Peace with God has been purchased for us through the sacrifice of the sinless Son of God. The peace offering described in the book of Leviticus not only looks forward to the coming Christ but also teaches us that ingratitude for His work is inexcusable.
During his travels down the Mississippi River some 350 years ago, an explorer discovered the tradition of the peace pipe among the Native Americans. The peace pipe was shared between tribes to signify they were establishing a peace treaty. It was so highly respected in these early days that presenting the peace pipe during a battle between warring tribes would immediately stop the fighting.
Well, the Bible reveals that mankind is actually involved in a losing battle against God. And our war with God is over the matter of sin. So, the question is, How do we as sinners make peace with God?
In the Old Testament, it didn’t have anything to do with smoking a peace pipe but had everything to do with bringing a substitutionary sacrifice for sin. After the burnt offering was given, the peace offering was a way to restore fellowship with God.
The peace offering also was used to praise God with thanksgiving. I mean, peace with a holy God is good news, isn’t it?
Now we’re at Leviticus chapter 3, and let me say that the peace offering, according to verse 5 here, was always offered right after the burnt offering, never by itself. In other words, the burnt offering dealt with sin, and the peace offering celebrated the forgiveness of sin.
We are told in this chapter that the animal could be male or female from the herd—it didn’t matter (verse 1). It could be a lamb, as noted here in verse 7, or a goat, as in verse 12; but every animal had to be without blemish.
In other words, it couldn’t have a broken leg or some kind of skin disease. It could not be some old animal they were wanting to get rid of. No, they brought their blue-ribbon animal for sacrifice.
Why? Because these sacrifices pointed to the unblemished, sinless Lord Jesus, who would be sacrificed on the altar of a wooden cross 1500 years after the book of Leviticus was written.
Verse 2 tells us the one making the offering had to take the animal to the entrance of the tent of meeting—that is, to the doorway of the tabernacle. There the priest would inspect the animal to make sure it was unblemished and acceptable.
Keep in mind that back in these days, coming to the tabernacle brought you into the presence of the Lord, who was manifested there in that pillar of fire by night and pillar of smoke by day above the tabernacle. You would have been within a few feet of the very presence of the God of the universe. That must have been an awesome, fearful, weighty experience!
And once you arrived there with your animal, verse 2 says you were to lay your hand on the head of the animal “and kill it at the entrance of the tent of meeting.” That meant you were admitting that this innocent animal was taking your place, receiving the death penalty for your sin against a holy God.
Verse 2 then tells us, “Aaron’s sons . . . shall throw the blood [of that animal] against the sides of the altar.” This was that bronze altar that stood out there in the courtyard. As the blood splashed up against that altar, you would have had the sense of peace and assurance that God had made a way for you to have your sin forgiven and to have a peace treaty, as it were, written in blood.
Over in Leviticus chapter 7, we’re given some more details about this peace offering. There, in verse 11-12, we read:
“And this is the law of the sacrifice of peace offerings that one may offer to the Lord. If he offers it for a thanksgiving, then he shall offer with the thanksgiving sacrifice unleavened loaves mixed with oil, unleavened wafers smeared with oil, and loaves of fine flour well mixed with oil.”
So, here’s someone who wants to thank the Lord for a peace treaty with God. And you notice here that all kinds of bread are added to this offering—you’ve got wafers and fine flour and loaves of bread all lathered over with oil.
This is true, abundant gratitude! I mean, think about it: the absolute worst kind of “thanksgiving” to give to God is the kind that isn’t sincere, or real. We can just go through the motions and sing “Thank you, Lord, for saving my soul,” without any real sense of thanksgiving.
So, the Lord builds into this offering a reminder that He knows the difference. This bread is to be coated or sprinkled with oil, and oil symbolized gladness. Both Isaiah 61:3 and Hebrews 1:9 speak of the “oil of gladness” while describing the salvation of the Lord. And by the way, these loaves of bread were baked in nearby ovens at the tabernacle, so you can imagine how this aroma mixed with true confession of sin just brought someone’s heart to a sense of happiness and gratitude.
The truth is, we have so much to thank God for every single day. I have read that the average person takes approximately 23,000 breaths every day. One author writes, “We tend to thank God for things that take our breath away. And that’s fine. But we should thank Him for every other breath too!”
Now we read here that the thankful person bringing the peace offering has provided the animal to offer and then portions of it to barbecue, and there’s this baked bread. So more than likely, this person’s family has come along to enjoy God’s peace in their family member’s life.
Look at this scene here. They have all this roasted meat and freshly baked bread, so what are they going to do? Well, over again in chapter 7, we’re told that this peace offering is the only offering the worshipers themselves get to eat, and the priests join in too. They’re going to have a potluck right here on the spot!
Listen, when you have peace with God, the end result is a feast of joy—the joy of peace and fellowship with God.
These offerings mentioned in Leviticus 3 didn’t have anything to do with smoking a peace pipe, but they did signal that a peace treaty was signed between a holy God and a sinful, yet forgiven, follower of God.
Again, this “Manual for the Levites,” Leviticus, points us to the ultimate and permanent means of peace with God, a peace treaty signed in red—blood red. And it’s established through the final sacrifice of Jesus Christ, whose body was given and whose blood was shed on our behalf.
You can’t have peace with God if you reject the Prince of Peace, the Savior, our Messiah and Lord. The Bible says in Romans chapter 5:
Therefore, since we have been justified [made right] by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God . . . while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. (verses 1-2, 8-9)
No more war with God; no more fear of wrath from God—a peace treaty has been offered, and by faith in Christ alone we sign our name to it and have everlasting peace with God.