 3
Have you every wished you could develop a more intimate relationship with God?
Leviticus 3 gives us a tangible example of ever-increasing closeness to God. As worshipers offered their sacrifices–smaller lambs and goats and larger cattle–they depicted the experience of growing closer and closer in our relationship to God. Let’s discover how a deeper understanding of the sacrificial animals can enrich our Christian lives today.
The purpose of the peace offering is to allow Man and God to commune and enjoy peace with one another. God enjoys our prayers like a sweet perfume. We enjoy God’s presence and gain strength from Him. The Bible tells us that “through Him (Christ) we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.” (Ephesians 2:18 ESV).
We each attain access to God through Jesus, but each of us experiences a different depth of communion with God. For example, a person who prays briefly for ten minutes a day has a different level of closeness to God than a person who prays daily for two hours. This difference is represented by the different sacrifices brought by the worshipers. People who pray for two hours remind us of worshipers bringing an ox to God, while people who pray for 10 minutes are like worshipers who are only capable of offering a lamb to God.
Not only do these different sacrifices (bulls, sheep and goats) represent different depths of communion with God, they also remind us of different levels of enjoyment we have in our relationship with God. The deeper our communion with God, the more joy we will bring to God’s heart. The more we commune with God, the more we will gain strength from God. Just as the worshipers feasted on part of their sacrificial meat, we gain spiritual sustenance and strength from our communion with God.
Of course, prayer is just one example of how we grow in our relationship with God. The depth of our communion with God does not solely depend on how long we pray.
Peace Offering is a Communion Between Man and God
When Old Testament priests approached the tabernacle, they first had to enter from the outer court. First, they offered the sin offering and the guilt offering in the outer court. Metaphorically, these sacrifices remind us that we must first deal with our sins and the weaknesses in our temperament.
Next, the Old Testament priests (including Moses and Aaron) experienced the actual presence of God, which reminds us of the peace offering. These holy men met with God in front of the Mercy Seat in the Most Holy Place. The high priest sprinkled blood on the Mercy Seat, which was the special golden lid of the Ark of the Covenant. It was the place where the Lord lived and where Moses spoke with God face to face. The Lord spoke to Moses under the gaze of the glorious cherubim. Because of the blood sprinkled on the mercy seat, God overlooked Moses’ sin, allowing Moses to meet God in all his glory. This is a picture of the peace offering.
Hebrews 4:16 tells us that through the precious blood of Jesus, we can draw near to the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Jesus Christ shed His precious blood for our sake. Because of Christ, we can draw near to God without fear. The blood of Jesus Christ has washed away our sins. Now, God only sees the blood of Jesus and not our sins. Since Jesus Christ has washed away our sins, we are able to meet God in His glory through Christ.
The reality of the peace offering is that we have peace with God. Before Christ achieved salvation for mankind, there was no peace between God and man. Before we experience Christ’s salvation, we do not have peace with God. However, when Christ becomes our Savior and when we receive his salvation, we experience peace with God. Furthermore, we can meet with God through Christ.
God and Man Enjoy Peace Offerings Together.
Parts of the peace offering were offered to God as sweet fragrance, and the rest of the meat was reserved for the priests as holy food. Leviticus 3:1-5 says, “If his offering is a sacrifice of peace offering, if he offers an animal from the herd, male or female, he shall offer it without blemish before the Lord. And he shall lay his hand on the head of his offering and kill it at the entrance of the tent of meeting, and Aaron’s sons the priests shall throw the blood against the sides of the altar. And from the sacrifice of the peace offering, as a food offering to the Lord, he shall offer the fat covering the entrails and all the fat that is on the entrails. And the two kidneys with the fat that is on them at the loins, and the long lobe of the liver that he shall remove with the kidneys. Then Aaron’s sons shall burn it on the altar on top of the burnt offering, which is on the wood on the fire; it is a food offering with a pleasing aroma to the Lord.”
As the sacrifices were burned, they became a pleasing aroma which was offered to God. Leviticus 7 says that part of the sacrificial animal offered as a peace offering was given to God for his joy and enjoyment, and the rest was reserved for the priests to eat. For example, the fat was reserved for God, while the animal’s breast (7:31) and right leg (7:33) was reserved for the priest. The meat from these sacrifices could only be eaten by those who were holy (7:20).
Today, when we approach God with peace offerings, we are made holy through the blood of Christ. Our offering to God not only brings God joy, but it also gives us spiritual nourishment. When we partake of this spiritual food, we will become more powerful and holy, which in turn allows us to have deeper spiritual communion with God.
Every believer experiences peace and communion with God at differing levels. The purpose of the peace offering is to have communion with God. Despite the name, “peace,” the offering represents a conflict in our hearts. If we want to have communion with God, we must get rid of the flesh, sin, and the things of the world that are not in line with God’s disposition. That’s what I meant by conflict. The more we have communion with God, the more naturally we want to get rid of these things.
However, every Christian is at a different level of victory over sin, and each is at a different level of communion with God. Each Christian comes to God through Christ, but they offer sacrifices of different sizes and degrees. Some people offer a goat, while some offer a sheep or a cow. Those who sacrifice cattle may choose a smaller cow or a larger, stronger bull.
To help us understand this spiritual truth, I will share some of my experiences when I first became a Christian. I lived in the church’s dormitory for young men. This place was established in order to help young Christians learn to pursue the Lord. It was not a religious house, but there were rules in place that would help us learn spiritual disciplines. For example, girls were not allowed to come to our dormitories. We had to pray day and night and attend several gatherings every week.
The building had two floors and our “Brother’s House” was on the second floor. On the first floor wa a meeting place and a small bedroom. In this room lived an older sister in Christ who served younger sisters. At that time there was no “Sister’s House” set up for young women, so this older sister lived in our downstairs. For several years, we had to learn to get along with this older sister in Christ.
The older sister wasn’t perfect. Sometimes she would criticize our brothers for not paying attention to neatness. She’d correct some of our shortcomings. If we didn’t pay attention to our hygiene, or if we forgot to put back the chairs after eating, she would remind us.
Some of the brothers didn’t like her and even ignored her. Those of us who were not mature in Christ disliked her critical reminders, even going so far as thinking that she was legalistic.
However, there was a very loving brother who often took care of this older sister as if he were taking care of his own mother. This brother took the time to purchase a papaya during his shopping trip. Then, during one of our group meals, he hid the papaya for the older sister to find. This shows that he had a loving heart. He had believed in the Lord for a long time. His spiritual life was more mature and hence had a deeper communion with God. He also gained strength from God to love others more.
Even though these examples may seem trivial, they show that each of us believers is at a different level of spiritual growth. We have all been saved, so we have all experienced the sin offering and the guilt offering. We can each come before God without fear through the precious blood of Christ. We can commune with him and enjoy the reality of the peace offering.
However, our differing levels of spiritual maturity are demonstrated in our daily lives and experiences. The more we grow spiritually, the more we experience the reality of the sacrifice of Christ, and the greater our experience of his love and presence in our lives. Just like the Israelite worshipers offered different sizes of animals (ewes, rams, male and female goats, cows, bulls), we each experience a different level or manifestation of Christ’s love in our lives.
Christ’s salvation is the same for everyone. However, we each have a different level of knowledge. We each experience Christ’s salvation differently and have different levels of maturity in our daily life in Christ.
Transformed into His Image.
The purpose of the peace offering was communion with God. As we spend time in God’s presence, we are transformed into his image. We gain spiritual food and strength so we can be more like Jesus. 2 Corinthians 3:18 says “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”
When we commune with God, we seek His face. As we continue to pray, rest in his presence, and get to know him better through the Spirit, we will be transformed into his glorious image.
Like every Old Testament sacrifice, the peace offering sacrifice points to Jesus Christ. Christ is the atoning sacrifice that pleases God. When we approach him and commune with God, Christ becomes our spiritual food. The Lord Jesus told the disciples, “For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.” (John 6:55). Jesus also said that He is the bread that came down from heaven (John 6:58). When we partake of this food from heaven, we can gain the strength to love God and love others like the Lord Jesus.
Revival Starts in the Heart.
The reason why I struggled to love that old sister like the other brother did was because I lacked communion with God and the experience of the peace offering. My limited experience with God can be compared to a small offering, like a goat. My brother’s deep communion with God, expressed in deeper love, can be compared to a larger sacrifice, such as a cow.
In the communion with God that we experience through the peace offering, we become more holy. We gain strength to love God and others. Despite all the problems in our lives, when we get close to God and commune with him in prayer, we gradually enter the presence of God and are filled with joy and peace. After praying, we forget the problems we had earlier. The original intent of our prayer was to ask God to help us solve our problems. But after communing with Him in prayer, our problems seem less significant. The things or people that used to disturb us no longer disturb us. After communion with God, we find a way to overcome these disturbances. We discover that prayer brings peace.
Many Christians today do not spend enough time with God in prayer. They lack a time of communion with God. As a result, they cannot get enough spiritual food from God. (Remember, the priests’ food came from the sacrifices they offered.) Without personal time with God, believers cannot become spiritually strong enough to overcome the problems in life. They cannot overcome the interference of the enemy. If every Christian would spend half an hour in prayer and communion with the Lord every morning, they would become spiritually stronger. The church would also become spiritually stronger. Many social problems that are currently disturbing Christians would no longer disturb them.
Many Christians try to solve their problems through other means. Instead of coming to God in prayer, we tackle our struggles on our own. In reality, our problems are an invitation to prayer and communion with God. God allows struggles so we feel the need to enter his presence and gain spiritual strength to overcome these problems.
For example, the political problems faced by American society cannot be solved simply by changing the president. I’ll admit that having a good president will make a big difference, and I will support a godly and loving president. However, the societal problems Americans face are just an outer manifestation of a deeper problem. The real reason society struggles is that the American church has left her first love for God and lacks the time to commune with God and to seek His glorious face.
This problem lies not with the church as a whole, but with each Christian individually. If every individual Christian neglects prayer and communion with God, he or she will be spiritually weak and immature. If the church is composed of young and carnal Christians, the church will naturally become spiritually weak.
Real revival does not happen solely in a large-scale revival gathering. We don’t have to depend on a large revival event or movement brought about by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Real revival starts in the heart of every Christian. We can experience revival every day. A Christian can begin to experience revival by spending half an hour in prayer every morning. When everyone lives a truly revitalized life, the church can experience sustainable spiritual revival. Only with a personal, sustainable spiritual revival will the church be able to overcome the darkness of the world and bring positive changes to society.
In China, the Yellow River flows through the Loess Plateau. Due to a lack of vegetation, heavy rain brings little lasting changes to the plateau. Instead, the rushing water causes continuous erosion of soil and water. The water doesn’t soak into the soil. It all rushes downstream, overflowing the Yellow River and causing floods.
Similarly, great acts of revival in Chinese history can bring very little lasting change to the people who experience it. Because believers lacked the spiritual perfection and edification, the great outpouring of the Holy Spirit brought little lasting change. Most of the effects of the great revival disappeared with the passage of time, leaving little spiritual heritage.
In contrast, although Israel is located deep in the desert, the Israelis use drip irrigation technology to greatly develop their agriculture. In the same way, when every individual Christian experiences revival and undergoes daily transformation through the power of the Holy Spirit, they are experiencing the slow, steady benefits of “spiritual drip irrigation.” Although it looks like there is very little water that actually reaches the plants, the benefits can last for a long time. Eventually, the slow and steady drip of nourishment leads to growth and enrichment of life.
However, these two aspects need to complement each other. We need the outpouring of the Holy Spirit to wash out all the accumulated blockages and obstructions in our life. We also need drip irrigation daily to help us continue to grow spiritually.
The peace offering reminds us that Christ has achieved peace between us and God. We can come before God without fear. When we commune with God through Christ, we receive spiritual food and power from God to change into his glorious image. Conversely, if we are saved but lack a daily time of close communion with God, we miss out on the reality of spiritual peace and rest. Our lives will be full of worry, anxiety, and trouble. In reality, a sense of worry and frustration should serve as a reminder that we need to return to God and commune with Him. If we ignore these signals and refuse to turn back to God, our problems will multiply. The church needs to understand the importance of this principle: when we struggle with worries, frustration, and problems, we need to draw near to God. The real solution to every societal and cultural problem is to turn back to God. The church’s problems cannot be addressed unless each individual believer learns how to commune with God through the peace offering.
This truth has two aspects. On the one hand, we have peace with God through Christ. On the other hand, we must strive to enter that rest (Hebrews 4:11). Christ has achieved peace with God for us. However, we must also pray and commune with God every day to enter the rest that God has prepared for us. In this way, we will avoid the unbelief mentioned in Hebrews 4:11. Isaiah 30:15 reads, “Thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, ‘In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength. But you were unwilling.’”
We need to do our best to enter his rest. We need to be willing to return to our place of safety and solace within the heart of God. Only in God can we find the strength and peace that we need.
Why not start today? Will you spend half an hour in prayer and communion with God each morning? If you persevere in this habit, you will experience God’s peace and transformation.