Food For Thought

11 “And this is the law of the sacrifice of peace offerings that one may offer to the Lord. 12 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. 13 With the sacrifice of his peace offerings for thanksgiving he shall bring his offering with loaves of leavened bread. 14 And from it he shall offer one loaf from each offering, as a gift to the Lord. It shall belong to the priest who throws the blood of the peace offerings. 15 And the flesh of the sacrifice of his peace offerings for thanksgiving shall be eaten on the day of his offering. He shall not leave any of it until the morning. 16 But if the sacrifice of his offering is a vow offering or a freewill offering, it shall be eaten on the day that he offers his sacrifice, and on the next day what remains of it shall be eaten. 17 But what remains of the flesh of the sacrifice on the third day shall be burned up with fire. 18 If any of the flesh of the sacrifice of his peace offering is eaten on the third day, he who offers it shall not be accepted, neither shall it be credited to him. It is tainted, and he who eats of it shall bear his iniquity.

19 “Flesh that touches any unclean thing shall not be eaten. It shall be burned up with fire. All who are clean may eat flesh, 20 but the person who eats of the flesh of the sacrifice of the Lord’s peace offerings while an uncleanness is on him, that person shall be cut off from his people. 21 And if anyone touches an unclean thing, whether human uncleanness or an unclean beast or any unclean detestable creature, and then eats some flesh from the sacrifice of the Lord’s peace offerings, that person shall be cut off from his people.” – Leviticus 7:11-21 ESV

God turns His attention once again to the peace offerings for thanksgiving. These types of offerings were covered in chapter three and followed God’s exposition on the sin and guilt sacrifices. Those two types of offerings involved atonement and cleansing, whereas the peace offering was designed as an opportunity for the formerly guilty party to enjoy his restored relationship with God by providing the appropriate gift. This was intended to be a time of worship as the one who had received atonement partook of a meal with the Lord.

One of the things that set this particular offering apart from all others it that a portion of the meat that was sacrificed was to be shared by the giver. This section of chapter seven clarifies who could eat what part of the sacrifice. Any grain offering or bread was to be the property of the priest, but a portion of the meat was reserved for the one who offered up the animal as a peace offering.

“This peace offering of thanksgiving must also be accompanied by loaves of bread made with yeast. One of each kind of bread must be presented as a gift to the Lord. It will then belong to the priest who splatters the blood of the peace offering against the altar. The meat of the peace offering of thanksgiving must be eaten on the same day it is offered. None of it may be saved for the next morning.” – Leviticus 7:13-15 NLT

The worshiper was allowed to eat any of the leftover meat but it had to be consumed according to God’s parameters. The one who gave the offering was required to eat it on the same day. Any attempt to preserve the meat for the following day was strictly prohibited. This meal was to be enjoyed by the giver and anyone else he chose to join him. It was the priest’s job to ensure that God’s commands were carried out.

In the case of a vow offering, God extended the time for consuming the meat a second day.

“If you bring an offering to fulfill a vow or as a voluntary offering, the meat must be eaten on the same day the sacrifice is offered, but whatever is left over may be eaten on the second day. – Leviticus 7:16 NLT

God provides no explanation for this slight variation between the two offerings. What distinguished the various types of peace offerings was the motivation behind the gift. The category of peace offering contained three subtypes: The thank offering, the vow offering, and the freewill offering. The first of these three was really a praise offering. The Hebrew word translated as “thanksgiving” is תּוֹדָה (tôḏâ) and might better be translated as “acknowledgment” or “praise.” This offering was given in recognition of God’s providential care and faithful provision. The giver was expected to declare to the entire congregation what God had done for them. In giving his gift, the giver would be accompanied by friends and family members to whom he would express the ways in which God had richly provided for all his needs. These invitees would then join him in consuming the sacrificial meal as a form of worship to Yahweh for His goodness and generosity.

“It was an integral part of the public act of thanksgiving. The ceremony concluded with a joyful communal meal, involving the worshiper, family, priests, Levites, and the poor (Psalm 22:25, 25).” – Kenneth A. Matthew, Leviticus: Holy God, Holy People

From the time the Israelites departed Mount Sinai to the moment they entered the land of Canaan, they would have plenty of reasons and opportunities to praise God for His provision of all their needs. The “praise” offering was instituted as a means of expressing gratitude to God for all He had done, and because it was to be a public confession of God’s goodness and greatness, it was meant to encourage the entire community to place their trust in Him for all their needs.

God outlined two additional fellowship offerings that were closely related to the peace offering. One was the votive or vow offering and the other was the freewill offering. The first of these was an offering given to celebrate or commemorate the successful completion of a vow. Having fulfilled a commitment made to God, the worshiper offered a gift to celebrate the occasion. The freewill offering was a voluntary gift given to God as an expression of praise and gratitude. It was not tied to a vow or associated with the confession of a particular sin. This gift was given willingly and gladly as a public display of one’s gratefulness to God. And each of these offerings included a communal meal so that others could celebrate Yahweh alongside the giver.

But these meals had restrictions as well. While these offerings were not given for the purpose of confession or atonement, they were still required to be holy and pure before God. No shortcuts or concessions could be made. Unclean or defiled meat was not allowed. Any violation of God’s commands regarding the timeline for consuming the meat would render the gift unacceptable. God had a reason behind His regulations concerning the timely consumption of sacrificial meat. These rules were not arbitrary.

“Any meat left over until the third day must be completely burned up. If any of the meat from the peace offering is eaten on the third day, the person who presented it will not be accepted by the Lord. You will receive no credit for offering it. By then the meat will be contaminated; if you eat it, you will be punished for your sin.” – Leviticus 7:17-18 NLT

God was protecting His people from incurring guilt and His wrath. In the process of offering their praise to Him, the people of God could actually end up contaminating themselves and negating the efficacy of their gift.

It was the job of the priest to ensure that none of these rules were broken. If the meat of the sacrifice inadvertently touched something unclean, it was to be burned with fire. The priest was not to allow anyone to consume the contaminated meat. He was also to regulate the participation of all those who gathered to partake in the communal meal. It was essential that the sacrificial meat be consumed only by those who were ceremonially clean. If someone had come into contact with an unclean person or object and then attempted to partake in the communal meal, they would be held guilty and punished for their action.

If you are ceremonially unclean and you eat meat from a peace offering that was presented to the Lord, you will be cut off from the community. If you touch anything that is unclean (whether it is human defilement or an unclean animal or any other unclean, detestable thing) and then eat meat from a peace offering presented to the Lord, you will be cut off from the community.” – Leviticus 7:20-21 NLT

Since these offerings were built around the idea of a celebratory meal, you can see how the Israelites might treat them with less seriousness than the sacrifices for sin and atonement. In their eagerness to enjoy a meal together, they might make unnecessary concessions that would taint and disqualify the sacrifice. Rather than focusing on the offering’s primary purpose of worshiping God, the meal might become the focus. And people might be tempted to cut corners to enjoy a quality meal with their friends. But God wanted all sacrifices to be treated with a soberness and seriousness that reflected a respect for His holiness.

The one thing the people of Israel needed to understand was that each of these sacrifices was to be dedicated to God. And the peace offerings were especially important because they each involved a meal eaten in communion with God. He was allowing the giver to partake of part of the meat that had been sacrificed and dedicated to Him. He was graciously sharing a meal with His people, and He expected them to treat that special occasion with the proper dignity and decorum it deserved.

Centuries later, the apostle Paul would warn the believers in Corinth against taking the Lord’s table in an unworthy manner. This too was a meal eaten in celebration of God’s graciousness and goodness. It was a communal meal commemorating God’s gift of His Son and intended to express gratitude for the undeserved atonement provided by Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross. But Paul’s audience was guilty of misusing this meal. It had lost its original significance and become just another opportunity to satisfy their own fleshly desires.

When you meet together, you are not really interested in the Lord’s Supper. For some of you hurry to eat your own meal without sharing with others. As a result, some go hungry while others get drunk. – 1 Corinthians 11:20-21 NLT

So, he warned them to realign their priorities and treat the Lord’s Table with the reverence it deserved.

So anyone who eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord unworthily is guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. That is why you should examine yourself before eating the bread and drinking the cup. For if you eat the bread or drink the cup without honoring the body of Christ, you are eating and drinking God’s judgment upon yourself. That is why many of you are weak and sick and some have even died. – 1 Corinthians 11:27-30 NLT

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

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