Imagine sitting in a foreign jail for doing something good. Instead of being patted on the back, it’s being laid bare and repeatedly beaten with a rod. Instead of being praised, you’re being charged with a crime and chained to a wall in your enemy’s most secure prison. Have that sinking feeling in your stomach that you’re experiencing something far beyond your worst nightmare?
Here is the kicker. You were holding a get out of jail free card the entire time! You never had to experience any of it. How would you react? Would you have praise on your lips and peace in your heart? Paul and Silas did in Acts 16.
God used them to rid a slave girl of a demon. Instead of receiving thanks, they were arrested, beaten, and thrown into an “inner cell” under tight guard. Instead of complaining, Paul and Silas sang and praised God. They were at peace in the midst of experiencing injustice and physical pain.
The Fellowship or Peace Offering
I believe this is a wonderful picture of the fellowship offering in Leviticus 3:1-17. It contains lessons for us today about how to be at peace though our worlds are falling apart all around us.
This fellowship offering in Hebrew is called “Zevach Shelamim.” The English word “fellowship” is both accurate and incomplete at the same time. Its root Hebrew word comes from the word shalom, which “carries with it the idea of … being at peace, of possessing well being and of brotherly fellowship … all at the same time.”1
You’ll discover by reading Leviticus 3:1 this offering is neither obligatory nor is it to atone for sin. It’s about experiencing the peace of God by staying in close fellowship or relationship with Him. Therefore, from this point on, I’ll be referring to this offering as the “peace offering” since the person making this offering wants to experience the peace of God.
Three Types of Peace Offerings
Leviticus 7 reveals three types of peace offerings. 7:12 reveals the thank offering of which Psalm 42:11 is a great example. “Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise (our word “thanks”) Him, my Savior and my God.” What ruins a person’s peace more than by focusing on their circumstances and/or by forgetting about who their God is?
A second peace offering concerning promises made to God or a vow offering, which is found in 7:16. This offering was made twice. Once when a person made a promise in God’s name, and then again after they kept their promise. Ecclesiastes 5:5-6 shines a little insight here. “It is better not to vow than to make a vow and not fulfill it. Do not let your mouth lead you into sin. And do not protest to the Temple messenger, ‘My vow was a mistake.’ Why should God be angry at what you say and destroy the work of your hands?” Think about it for a second. What happens when we don’t do what we said we’d do? Our peace is broken and our relationships become strained due to guilt feelings.
In 7:16 we find the third kind peace offering – the freewill offering. This type of peace offering took place when someone voluntarily offered themselves or something they owned to God without seeking anything in return. Deborah’s song on the day Israel defeated Jabin and Sisera is an example of this third type. “When the princes in Israel take the lead, when the people willingly offer themselves – praise the L-RD!” In 1 Chronicles 29:9 we see the people giving a freewill offering of Temple building materials.
We Must Want Peace
We can learn a few things from the peace offering. We must not only want to experience peace, but we must also know where to find it. Remember, this was a voluntary sacrifice. No one can force us to lead a peace-filled life, not even God. We have to want it. Believe it or not, some people like living under pressure and would never offer a peace offering.
Once we realize we want to experience peace, however, we have to know where to find it. This offering had to be done “at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting” (3:2) or where “the presence of the LORD” was located. We couldn’t do it at home! It had to be done “in the presence of the LORD your God at the place the LORD your God will choose.” At that time it was wherever the Tabernacle stopped, but would eventually end up in Jerusalem (Deuteronomy 12:18 – emphasis added; 2 Chron. 6:4-6; 7:12 emphasis added).
In other words, peace can only be found in the Lord’s presence. The moment we choose to stop focusing on ourselves and/or our stuff (two major stressors in our lives) and start focusing on the LORD we’ll experience peace. This is exactly what Isaiah says will happen too. “The LORD will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast because he trusts in Him.” (Isaiah 26:3) Peace comes only by focusing on the One who can give it – Jesus.
How to Experience the Peace of God
Keep in mind the peace offering was all about how one chose to live, not the forgiveness of sin. The person making this offering freely gave themselves to God (freewill) as an expression of thanks (thank) for the victory that comes by focusing on Him rather than their challenges, themselves and their stuff and then making a commitment (vow) to live His way. It was totally voluntary and up to the worshipper whether they wanted to experience the peace of God throughout their day.
Before we discover how this offering was made, please indulge me a second before we continue. Read Leviticus 3:1-17 and make a mental note of the repeated word(s).
Did you see them? I want to focus on one that is repeated 10 times – fat. Biblical fat speaks of the richest or choicest part of something. In Genesis 45:18 it was the fat or choicest part of the land. It’s interesting to note that fat, not muscle, was the best part in God’s eyes. Hmmm. We’re going to talk more about this in a moment, but let’s walk through the entire offering.
Freely Offering Something of Value
This peace was going to cost you something, though. The life of an animal – cattle, sheep or goat, but not a bird or grain, both of which were a poor person’s offering – was to be sacrificed (Lev. 5:11). Furthermore, the animal sacrificed had to be without defect (3:1). As the raising and taking care of animals in biblical times was a costly endeavor, the person who wanted to experience the peace of God was going to have to voluntarily give something of extreme valuable to them.
After choosing their animal, the person brought it to the entrance of the Tent of Meeting, laid their hands on its head and slit its throat (3:2). This action was about ownership, not the transferring guilt, as the peace offering had nothing to do with forgiving sins. The person was freely giving something they owned and was valuable to them.
After the animal was killed, but before it was put on the altar, its blood, which is a symbol of life (Leviticus 17:11), was sprinkled or strewn over all four sides of the altar, which was both an instrument of death and life. This is a wonderful picture of life over death. The person had to kill something of value to them in order to experience the peace of God as they lived each day.
Laying a Foundation to Live in Peace
The individual then skinned the animal, removed all the fat, both kidneys and the liver and burned them on the altar (3:3-5). Notice all the fat was burned. The fat from underneath the skin, from around the internal organs/parts and from the inside of the animal was to be burned. And depending upon what type of sheep was used, the long fat tail was also included (3:9).
The Spirit uses an interesting word for “inner parts” in 3:3. The Hebrew word (קרב keh’-reb) comes from a root word that means to come near and to approach, which is what the peace offering is all about. We have to give up the fat if we want to get closer to and experience the peace of God.
Beyond the fat, both kidneys were burned. The Hebrew word for kidney (כּליה kil-yaw’) can be translated kidney, a key organ, or as mind, for what goes inside a person. Psalm 26:2 states, “Prove me, O LORD, and try me; test my heart and my mind (kidney).” Jeremiah 11:20 reads, “But, O LORD of hosts, who judges righteously, who tests the heart and the mind (kidney), let me see Your vengeance upon them, for to You have I committed my cause.”
Furthermore, one of the root words for kidney (כּלי kel-ee’) means to prepare your weapons. Isaac used this word in Genesis 27:3 when he told Esau, “Get your weapons (kidney) – your quiver and bow – and go out … to hunt some wild game for me.” Another root word (כּלה kaw-law) means to take away waste or to make clean by getting rid of waste, which is the purpose of a kidney. It filters the blood of waste and produces urine. We’ll tie all this together in a moment.
Next, they were to offer up the animal’s liver. Its root word (כּבד kaw-vade’) in a good sense means to be numerous (Genesis 13:2 – Abraham was rich in cattle) and in bad sense to be severe or difficult (Genesis 12:10 – Abraham went to Egypt because the famine was grievous in the land).
Among other things, our livers help maintain the volume of blood, which is life, and breaks down carbohydrates to give our brains and blood energy, both of which are good. Yet the liver also gets rid of some bad things, like toxins. Hmmm.
God was pleased as the smoke and aroma from the burning of this offering – the fat, kidneys and liver – rose to heaven (3:5,11,16). He was smiling. It wasn’t because He ate this offering as some religions of the period believed. No, He was smiling because His people expressed their love for Him and wanted to experience peace with Him everyday everywhere.
Experience Peace – God’s Part and Our Part
The Spirit concludes the peace offering by stating that “all the fat is the LORD’s. This is a lasting ordinance for the generations to come, where you live: You must not eat any fat or any blood.” (3:16-17) The word for live is better translated “dwellings.” In other words, they were never to eat blood or fat in their homes no matter when or where they lived. All of it belonged to God in perpetuity.
Before this fat and blood are explained, we must understand that throughout Scripture there are situations where God had a part to play and then mankind had a part to play. For example, in saving human and animal life from the flood, Noah built the boat and God brought the animals and closed the Ark (Gen. 6-7). God would provide for our salvation through Yeshua, but we must confess our belief in Him (Rom. 10:9-10).
With that in mind, not eating blood no matter where one lived speaks to God’s part of the peace equation. Life and forgiveness for the mistakes that ruin our peace are found in the blood (Hebrews 9:21). Jesus died so that we can have peace with God. Through Him we have been reconciled to God (2 Cor. 5:18).
Not eating the fat is our part of the peace equation. In 1 Samuel 15:22 Samuel confronted King Saul over his disobedience when Saul kept the Amalekite animals for sacrifice rather than destroying them as God Saul to do. Samuel told Saul that the Lord wants our obedience more than the fat of rams and sacrifices. Psalm 81:16 speaks of God satisfying with the finest (fat) of wheat those who listen to and do what He says. Psalm 147:14 states that those who delight in the Lord and put their hope “in His unfailing love” will have peace within their borders (in this case Jerusalem) and the best (fat) of the wheat. Peace and fat come together for the one who trusts and follows the Lord. Our God satisfies those who do what He says to do in their daily lives, even more so when they face challenges.
The Peace Offering in the New Testament
The peace offering and the concept of fat being combined with obedience and peace are also found in Romans 12:1-2. Paul, who wrote this passage, knew, taught and personally made peace offerings during his life (Acts 21:20-27 – the vow offering). It was this same Paul, who while beaten and sitting unjustly in a jail, sang praises (thank offering) and was at peace in the midst of a very stressful situation.
Paul urged every believer in Romans 12:1 to “offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship.” Paul is not commanding them to do this. It was their choice, just as it was the Israelite’s choice to offer a peace offering. If we want to experience the peace of God throughout our day, we must choose to offer ourselves, our way of living, our thoughts, our words and our stuff to Him.
Being a living sacrifice seems to be a contradiction of terms. It makes total sense, however, if we understand it in the context of the peace offering. The person killed the animal and its blood was sprinkled on all sides of the altar. Life was covering death. Killing something extremely valuable to us (before it was our animal, now it’s us!) gives us life.
Just as the smoke coming from the burned fat and organs was “pleasing to the LORD,” so do our lives become “holy and pleasing to God” when we choose to surrender ownership of our lives (laying hands on the animal) to Jesus.
Where then do we find fat in all of this? It’s found in the very next verse! Romans 12:2 reads, “Do not be conformed any longer to the pattern of this world.” Fat in the Tanakh spoke to the truth that the only way to find satisfaction and peace was by living God’s way, not by the surrounding nations’ values. Believers are to pattern their lives after Jesus, not the lifestyle of the surrounding world.
Peace with God Starts with our Thinking
Romans 12:2 continues, “But be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Earlier we saw that the Hebrew word for kidney can also be translated mind. Here’s where science helps us out. I’ve seen higher percentages, but I’ll stay conservative. Guess what the mind or brain is primarily made up of? 60%+ fat! Peace with God starts by focusing on our thinking, not our behavior. Right after telling the believer that true peace only comes by living God’s way, He tells them where to focus to make that happen – their brain, the main filter for living God’s way.
We discovered in the peace offering that the three elements burned on the altar were all filtering agents – fat, kidneys and liver. Fat stores environmental toxins. The liver filters out toxins. And the kidneys filter out what the body can’t or doesn’t use. All three get rid of something that is harmful to the person, something that can rob them of physical peace. Thus, all three are designed to get rid of the bad stuff.
Fat gives us our part of the peace equation. We must filter out the junk that robs of us of our peace. We must filter out all lies that pull us away from Him! Where is this done? Our minds, which are the filters of toxic thoughts, just like our fat, kidneys and livers are filters of toxins in our bodies.
We don’t recycle the wastes, the toxins, and the stuff that grieves and weighs us down. No, we get rid of them. What are the wastes of the mind? Lies, which need to be filtered out not recycled.
We are to prepare our weapons (kidneys) to keep out the lies or wastes! What are those weapons? The truths found in God’s Word. Think about it for a moment. Is not the armor of God found in Ephesians 6 all biblical truths? If we want to experience the peace of God throughout our day we’ve got to prepare our minds with God’s truth to be able to get rid of the waste, the lies, from our minds! This is what Paul called the “renewing of your mind.” We change the behavior that destroys our peace by changing how and what we think. We replace the toxic thoughts of this world with the truthful peaceful thoughts of God’s word.
We were meant to experience the peace of God no matter the chaos encircling us. We can choose our response to each and every situation we face by doing our part of the peace equation – filtering out the world’s value system and lies and replacing them with the truths of Scripture.
Peace Through Daily Filtering
We are no longer enemies of God or children of wrath through Jesus’ blood spilt to give us peace with God.2 This was God’s part of life’s peace equation. If we want to experience that peace day we must choose to filter all life through the Word of God. The fat is our part.
Jesus gave us peace with God. It’s our choice if we want to experience the peace of God (see Philippians 4:4-9). Every time we see blood we should give a thank offering to Yeshua for peace. Every time we see fat, we should be reminded to give Him what’s going on between our ears.
Let me give a few practical principles to make this happen. First, focus on the truth that you’re a child of God, which came through faith in Jesus (John 1:12). It’s time to leave the past behind – what you or others have done and how you handled life when it came your way. Your identity has been changed. You are a child of God who He’s lavished tremendous amounts of love (1 John 3:10).
Are you repeating that old mantra that weighs heavily on you? Are you recycling the same old waste/lie-based thoughts? You’ll become what you focus on and what you focus on only gets bigger. Focusing on the lies is like leaving toxins in your liver and shutting down your kidneys, both of which kills your peace and you. It’s time to start defining yourself by how Jesus sees you – a wonderful child of God.
Next, continue to feed your brain the truth. The peace offering and being a living sacrifice are both about transforming your mind so you can make the choice to stay in Jesus’ presence – the Prince of Peace. The more you read, listen to and place key truth fighting passages from the Word of God into your mind, the more it will filter out the literal garbage that robs you of His presence and peace.
Lastly, don’t recycle, but filter out the garbage/lies! Remember in the peace offering you didn’t eat the fat, kidneys or liver. You burned them. So don’t hold onto the lies either. Get rid of them.
How? Recognize what lies your enemy will attempt to use on you to rob you of your peace. His main weapons are lies as he is the father of lies. This makes the battle you face for your minds, your filters, not your behavior (2 Cor. 10:3-5). Therefore, if the robber of peace can control the way you think or filter life (kidneys, liver and fat), he can control the way you live. He likes to build strongholds (where we go to defend ourselves), devastating arguments (the rationalizations and justifications for what we do) and pretensions (the “I” problem, ego or self-centeredness) into your mind so he can increase the stress filled situations you face each day.
What truths do you need to put into your filter, your brain, so you can keep those peace robbing lies out or process out the lies that already exist? What truths at the point of the lies do you need to memorize, to meditate on and to practice each day to give you victory over your enemy’s attacks? Remember Isaiah said the mind stayed on Jesus will stay peaceful!3
I love how both halves of the Book add up to a whole. One fills in the pieces of the other to make one picture. The peace offering is simply another reason why we need to study the entire Book if we truly want to come near and live in the peace of Jesus each day of our lives. We can give thank and freewill offerings whether we are sitting in the midst of the storm like Paul or walking along a sandy beach on a sun drenched day. Either way we can be at peace with and can experience the peace of God.
In Messiah, we are completely secure in this peace. We no longer have to fear losing or dying. The war is won! We will see and be like Jesus one day. We’ve been given the gift of eternal life. Why not live in peace today? God did His part. Will we do ours?
- Tom Bradford, Lesson 5 Chapter 3 and Lesson 10 Chapter 6 and 7, www.torahclass.com, http://www.torahclass.com/old-testament-studies/36-old-testament-studies-leviticus/157-lesson-5-chapter3, (accessed February 15, 2013).
- Romans 5:1.
- If you need additional help in applying these practical principles, get a copy of More Than a Sunday Faith. It will give you the biblical tools/truths to renew your mind and walk in the peace of God everyday everywhere (John 10:27). You can obtain a copy of the book at morethanasundayfaith.com and/or read the author’s daily blogs on how to use these tools in daily life.