Leviticus 22:17-25, 31-33
New Testament believers read God’s instruction to the children of Israel with the help and guidance of the Holy Spirit who shall teach us all things (John 14:26). In the text before us, God gave Moses instruction concerning offerings which were to be offered up to Him by both the priests and the children of Israel. This instruction spells out that which is acceptable and that which is not acceptable to God.
In verses 18-21, four offerings are listed: offerings to satisfy vows, freewill offerings, burnt offerings, and peace offerings. A burnt offering is an integral part of votive (pertaining to vows), freewill, and peace offerings. When presenting a burnt offering, the sacrifice is totally burned upon the alter such that the smoke ascends as a sweet savor to God above. In both the votive and freewill offerings, the burnt offering is totally consumed. The difference between a votive and freewill offering is the motive which prompts the offering. A votive offering is the promised response to the fulfillment of a prayer. A freewill offering is given in anticipation of the fulfillment of a prayer request.
Verse 21 addresses a different kind of offering. The peace offering involves both a burnt offering that is totally consumed upon the alter and an offering that is consumed by the priests and by the giver of the offering. An animal sacrificed for a peace offering is divided. The fat and two kidneys are offered as a burnt offering to the Lord. The flesh of the sacrifice is divided between the priests and the offering giver. The breast and right thigh are consumed by the priests and the remainder by the giver (Lev. 7:31, 32). Leviticus 7:34 makes it clear that the priests’ portion is given to them by the Lord. The entire sacrifice is offered to the Lord. The returning of a portion to the giver which is to be eaten by the giver signifies peace between God and the giver.
In verse 19, God specifies that the animal to be sacrificed, either a votive offering or a freewill offering, may be a bovine (beeves), a sheep or a goat. The animal must be a male without blemish. An animal that is blemished in any way is not acceptable. That which is presented to God must be perfect because God is perfect. Anything less than perfect is not acceptable. A perfect animal is required for both offerings — offerings given because of vows and offerings given in anticipation of fulfilled requests. The acceptable offering is totally consumed upon the alter from where it ascends to God.
God’s chosen people (the children of Israel) are required to present the same acceptable offering both for that which God has done and for that which God shall do. The same offering is required for both past fulfillment and future fulfillment. God is eternal. He is the great I AM. The same sacrifice is sufficient for both the past and the future.
New Testament believers know that God the Father has provided the perfect sacrifice for us. Jesus was and is without sin. He died upon the cross and ascended to the Father. His sacrifice is sufficient payment of both our past and future failings. It is by the Comforter that we know these things.
The peace offering involves three parties: God, the priests, and the giver. The same sacrifice is consumed by all three parties. The peace offering was to be consumed in the same day that it was given (Lev. 7:15). It is given for the present.
Note that the peace offering can also be given in recognition of that which God has done (votive — the past) and given in anticipation of that which God shall do (freewill — the future) [see v. 21]. It is by way of the peace offering that God’s people enjoy their relationship with Him.
We, as New Testament believers, know that the same sacrifice which satisfied our past and future debts also is the Father’s provision by which we may enjoy a privileged relationship with Him. Jesus is our peace offering.
Verse 23 would seem to be a contradiction in offering requirement of that stated in verse 20. It is not. The offering that satisfies past and future sin debt is the sacrifice without blemish. The peace offering is for the present, both the present today and the present of every tomorrow which shall come. The freewill peace offering is to be offered in future present days.
New Testament believers are of these future days. We are called to present our peace offering which is our bodies, holy and acceptable, to God as a living sacrifice as our reasonable service (Rom. 12:1). Our peace offering is not perfect —we have yet to receive a body like unto His (I Cor. 15:52).
New Testament believers of today are called to testify of His perfection. Let us be about our Father’s business. Let us do that which is acceptable.