THE HEBREW WORD TRANSLATED "PEACE offering," comes from a root word meaning "to make up, to supply what is wanting, to pay a recompense." It denotes a state in which misunderstandings have been cleared up and wrongs righted, and in which good feeling prevails. Peace offerings were used on any occasion that called for thankfulness and joy, and also in making a vow. They were sweet-savour offerings, like burnt and meal offerings. They were an expression on the part of the offerer, of his peace with God and of his thankfulness to Him for His many blessings.
In selecting a peace offering, the offerer was not limited in his choice. He could use a bullock, a sheep, a lamb, or a goat, male or female. Ordinarily a sacrifice had to be "perfect to be accepted." Lev. 22:21; 3:1-17. However, when a peace offering was presented as a freewill offering, it need not be perfect. It could be used even if it had "anything superfluous or lacking in his parts." Lev. 22:23. As in the case of the burnt offering, the offerer must lay his hands upon the head of the sacrifice and kill it at the door of the tabernacle. The blood was then sprinkled upon the altar round about by the priest. Lev. 3:2. After this, the fat was burned: "It is the food of the offering made by fire unto the Lord." Verse 11. "All the fat is the Lord's. It shall be a perpetual statute for your generations throughout all your dwellings, that ye eat neither fat nor blood." Verses 16, 17.
Peace offerings were of three kinds: thank offerings, offerings for a vow, and voluntary offerings. Of these, the thank offering or praise offering appears the most prominent. It was offered on occasions of joy, of thankfulness for some specific instance of deliverance, or for some signal blessing bestowed. It was offered from a heart filled with praise of God, running over with joy.
Sin and trespass offerings asked favours of God. They begged forgiveness. Burnt offerings stood for dedication and consecration on the part of the offerer. Meal offerings recognised the offerer's dependence upon God for all temporal needs and his acceptance of the responsibility of stewardship. Peace offerings were a praise offering for mercies received, a thank offering for blessings enjoyed; a voluntary offering from an overflowing heart. They asked for no favours as such; they ascribed praise to God for what He had done, and magnified His name for His goodness and mercy to the children of men.
The offerings in the Old Testament were embodied prayers. They combined faith and works, prayer and faith. In their totality they expressed man's entire relationship to, and need of, God. Peace offerings were communion offerings. Burnt offerings were wholly burnt on the altar; meal offerings were either burned outside the camp or eaten by the priest, but peace offerings were divided not merely between God and the priest, but a part, the greater part, was given to the offerer and his family. God's part was burned on the altar. Lev. 3:14-17. The priest received the wave breast and the heave shoulder. Lev. 7.33,34. The rest belonged to the offerer, who could invite any clean person to partake with him. It must be eaten the same day, or in some cases the second day, but not later. Lev. 7:16-21.
Unleavened cakes mingled with oil, also wafers and fried cakes, were a part of the offerings. To this was added leavened bread. A part was presented to the Lord as a heave offering and then given to the priest as his portion. Lev. 7:11-13.
The whole ceremony constituted a kind of communion service in which priest and people partook with the Lord at His table; a joyful occasion, where all united in thanking God and praising Him for His mercy.
The use of leaven in the peace offering is significant. Ordinarily leaven was not permitted in any sacrifice. In one other instance where it was used -- that of the first fruits in the meat offering (Lev. 2:12) -- it was not permitted to come on the altar. In the present instance it was presented to the Lord as a heave offering and then given to the priest who had sprinkled the blood. Lev. 7:13,14. In the case of the first fruit in the meat offering, the leaven represented man bringing his offering to God for the first time. He must bring such as he had. But he was to do that only once. In the peace offering, both unleavened and leavened bread are commanded. May it not be, as this is a common meal of which God, priest, and offerer partake, that the unleavened bread represents Him who is without sin and who is our peace; and that the leaven represents the imperfection of man who is nevertheless accepted by God? Eph. 2:13. Reference to this is made in Amos 4:5. "The flesh of the sacrifice of his peace offerings for thanksgiving shall be eaten the same day." Lev. 7:15. Though this was partly a sanitary measure, that could not be the only reason; for in cases where the peace offering was a vow or a voluntary offering it could also be eaten the second day. Verse 16. It was manifestly impossible for a man himself to consume his offering, if it were a bullock or a goat or a lamb, in one day. He therefore was permitted, and even commanded, to ask others to share in the meal. "Thou mayest not eat within thy gates... any of the vows which thou vowest, nor thy freewill offerings, or heave offering of thine hand; but thou must eat them before the Lord thy God in the place which the Lord thy God shall choose, thou, and thy son, and thy daughter, and thy manservant, and thy maidservant, and the Levite, that is within thy gates: and thou shalt rejoice before the Lord thy. God in all that thou puttest thine hands unto. Take heed to thyself that thou forsake not the Levite as long as thou livest upon the earth." Deut. 12:17-19.
This was a distinguishing feature of the peace offering. It must be eaten the same day, and it must be shared; it must be eaten "before the Lord," and "thou shalt rejoice." It was a joyful, communal meal, and in this respect was different from all other offerings.
At times peace offerings were vow offerings. For one reason or another, perhaps because of some special blessing desired, an offerer would make a vow to the Lord. He might vow himself to the Lord, or his wife or children, or cattle, house, or lands. Lev. 27. In this way Samuel was vowed to the Lord. 1Sam. 1:11. In case of persons, a vow could ordinarily be redeemed at a fixed valuation, adjustable by the priests in case of the very poor. Lev. 27:1-8. If the vow concerned one of the beasts suitable for sacrifice, it could not be redeemed. If a man attempted to exchange it for another beast, both beasts were to be offered. Verses 9,10. In case of an unclean beast, the priest was to evaluate it. It could be redeemed by adding one fifth to the estimated value. Verses 11-13.
Three things are mentioned as not coming under the rule of a vow: all first-born (verses 26,27); anything devoted to God (verses 28,29); the tithe (verses 30-34). These, as belonging already to God, could not be vowed.
There are some who do not consider vows with favour. Yet God provided for vows. While it may be better not to vow than to vow and not pay (Eccl. 5:5), at times vows are in order and acceptable to God. "If thou shalt forbear to vow, it shall be no sin in thee" (Deut. 23:22); but if a man makes a vow, he shall "not slack to pay it." Verse 21. The making of a vow is optional. A man may or may not make a vow, but if he makes one "he shall not break his word, he shall do according to all that proceedeth out of his mouth." Num. 30:2.
The chief point in these statements is this, that a man is to keep that which he has promised. He must "not break his word." He must not even be "slack" in fulfilling his vow. When the time comes, he must pay. God expects this.
God wants His people to be honest and dependable. He wants them to keep their promises. No man is fulfilling his Christian duties if he is undependable in business dealings. No man can break his word and retain God's favour. No man can "forget" to pay his bills, or even be slack concerning them, and be counted honest in the sight of heaven. A Christian, above all people, must be a man of his word. He must not only be upright; he must be prompt.
This is an age in which many consider their word u of little weight, and have little respect, for their promises. While this may be expected of the world, there can be no excuse for any who bear the name of Christ to repudiate their promise. Yet how many unpaid pledges there are, how many broken vows! The marriage vow is broken; the baptismal vow is broken; the ordination vow is broken. Covenants are repudiated, agreements violated, pledges forgotten. Breaking of faith is common, disregard of responsibility almost universal. Christ Himself wondered if He should find faith on the earth when He returned. Luke 18:8. In the midst of all this confusion there must be a people upon whom God can depend, in whose mouth there is found no guile, who are true to their word. The question asked in Psalms 15 is also answered there. The question: "Lord, who shall abide in Thy tabernacle? who shall dwell in Thy holy hill?" The answer: "He that walketh uprightly, and worketh righteousness, and speaketh the truth in his heart. He that backbiteth not with his tongue, nor doeth evil to his neighbour, nor taketh up a reproach against his neighbour. In whose eyes a vile person is contemned; but he honoreth them that fear the Lord. He that sweareth to his own hurt, and changeth not. He that putteth not out his money to usury, nor taketh reward against the innocent. He that doeth these things shall never be moved."
One of the conditions here mentioned of abiding in the tabernacle of God is that of "swearing to his own hurt," and not changing. A man may agree to sell or to buy some property, and after the agreement is made, receive a more favourable offer. Will he stick to his bargain even at a loss to himself? He will if he is a Christian.
Regard for one's word is a crying need. Nations need it, lest their agreements become meaningless. Business needs it, lest confusion and disaster result. Individuals need it, lest faith perish from the earth. Above all, Christians need it, lest men lose their vision and hope, and despair grip mankind.
This is the supreme hour and opportunity of the church. A demonstration is due the world, that there is a people who remain faithful in a faithless generation; who have respect for their own word as well as for God's; who are true to the faith once delivered to the saints. The manifestation of the sons of God is overdue. Rom. 8:19. This revelation of the sons of God is not only "the earnest expectation of the creature," but "the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together" for it. Verse 22. And this manifestation will reveal a people who have the seal of God's approval. They keep the commandments. They have the faith of Jesus. Their word is yea, yea, and nay, nay. They are without fault, even before the throne of God. Rev. 14:12,5; James 5:12.
As has been stated before, the peace offering was a communion offering in which God, the priest, and the people partook. It was a communal meal, held within the precincts of the temple, in which joy and happiness prevailed, and priest and people held converse. It was not an occasion when peace was effected, it was rather a feast of rejoicing that peace existed. It was generally preceded by a sin offering or a burnt offering. Atonement had been made, the blood had been sprinkled, forgiveness had been extended, and justification assured. In celebration of this, the offerer invited his near of kin and his servants, as well as the Levites, to eat with him. "Thou mayest not eat within thy gates," was the command, but only "in the place which the Lord thy God shall choose." Deut. 12:17,18. And so the whole family assembled within the temple gates to celebrate in a festal manner the peace that had been established between God and man, and between man and man.
"Being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." Rom. 5:1. "He is our peace." Eph. 2:14. Israel of old was invited to celebrate the fact that they had peace with God, that their sins were forgiven, and that they were restored to favour with God. This celebration included son and daughter, manservant and maidservant, as well as the Levite. All sat down at the table of the Lord and rejoiced together "in hope of the glory of God." In like manner we are to "joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement." Rom. 5:2,11.
Few appreciate or rejoice in the peace of God as they should. Though the reason may be, in many cases, a lack of appreciation of what God has done for them, many times there are dear souls who fail to understand that it is their right and privilege to be happy in their religion. They live in the shadow of the cross rather than in its sunshine. They feel that there is something wrong in happiness, that to smile is inappropriate, and that even innocent laughter is sacrilegious. They carry the burden of the world on their shoulders and feel that to spend any time in recreation is not only a waste of time, but is definitely irreligious. They are good Christians, but not happy ones. If they were living in the days of Christ and following Him, they would question the advisability of going to the marriage feast at Cana in Galilee. They might even be perplexed about Christ's eating and drinking with sinners. With John's disciples they would be fasting and praying. Luke 5:29-35.
This is written with full appreciation of the times in which we are living. If there was ever a period when seriousness and sobriety should characterise our work, this is such a period. In view of the approaching crisis, what manner of men ought we to be, in all holy conversation and godliness! All frivolity and lightness should be put aside, and solemnity should take possession of every earthly element. Great and momentous events are hastening apace. This is no time for trifling and pettiness. The King is at the door!
These conditions, however, should not cause us to lose sight of the fact that we are children of the King, that our sins are forgiven, and that we have a right to be happy and rejoice. The work must be finished, and we are to have a part in it; but after all, it is God who must finish the work. Many talk and act as though they were to finish the work, as though all depends on them. They seem to think that they have the responsibility of the work upon them, and that though God may help, it is really for them to do the work. Even in their prayers, they often remind God of what He should do, fearful that He may forget some things that are on their hearts. They are good souls, anxious to do the right thing at all times but they have not learned to cast their burdens on the Lord. They are doing their best to carry the load, and though groaning beneath the burden, are determined not to give up. They struggle on and are getting much done. They are valuable workers, and the Lord loves them dearly.
But they are lacking in some important essentials, and are not getting much joy out of their Christianity. They are Marthas who toil and work, but leave out the one thing needful. They look disapprovingly at the Marys who are not doing as they themselves do, and they make their complaint to the Lord. They do not understand how Christ can take Mary's part, when to their mind she ought to be rebuked. They work, but they are not very happy about it. They think that others are not doing their share. Luke 10:38-42.
It is the same lesson that is emphasised in the story of the prodigal son. The elder son had never done anything very wrong. He had always worked hard and had never wasted any time in feasting and carousing. And now when the younger son came home after spending his portion in riotous living, "he was angry and would not go in" to the feast in honour of the returned brother. It was of no avail that the father came "out, and entreated him." He rather rebuked the father, accusing him that "as soon as this thy son was come, which hath devoured thy living with harlots, thou hast killed for him the fatted calf." Luke 15:30. Kindly the father replies: "It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found." Verse 32. We are not told the end of the story. Did the son go in? Did the love of the father prevail? We do not know. The story does not say. The last picture we have is of the elder son being outside the house, angry. It is to be hoped that he repented and went in, but we do not know.
Christians should be a happy people, even in the midst of the most solemn events. And why should they not be? Their sins are forgiven. They have peace with God. They are justified, sanctified, saved. God has placed a new song in their mouths. They are children of the Most High. They are walking with God. They are happy in the love of God. Few Christians have the peace of God dwelling in their hearts as they should have. They seem to forget their heritage. Said Christ: "Peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid." John 14:27.
Yet the hearts of many are troubled. They are afraid. They are worrying. Some dear one is outside the fold, and they are trying to "pray him in." Day and night they toil and pray. They leave no stone unturned in their effort to encompass his salvation. If any one can be saved by the works of some one else, they are determined that it shall be done. And they do not leave God out of the reckoning. They pray to Him. They entreat Him. They pray as though God needed prodding. And at last, the dear one turns to God. How happy they are! Now they can rest. Now their work is done, their task accomplished.
Does it ever occur to such souls that God is as much interested in the dear one's conversion as they are, yes, more than they possibly could be? Does it ever occur to them that long before they began to pray and to work, God planned and worked for the loved one's salvation; that He is doing and has done all that possibly can be done? That instead of their taking over God's work and imploring Him to help them, it would be better if they recognised the work as God's work and cooperated with Him? The moment such realisation comes to a soul, peace comes. It will not make a person work less or pray less, but it will shift the emphasis. He will begin to pray in faith. If we believe God is really at work, if we believe He is interested in men's salvation, we will pray more than ever, but we will leave the responsibility with God.
Much of our work is grounded in unbelief. With Habakkuk we feel that God is not really doing His part. Hab. 1:2-4. He needs to be reminded. There are things that should be called to His attention, and we proceed to bring them before Him. Instead of having faith in God, in His wisdom, His power, we take the burden upon ourselves, saying, in effect, that we cannot trust God to do what He has promised to do. But when faith comes; when the wonderful light dawns on us that God is still ruling in the affairs of men; that He is doing His best to save man- kind, and that our prayers should be to know His will -- when this realisation comes to us, then assurance, rest, and peace are ours in abundant measure. There will be no less works; but they will be works of faith. There will be no less prayers, but they will be prayers of faith. Thanksgiving will ascend daily for the privilege of working together with God. Peace will fill the heart and soul. Anxiety and worry will be no more. Peace, sweet peace, quietness, rest, happiness, and joy will be the daily portion. Life and life's outlook are entirely changed. We have learned to sit at the feet of Jesus. While Martha is still working -- and quietly complaining -- Mary is listening to the words of life. She has found the one thing needful. She understands the word of Christ: "This is the work of God, that ye believe." John 6:29. And she believes and rests.
There is no higher bliss possible than to have the peace of God in the heart. It is the legacy which Christ left. "Peace I leave with you," He says. Wonderful words. "My peace I give unto you." John 14:27. His peace was that quiet assurance that came from confidence in God. At the time Christ spoke these words, He was nearing the cross. Golgotha was before Him. But He did not waver. His heart was filled with peace and assurance. He knew Him in whom He trusted. And He rested in the knowledge that God knew the way. He might not be able to "see through the portals of the tomb." Hope might "not present to Him His coming forth from the grave a conqueror, or tell Him of the Father's acceptance of the sacrifice." But "by faith He rested in Him whom it had ever been His joy to obey. ... By faith, Christ was victor." --The Desire of Ages, pp.753,756.
That same peace He bequeaths to us. It means oneness with the Father, fellowship, communion. It means quiet joy, rest, contentment. It means faith, love, hope. In it there is no fear, worry, or anxiety. Whoever possesses it has that which passes understanding. He has a source of strength not depending on circumstances. He is in tune with God.