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Law of Moses

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As A Rule of National and Individual Life
By Robert Roberts
Chapter 24 - Meat Offerings and Peace Offerings

The Peace Offering

IT was one of many pleasing features of the system of divine service established by the law of Moses that a man could give to God a portion of what he (the man) required for his own peculiar use: that is, if he felt moved to do so by a sense of gratitude or desire to do special honour to God. Some things were compulsory, but this was not: it was left to the spontaneous action of love, while yet enjoined as a thing expedient: "Honour the Lord with thy substance, and the firstfruits of all thine increase", Room was made for meat offerings: that is, food, offerings -- offerings of "fine flour", or "cakes of fine flour" whether "baken in the oven" or pan, or fried in a frying-pan (Lev. 2:1, 4, 5 and 7).

There is something very beautiful in this idea of a man making God a partaker of the man's own plenty. How agreeable to social feeling for friend to send to friend a portion from one's own table: what closer act of communion could there be? How pleasing that a man should be able to do this with God. He might truly feel as David expressed himself in a larger matter, "Of thine own have we given unto thee", Still, in a sense, God parts with His property in a thing when He gives it to a man: and, therefore, He puts it into the man's power to indulge the pure pleasure of making a gift to God. Such a gift offered in an enlightened spirit would be a source of the highest pleasure it is possible for a created being to enjoy. It is like having God a guest at your own table. But how could such a thing be? It would seem in the nature of things impossible. Men could not have imagined how it could be done unless God had revealed the way. He did so in the Mosaic type of meat offerings, in the ordinances of which we learn some excellent lessons for our own case.

1. -- Every meat offering was to be brought to the altar by the priest (verse 8). Not otherwise could the Israelite offer an acceptable gift to God. Not otherwise could he take God into his domestic fellowship by food-offering. This was easy to understand in the literal and typical. It would be easy to understand in the antitypical if it were not for the obscuring fogs of human thought and sentiment. Christ is both priest and altar: man has no standing, apart from him. A man cannot offer acceptable gifts to God except through and in him. Christ is THE WAY, as he proclaimed, "There is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved". There is no other way of approach to God. A man is not fit to approach on his own merit. He is an unjustified sinner till clothed with the name of Christ in the belief and obedience of the truth. He is not acceptable till then. He is like a person under displeasure at court. He is not fit to offer gifts. Let men give themselves first in acceptable reconciliation, and then their gifts will be acceptable on the altar. They are not acceptable away from the altar: and they cannot be offered on the altar (Christ) unless the priest (Christ) put them there; and this he will only do for those who become members of his household by incorporation with his name.

2. -- Every meat offering had to be almost drowned in oil; which, as we have seen, is the type of joy. "Serve the Lord with gladness." "The Lord loveth a cheerful giver." A gift given to God with regret, or with only half a heart, lacks an important condition of acceptability. Joy belongs to God. "Strength and gladness are in his presence." The constant summons to His people is to "Rejoice", "Be glad in the Lord, ye righteous, and shout for joy, all ye upright in heart." His purpose is to impart everlasting joy to His redeemed. If He puts them to grief now, it is only that they may be prepared. "He doth not willingly afflict nor grieve the children of men." He does not intend sorrow to "sullen o'er the sombre sky" for ever, even now. He has no pleasure in penances and asceticisms. "Is it such a fast that I have chosen?" saith He, "a day for a man to afflict his soul? is it to bow down his head as a bulrush, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? wilt thou call this a fast, and an acceptable day to the Lord? Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free?" (Isa. 58:5). It is only where the wickedness of neglecting Him prevails -- when "there is no truth nor mercy nor knowledge of God in the land" -- that the Lord God calls for "fasting, with weeping and mourning", telling the sinners to "be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness", To those who serve Him in love, He is a sun and shield -- a fortress and a high tower -- the rock of their salvation -- in whom they are called upon to rejoice. Their meat-offerings were liable to be sad if not soaked in oil. Good things He "hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them who believe and know the truth" (1 Tim. 4:3). "He giveth them all things richly to enjoy" (1 Tim. 6:17). Therefore, they have nothing in common with the gloomy religion of the cloister and the cell. They are God's free and glad men who rejoice in His bounty and render back to Him, through Christ, freewill offerings soaked in oil.

3. -- Every meat offering was to be garnished with frankincense. This has passed into universal recognition as the type of praise and commendation. Every gift must be offered with praise. Men like praise, and so does God; but there is this difference: men have no claim to praise because they have received from God whatever they have: whereas God is entitled to praise because all excellence expressed or manifest in any way in heaven or earth is but the reflection or incorporation of that which is innate with Him. God has given us the capacity to enjoy praise in subordinate relations; He never intended it to exclude praise that belongs only to Him. Where it does so, men are an offence to Him. "Of him, and through him, and to him, are all things." It is, therefore, no mawkish cringe, but the attitude of true reason to say, "Not unto us, 0 Lord, not unto us, but unto thy name give glory." It is no mere pietism that Paul utters, but the inculcation of robust good sense when he says, "Let no man glory in men: but he that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord", The words are words of pure and undiluted reason that say, "Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches: but let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me" (Jer. 9:23). The day of pure goodness upon earth will never be till the earth is filled with His glory (His praise) as the waters cover the sea -- a covering so complete as only to correspond with the mystic scene which John witnessed in Patmos: "And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever",

4. -- Every meat offering had to be "seasoned with salt" (Lev. 2:13). "Neither shalt thou suffer the salt of the covenant of thy God to be lacking from thy meat-offering: with all thine offerings thou shalt offer salt", This was part of the literal directions with which it would be the pleasure of every faithful Israelite to comply. The meaning of it is not far out of the way. Salt arrests decomposition, and preserves for use and for savoury use. It therefore stands for the opposite of curruption in nature and nauseousness of taste. It would represent sound, wholesome savoury principle. Jesus uses it in this sense: "Have salt in yourselves", but adds he, in depreciation of a mere formal godliness, "if the salt have lost its saltness, it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be trodden under foot of men". To require salt in all meat offerings was therefore an intimation that their acceptability depends upon their being offered with a hearty, pleasant-tasting, zestful, loving intelligence. A listless, savourless, formal, dead compliance with custom is of no pleasure to God or man.

In this we may see the force of the expression, "the salt of the covenant of thy God". In the type, the literal salt was so designated: but why? It is one of the shadows. The substance is to be found in the state of mind, which is one of the conditions which God exacts as a ground of covenant with man. The salt-ness of a moral zest, a quick, enlightened earnestness, is a very condition of the covenant. The whole ground is covered by the precept: "My son, give me thine heart", expanded in the words, "Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart", and again in the exhortation, "Be not as the horse or as the mule, which have no understanding": "Seek wisdom, seek understanding ": "When wisdom is pleasant to thy soul, then shalt thou find favour" The principle in its latter application finds expression in the strong words of Christ on the subject of loving him to the extent of hating our own lives. It is a reasonable requirement of the divine service that men be hearty in it as the result of a love that springs from discernment. Its perfected form in the day of the true "immortals" will show us a community animated to its finger-tips with the glow of this moral and intellectual beauty.

5. -- "No meat offering which ye shall offer unto the Lord shall be made with leaven." Why leaven -- the principle of fermentation -- should be employed to represent evil, we are not informed. That it is so employed is beyond question, as Paul's expression shows: "The leaven of malice and wickedness" (1 Cor. 5:8). It is probably because it is a self-propagating thing, and tends by the process of gaseous cellularization to change and deteriorate the constitution of the substance it acts upon. A thing that is leavened is inflated and on the road to corruption. Leaven, therefore, offers a considerable analogy to the operations of "malice and wickedness", which are of spontaneous generation, so far as the workings of the brain are concerned: and which, if once allowed a lodgment, spread and spread till the whole mind or a whole community is clouded by their influence.

At all events, here is the express intimation by type, that an act of liberality to God is of no acceptability in His eyes if it is at all inspired by a wicked mind. It might seem as if such an inspiration could not attach to such an act. Both experience and Scripture indication are decisive in the opposite direction. I have known -- any of us may have known -- acts of ostensibly religious service performed in the spirit of acrimony and jealousy and strife. As "men abhorred the offering of the Lord" under the iniquitous administration of Eli's sons, so the ordinances of apostolic assembly have been made to stink in the hands of carnal emulation. The Scriptures speak of "the sacrifice of the wicked being (in any case) an abomination to the Lord: how much more when he bringeth it with a wicked mind!" The presence of leaven in the meat offering deals, therefore, with a case by no means hypothetical. Its prohibition is the typical enforcement of the numerously otherwise asserted principle that God accepts gifts and approaches, only when tendered in the meek spirit of a righteous obedience. Even their being offered on the altar, with a plentiful soaking of oil, did not secure acceptance if leaven was in the flour of the offering; of which we see the parallel in the thought that even being in Christ with gladness is not enough for acceptability with God if malice find lodgment in the heart.

6. -- Honey was also forbidden in the meat offerings (Lev. 2:11). What can this mean? Honey is sweet to human taste, and stands even in the ordinary intercourse of men for all that is of self-gratifying character. That it should be banished from the altar along with leaven stands in striking contrast to the appointment of bitter herbs as an ingredient in the passover sacrifice. It is probably the obverse of the same idea. Self-denial is an indispensable part of divine submission, so self-gratification is a prohibited element. But this has to be applied with qualifications. It is the extreme application of the principle that has led to the sterile asceticisms of ecclesiastical practice. There are enjoyments permitted. How could it be otherwise? You cannot breathe or walk in the sunshine, or eat or drink or sleep without enjoyment if you are in health. "The tender mercy of the Lord is over all his works." He designs nothing but pure joy at last.

But there are enjoyments forbidden: there are mortifications enjoined. Here is where the exclusion of the honey comes in. The law of the Lord is the regulator on all points. For want of this discrimination, many an honest soul is in a state of slavish fear and restraint which is wholly without cause. I have known such in fear to enjoy their meals, in forgetfulness of the fact that the bounties of the table are" created", as Paul says, "to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth". Pleasure-seeking, in the gratification of "the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life", appears to be the antitypical honey which is out of place on the altar of the Lord. These may be summarized in the phrase "self-complacency" -- which is odious even in human intercourse, and, therefore, much more out of place in the service of God. It is this phase of self-contemplation and self-enjoyment that appears to be identified with the figurative use of honey in the Proverbs: "It is not good to eat much honey: so for men to search their own glory is not glory" (25:27). This would suggest that the thing condemned in the typical prohibition of honey from the meat offering was self-glory. It is certain that for a man to come in this spirit to God will ensure repulse. The one thing required by His glorious majesty and called for in true reason, is the mental attitude more than once defined by Him in the words: "Poor and of a contrite spirit, and that trembleth at my word".

When all the conditions were perfect, the meat offering was to be handed to the priest. What became of it then? Part of it was to be burnt on the altar for a memorial of the offerer, and what was left was to be appropriated by the priest (Lev. 2:9-10). But the whole of it was reckoned "most holy", and accepted for the offerer. The priest and the altar represented the two departments of the divine service: the visible and the invisible: the human and the divine -- for when a thing was burnt on the altar, it had no further use or existence: while what remained for the priest was not only visible, but contributive to the service in its human element. To both departments, all acts of divine service are related. There are words and gifts and services given to man for God's sake. Both are holy and acceptable and necessary. The men who in the sublimity of a divine abstractedness think it meritorious to forget or despise man, have forgotten that God has conjoined the two in acceptable worship. Love the Lord thy God, but forget not that He requires of thee to love and serve thy neighbour also.

If a man chose, in the abundance of his gratitude, to bring an oblation of the first-cut corn, at the time that the single sheaf of firstfruits was to be waved in the sanctuary at the feast of the firstfruits, his oblation was to be accepted, but, like the sheaf, was not to be burnt -- (verse 12) -- only waved. Was this because the earliest firstfruits represented Christ, as we have seen, who was to be an exception to all "the redeemed of the Lord" in that he was not at all to see corruption, but, with the exception of the brief rest in Joseph's tomb till the morning of the third day, was to be ever before the Lord in active service, from the moment of his introduction into the world? This is a probable meaning.

A man might offer a meat offering made from the first-cut corn; this might be burnt like the other meat offerings (verse 16). But it was to consist of "green ears of corn dried by the fire, beaten out of the full ear", which was a product of the firstfruits and not the firstfruits in sheaf form. If the waved sheaf of firstfruits represented Christ, we cannot but recognize in these green ears beaten out of the sheaf state and ripened by fire that they might be suitable for offering, the apostolic community coming after him and out of him, ripened in the fire of persecution, for offering as "the sacrifice and service of faith" -- as Paul expresses it. There must have been a reason for the distinction between the two; and this is a strong and natural distinction.

The Peace Offering

The meat offering was the communion of friendship with God -- as when friend gives a gift to friend out of pure love. But the peace offering by its very name imported the idea of making peace, and, therefore, of removing cause of dispeace. The cause would be on the offerer's side wholly, for there is never cause of dispeace from God when men walk in harmony with His requirements. A man might feel cause of dispeace without being guilty of any open act of trespass. He might not feel bad enough, as we might say, to bring a sin offering or a trespass offering, which would be for some particular act of nonconformity with the law; yet he might feel a sense of general shortcoming sufficient to make him fear the divine disapproval: or he might feel special cause for thanksgiving which he had not fully met. He might in such case bring a peace offering. His offering in such a case must be more than a mere present. It is only man that can be propitiated with a gift. We cannot give anything to God in this sense -- in the sense of enriching Him. We must give Him that which pleases Him; and in the case of fault, it is not giving Him something that can conciliate Him: it is abasement even unto death. Hence, a peace offering had to be a living creature for sacrifice: the recognition of God's greatness and prerogative: the acknowledgment that the continued life of the owner was by favour and not of right.

The peace offering might be of the cattle, sheep, or goats, and, as regards the two first, it might be male or female (Lev. 3:1, 6, 12), in which latter point, there is a distinction between the peace offering and the sin offering, and all the leading offerings instituted; in these, "a male without blemish" was the requirement: but here "male or female", We have already considered the meaning of the male element in sacrifice: how are we to understand the admissibility of the female element in the peace offerings? It certainly shows that woman is not excluded from the work of salvation, though she was not to figure in the first degree. It was a man that was to be the saviour, yet the man was to be by the woman. She was to contribute her part. If woman was the means of man's downfall in Eden, she was the means of his redemption in Bethlehem. See her bending over the manger. This was evidently the relation of ideas before the mind of Paul when he said: "Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression. Notwithstanding, she shall be saved in child-bearing (or 'by the child-bearing', as it is in the original) if they continue", etc. If she was not to be the Lamb of God, taking away the sin of the world, she was to provide him. "The seed" was to be "her seed". In this way, she was admitted to a close fellowship in the work of redemption. Therefore, the female animal was allowed a place in the subordinate sacrifices, though not eligible for those sacrifices that directly typified the sin-bearing Man of Sorrow.

Whether a bullock, sheep, or goat, the peace offering was to be brought by the offerer himself, and not sent by deputy: "His own hands shall bring the offering" (Lev. 7:30). What can this typify but the hearty humble energy of personal service as contrasted with the modern effeminacies of sentimental pride that can send a cheque from the lordly seclusion of a country seat, but cannot stoop to a personal condescension. "You know how it is", says Jesus, "with the great ones of the Gentiles: it shall not be so among you: he that is great among you, let him be as the servant, even as the Son of Man came not to be ministered unto but to minister." Bringing the offering, he was to lay his hand on the animal's head, thus identifying himself with it, in self-condemning humility, and then he was to kill it, and the priest was to sprinkle the blood upon the altar, and cut up the creature for use as a peace offering: that is the fatty linings of the interior were to be laid upon the altar-fire and consumed, and the leading joints (the breast and the right shoulder) were to be taken possession of by the officiating priest: "He among the sons of Aaron, that offereth the blood of the peace offerings, and the fat, shall have the right shoulder for his part. For the wave breast and the heave shoulder have I taken of the children of Israel from off the sacrifices of their peace offerings, and have given them unto Aaron the priest and unto his sons by a statute for ever from among the children of Israel" (Lev. 7:33-34).

The meanings traced in former chapters enable us to discern the significance of these details. The poured-out blood was the ceremonial of confession to be observed even in thanksgiving approaches -- of which we enjoy the antitype when we draw nigh to God with confession on our lips and the crucified Christ in our hearts -- on whom God laid the iniquities of us all, that with his stripes we might be healed. The fat is described as "the food of the offering made by fire for a sweet savour" -- (3:16) -- that part upon which the altar-fire feeds. If blood means life, it is evident that fat means the strength and goodness of life. When used figuratively, it is always with the sense of prosperity and good condition, e.g., "All that are fat upon earth shall worship", "Thou art waxen fat: thou art grown thick: thou art covered with fatness." Consequently, a man giving his time, his love, his service, his substance, gives the fat of his life. This is "the food of the peace offering", and ascends as a sweet savour to God. This is almost the exact language that Paul uses concerning the munificence of the brethren in the supply of his wants: "I have received of Epaphroditus the things which were sent from you, an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, well-pleasing to God:" (Phil. 4:18). Christ not only gave his life for us, but for our sakes "impoverished himself" -- (a more correct translation than "became poor ") -- that is, voluntarily submitted to circumstance of poverty and humility when he might not only have had "twelve legions of angels", but "all the kingdoms of the world" He offered the fat as well as the blood. As his followers, we are invited to do the same, though we necessarily follow at a long distance. The young man looked, but did not follow. He was "grieved, for he had great possessions".

And what about the house of Aaron having the chief part of the peace offerings for their own use? The clergy make a very obvious application of this, but their application is the Judaizing application -- not a spiritual interpretation at all, but a mere parallelism -- a mere transfer of the temporal privileges of the Mosaic priesthood to which it is supposed they have succeeded. They make a type teach itself, which is absurd. The antitypical Aaron and his house is Christ and his house. The offerings signified by the slain animals yield no joints of meat, but something sweeter to the divine taste of the immortal sons of God -- the offered lives and wealth and homage of rejoicing obedient millions. This does not exclude the restoration of sacrifice in the age to come as a detail in the machinery of national reconciliation: but it rises to a higher and more glorious meaning, at which a Judaized clergy only laugh: "Woe unto you that laugh now."

 

Ch 25

 

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