There are some broad principles in the law of the peace offering in ch.7 which are also found in ch.3, and which will help us to have a clearer appreciation when we consider the detail of the offering. In the law of the offerings we see that this offering comes last (7.11-34), whereas in ch.3 it is the third of the five offerings, thus taking centre place. For that reason, as it is placed in ch.3, it is sometimes called the communion offering being preceded by the meal offering and burnt offering, and followed by the sin and trespass offerings. God comes out completely satisfied from the burnt offering, and, with our need fully met, we go in from the trespass offering, meeting in the peace offering, and we have communion with God because of the one blessed person, even the Lord Jesus Christ.
In ch.7 we read that with the peace offering there had to be offered unleavened cakes and unleavened wafers which are a link with the meal offering. Also, note that the fat of the peace offering had to be put on the altar of burnt offering (3.4-5). This indicates that God can have fellowship with us, not only because of that perfect devoted life of the Lord Jesus Christ, but by linking the peace offering with the burnt offering, indicating that the man who would accomplish this must be totally surrendered in death. His death must be a sweet smelling savour, an offering through the Eternal Spirit without spot to God, and on that ground God and man can enjoy sweet communion.
Looking at enjoyment of communion from our side, highlighted in 7.20-21, there is the demand that only a clean person could eat the peace offering. We must be in the good of the other four offerings; indeed we must remember that a people who were already redeemed by blood in Egypt and delivered out of Egypt by power brought these offerings. The one who is going to eat must know that in him "dwelleth no good thing" (Rom 7.18).
In simple language, all my worthless self, and all the wrongs I have committed, and all that is lacking in me, have been completely answered in the person and work of Christ, and I stand altogether fully accepted in that true burnt offering. I am unsuited in myself, but am now made comely, made meet, accepted in the Beloved One. I now can have communion with a Holy God who sees me dressed in all the loveliness of Christ. As He is, so are we, before the face of God.
I must emphasise that this peace offering is indeed the communion offering. We know that the burnt offering was wholly burnt for God and that in the meal offering God got His portion, and the priestly family got theirs. But in the peace offering God got His portion (3.16), the priests got their portion (7.31-34), and the offerer got his portion also (7.15-17). This was the only offering when all fed together on that which spoke of the same blessed glorious person. There is enough and to spare for all, as He who satisfies God also satisfies my heart completely, and that of the priestly family as well.
Thoughts of fitness to have communion with God made me think of four persons who reached the table for different reasons.
Note, first, that in the peace offering for thanksgiving there was leavened bread to be offered as well as unleavened bread (7.13). Second, the peace offering for thanksgiving had to be eaten the same day as it was offered (7.15), but the peace offering for a vow or as a voluntary offering could be eaten on the morrow after it was offered but not on the third day (7.16-17). Let us look at these two things separately.
In relation to the first of these points it will be remembered that in the meal offering in ch.2 leaven and honey were expressly forbidden, so we cannot, we dare not, associate leaven with the Lord Jesus Christ. But we recall in connection with the new meal offering (Lev 23.16-17), which speaks of the new vessel of testimony, the Church, that leaven was asked for. The two books Luke wrote will help us here. In his Gospel Luke tells us of the Man in whom there was no leaven, who did no sin, who could not sin. In Acts he writes about the Church, the saints. We do not need to read far into Acts until we discover that even in that greatly privileged company there was leaven manifesting itself in murmuring, deception, lies, covetousness, and false doctrine.
What is the lesson for us from the leaven with the peace offering for thanksgiving? Simply that in our most privileged times in our holiest exercises of thanksgiving there is always the possibility of sin or self coming in to defile and spoil. We have to be constantly on our guard against the wiles of the devil and the asserting of self even in our most treasured moments and in our loftiest exercises.
Let us now look at the second point. The peace offering for thanksgiving had to be taken the same day, but, as has been already noted, the peace offering for a vow could be eaten on the morrow but not on the third day. The lesson to be learned is that thanksgiving has to be near the altar. It has to be fresh and spontaneous; it cannot be put into cold storage for another time. But a vow it is a more sustained matter. God graciously waits for the fulfilment of the vow, but He will not wait too long. If we do not vow, no judgment is likely to fall on us although much blessing may be lost. But the vow I defer to pay will bring down Gods displeasure on me for it is a sin to rob God of His due.
There were two things God claimed for Himself, namely the fat and the blood (see 7.31,33). The fat spoke of what was best. The blood spoke of life given up. The Lord has the right to the best. Think of "the firstborn", "the firstfruits", "the bullock without blemish", "fine gold", "fine twined linen", "refined silver", "pure oil olive". Aaron and his family got the breast that was waved before the Lord (7.30-31) and the shoulder that was heaved before the Lord (7.32). How suggestive, how lovely! That on which the priestly family fed had first delighted the heart of the Lord. The Father said, "Thou art ", what the Lord was to Him, before He said, "This is my beloved Son", displaying Him to others.
This waving of the breast before the Lord surely speaks of Him who loved the Lord with all His heart, mind, and strength. He also loved His neighbour as Himself. Think on the movement of true love that brought Him from the place of indescribable majesty and glory to a stable, a manger, and moving on with tender compassion for needy suffering humanity. See it in His sighs and tears at the grave of Lazarus that led men to say, "Behold how he loved him!". The tears, sobs, and strong laments over Jerusalem tell the same story. And finally, love to the Father moved Him to lay down His life.
To be continued.