Monday, November 2, 2009

Communion with God is messy.

And he shall lay his hand on the head of his offering and kill it at the entrance of the tent of meeting, and Aaron's sons the priests shall throw the blood against the sides of the altar.

Leviticus 3:2

sacrifical lamb Chapter three of Leviticus is all about the peace offering. The ESV Study Bible gives a great summary of what this peace offering was all about: “This offering achieves and expresses peace or fellowship between an offerer and the Lord. The ritual as a whole symbolizes a communion meal that is held between the offerer, the officiating priest, and the Lord. In OT times such meals were a means of affirming a covenant relationship (Gen. 26:28–30). Generally speaking, then, this offering was a time to remember and reaffirm the covenant relationship between the Lord and Israel (cf. 1 Cor. 10:16–18; 11:23–26). As with the burnt offering, there are various specific motives for offering a peace offering, ranging from petition to praise. In this chapter, though, the entire emphasis is on the procedure for the offering, with a special focus on the burning of the fat.”

The peace offering was one in which the person giving the animal in sacrifice was allowed to eat of the sacrifice. There were prohibitions (Leviticus 3:14-16) and God was given the best part since “the fat” does not mean just fat, but also the meat around it, which any gourmet is going to know is the most succulent portion. But this offering symbolized a shared communion with God by the worshipper. As such it was a unique offering.

But even this fellowship had reminders of sacrifice. The priest would lay his hand on the head of the offering before killing it. And the blood of this animal was sprinkled against the sides of the altar. Even in fellowship, there is a reminder of our need for atonement. Blood is shed on the altar. Just yesterday, in observance of the Lord’s Table, I spent time with my church family celebrating communion. And looking into the cup, I was reminded of my Savior’s sacrifice that brought me peace and fellowship with God.

Peace with God must come with sacrifice. Sinners are loved by God, but atonement and forgiveness come with a certain messiness. In the Old Testament, the slaughterhouse of the levitical worship system reminded Israel of their redemption for fellowship with God. At certain seasons, the channel of blood running out of the temple was flowing with this sacrificial stream like a small crimson river. And the dying Lamb of God is always recognized by believers today when the common cup and loaf are shared.

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