Leviticus: The Wave: The Fellowship Offering

Sermon by J. Ligon Duncan on January 12, 2005

Leviticus 7:11-38

Wednesday Evening

January 12, 2005

Leviticus 7:11-38

“The Wave”

Dr. J. Ligon Duncan III

If you have your Bibles, I’d invite you to turn with me to
Leviticus, chapter 7. We began working through the Book of Leviticus last
summer, and our study has moved around to different places: in the autumn it was
on Sunday nights, and we were studying on Lord’s Day evenings through the first
few chapters of Leviticus; during December we took a break and looked at some of
the great songs of Christmas that focus upon the coming of our Lord into this
world for our redemption, and we looked at the biblical passages upon which they
were based, and focused on the doctrine of the incarnation and its manifold
applications to the Christian life, and attempted to come to a more rooted
understanding of just what these great songs of the faith are lifting up in
terms of praise and petition to God. So last Lord’s Day evening, as Derek
Thomas began his series on the Gospel of Mark, our Lord’s Day evening series on
Leviticus officially made its shift to Wednesday nights, and so for the rest of
the winter and for the spring on Wednesday evenings we’ll be working through the
Book of Leviticus together, Lord willing.

Now we’ve already said several times that the Book
of Leviticus, most of it, is God’s direct words to Moses. He commanded Moses on
the mountain as to how His people were to approach Him in worship, and that’s
why Easton of the famous Bible Dictionary can say that “no book contains
more of the very words of God than Leviticus.” All of the Bible is God’s word,
and all of the Bible is God’s words; but not all of the Bible is an actual
record of God’s spoken word to one of His servants. Oftentimes He works through
prophecy to bring us his word and words. Sometimes He works through
inspiration, whereby He causes holy men, directed by the Holy Spirit, to write
down His very words for us. But this book is a book which in large measure
comes from God’s direct words to Moses, then shared with the people of God in
the old covenant and with us today.

It is a book about worship. In fact, the first
sixteen chapters of Leviticus contain regulations about the various sacrifices,
what was to be done, how it was to be done, and some important hints as to why
it was to be done, and how it was to be done.

It contains a formal initiation of the priesthood.
The tabernacle had been described in Exodus, and some of the functions of the
priesthood had been described at the end of Exodus, but the priesthood had not
been formally inaugurated or initiated, and that’s described in the book of
Leviticus.

There’s a discussion in the Book of Leviticus about
the distinction between what is clean and unclean, and this has a tremendous
ethical significance for the people of God, as well as a tremendous worship
significance for the people of God.

The Book of Leviticus of course records the glorious
rituals of the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur, which has so much to say
about the Old Testament’s pre-understanding of the work of the Lord Jesus Christ
on the cross.

The last eleven chapters of book of Leviticus give
us the ceremonial holiness code, and so the book of Leviticus is about worship
and consecration, by and large. Now we’ve also said several times that the
first seven chapters of the book of Leviticus describe five great sacrifices
that were brought to the Lord by the people of God, and these sacrifices are not
the great communal sacrifices which were commanded to every Israelite to bring
at certain great seasons of the year; these sacrifices were the sacrifices that
the people of God though communally, individually chose of their own discretion
out of the welling over of their hearts in gratitude to God for His forgiveness,
for His blessing, for His provision. These five sacrifices were sacrifices that
were brought voluntarily, willingly, freely by the people of God at important
seasons in their life.

We have said that the book of Leviticus, chapters 1
through 7, describes those five great sacrifices from two perspectives. It
first describes them from the perspective of what the offered was to do. What
were the commands for the one who was making one of these five great free-will
sacrifices? What was he to do? And then from the perspective of the priest:
what was the priest’s responsibility and prerogative in the offering of these
sacrifices?

The last few times that we’ve been together, we’ve
been in Leviticus 6 and 7, and we’re already into that section that is focusing
on these sacrifices from the standpoint of the priest–what the priest’s
obligations and privileges were. Now as we say, these sacrifices, unlike the
great sacrifices of the appointed and required festivals, these sacrifices were
voluntarily brought. They were personal and they were spontaneous.

Now, how did these kinds of ritual sacrifices and
offerings work in Old Testament religion? Well, first of all, we have said that
these sacrifices are a means to aid the people of God’s experience of His
presence. The tabernacle was the focal point of the old covenant community’s
experience of God’s presence with them as a people, and these rituals were
designed to aid the experience of the people of God, of the presence of God.

Secondly, they were a means for the people of God to
render thanksgiving. How were you to show thanksgiving to the Lord, as He has
provided to His people? Well, through this system. This way the people of God
were to make public thanksgiving to Him.

It was also a means to express the desire for
renewed fellowship with God. There were sin or guilt offerings that were
prescribed amongst these great offerings, and if one had strayed from one’s own
fidelity to the Lord, if one had fallen into sin, if one sensed the
disapprobation of God and distance from Him, one way to express a desire for
renewed fellowship with the living God was to bring that sin offering and that
guilt offering and to come to the priests and confess yourself and make that
offering to the Lord as a token of your desire to experience a refreshing
presence of the Lord.

They were also a means to deepen the believer’s
petitions to God. If one were attempting to add weight to the petition that one
was lifting up to the Lord, one might come to the priest and to the tabernacle
with an offering along with that petition, as we see in the life of Hannah as
she prayed for the Lord to give her a son.

Now, these sacrifices functioned in various ways,
and so far we’ve covered all five of them.
We’ve covered the burnt
offering
, the so-called holocaust offering, where the whole of the offering
was consumed before the Lord. We covered the grain offering, which was a
pledge or a dedication of the person, of the worshipper, of the offerer to God.
We’ve covered the fellowship offering, or the sacrifice of peace in
chapter three, and that’s the offering that we’re going to start off with
tonight in Leviticus 7. We’ve covered the unintentional sin offering,
the offering that was prescribed when one realized that one had sinned against
the Lord. It wasn’t a deliberate, high-handed sin, but one has come to a
realization that one has sinned against the Lord and against His people, and so
one comes to the Lord with a sacrifice of repentance and of guilt, and for sin.

And we have studied the guilt, or reparation,
offering.
In fact, Derek Thomas led us through a study of that as we looked
at the passages in Leviticus 5 and 6 which speak of that glorious sacrifice.

Tonight we come to chapter 7, verse 11. And I want
to point out before we even begin that there are three parts to the passage that
we’re going to read tonight. Let me show you where they are.

The first part of the passage is in verses 11 to
21. This passage covers the peace, or fellowship offering. The second part of
the passage comes in verses 22 to 27. This covers what we might call the ‘law of
the blood’, or to be even more specific, the ‘law of the fat and the blood.’
And then thirdly, verses 28 to 38 cover the wave offering and the portion of the
sacrifices that were due the priests.

Now, we could spend a great deal of time working
through all of this material, but I want us to focus on three big-picture things
that are brought to our attention by God in His word through these three parts
of this great passage at the end of Leviticus 7. We come, by the way, at the end
of this chapter to the end of the study of these five great sacrifices, and we
move into a new portion of the book next Wednesday night, Lord willing, as we
begin to look at Leviticus 8.

But let’s read God’s word from Leviticus 7, and what
I’m going to do is read verses 11 through 21 first, pause so that they’re still
fresh in your mind as we work through them; then I’ll read the next section,
pause and expound that, and then I’ll read the next section and expound it. It’s
a long passage with a lot of detail, and by breaking it up perhaps it’ll be
fresher in our minds as we work through each of the respective and discrete
sections in Leviticus 7. Before we read God’s word, let’s pray and ask His
blessing as we prepare to study it.

Lord, this is Your word, Your very words. We
tremble, and the hair stands on the back of our neck when we realize that some
3400 years ago You spoke these words to a human being, and he heard You. And
then he turned around and he passed these words along to the people of God, and
ever since the people of God have recognized that this was Your voice speaking
to them. We pray that we would heed these words as Your voice for us, and that
by Your Spirit You would edify us by them. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Hear God’s word.

“‘Now this is the law of the sacrifice of peace
offerings which shall be presented to the Lord. If he offers it by way of
thanksgiving, then along with the sacrifice of thanksgiving he shall offer
unleavened cakes mixed with oil, and unleavened wafers spread with oil, and
cakes of well stirred fine flour mixed with oil. With the sacrifice of his
peace offerings for thanksgiving, he shall present his offering with cakes of
leavened bread. And of this he shall present one of every offering as a
contribution to the Lord; it shall belong to the priest who sprinkles the blood
of the peace offerings. Now as for the flesh of the sacrifice of his
thanksgiving peace offerings, it shall be eaten on the day of his offering; he
shall not leave any of it over until morning. But if the sacrifice of his
offering is a votive or a freewill offering, it shall be eaten on the day that
he offers his sacrifice; and on the next day what is left of it may be eaten;
but what is left over from the flesh of the sacrifice on the third day shall be
burned with fire. So if any of the flesh of the sacrifice of his peace
offerings should ever be eaten on the third day, he who offers it shall not be
accepted, and it shall not be reckoned to his benefit. It shall be an offensive
thing, and the person who eats of it shall bear his own iniquity. Also the
flesh that touches anything unclean shall not be eaten; it shall be burned with
fire. As for other flesh, anyone who is clean may eat such flesh. But the person
who eats the flesh of the sacrifice of peace offerings which belong to the Lord,
in his uncleanness, that person shall be cut off from his people. And when
anyone touches anything unclean, whether human uncleanness, or an unclean
animal, or any unclean detestable thing, and eats of the flesh of the sacrifice
of peace offerings which belong to the Lord, that person shall be cut off from
his people.’

Amen. And thus far the reading of God’s holy, inspired and
inerrant word.

Now, as I said, there are three distinct, there are
three discrete sections in the larger passage that we are going to read tonight
from Leviticus 7:11 all the way down to verse 38 at the end of the chapter.

I. The peace offering

And the first part is this description of the
celebration of the peace offering, or the fellowship offering; the celebration
of the worshiper’s, the offerer’s experience of peace with God. The
greatest joy that any believer in the Old Testament or the New, the greatest joy
that any believer can experience is the joy of the experience of peace and
fellowship with God. And this peace offering is the worshiper’s public
expression of his delight in God and his thanksgiving to God for his enjoyment
of peace with God. God ought to, if He counted his sins against him, condemn
him, and yet in His mercy He has forgiven him. And so this worshiper wants to
spontaneously and personally and freely and willingly express to God
thanksgiving for his enjoyment of God’s favor and blessing and peace and
fellowship, and so he brings this peace offering. And in the peace offering
those worshipers who are thankful for God’s peace towards them, God’s fellowship
with them, bring an offering and they participate in a meal. And that’s what’s
described for you in verses 11 through 21, and I just want you to see a few
things.

First of all, this offering serves to aid the Old
Testament worshiper who wanted to celebrate his joy of peace with God, but as
the Old Testament worshiper
wants to celebrate that joy of peace with God,
that Old Testament worshiper has to do so carefully in accordance with God’s
instruction. So the way that worshiper expresses his joy in peace is carefully
ordered according to the instruction of God’s word.

Now, though the ritual aspect of that principle is
gone in the new covenant…we have no complex, detailed levitical rituals
recorded for us in the New Testament…the principle remains the same: if you
are going to enjoy the presence of God and exult in His peace and favor and
fellowship, you must do that in accordance with God’s word. In the new covenant
of course that means we must come according to Jesus Christ. We must come by
Jesus Christ into His presence, dependent upon Jesus Christ and the grace held
out to us through Jesus Christ.

In the Old Testament, this worshiper brought an
offering that was cooked, and while it was cooking he turned and he declared to
the whole congregation that was gathered there in the tabernacle his praise of
God and his thanksgiving. He might stand before the people of God and testify
of how the Lord had been good to him. Many of the psalms might well come from
an experience where David was doing just that–he was coming before the Lord with
a peace offering, and he turns around to the congregation to testify to them of
why he’s bringing this peace offering to the Lord: ‘The Lord has been good to
me. The Lord has delivered me from all my enemies. I own the Lord as my shield
and my defender, my mighty tower, and I declare before the congregation that I
have not been delivered by my own might, my own power, but by the Lord.’ And so
the worshiper declares to the whole gathered congregation what the Lord has done
for him.

And then, in this peace offering, the whole
congregation there shares in the meal. The worshiper in this peace offering has
to bring more than for himself. You see, it is assumed that if he is truly
thankful for God’s mercies to him, and if he is truly enjoying fellowship with
God, he will have a spirit of generosity and concern for the people of God, and
he will bring more than enough for the people of God to participate in this
great communal meal.

And you know, I think that the principles of
Leviticus 7 are probably in Paul’s mind in First Corinthians 11 when he’s
talking to the Corinthians who are thinking about no one but themselves. In the
display of all their extraordinary spiritual gifts, they’re not thinking about
the body of Christ…that is, the church. They’re not thinking about their
brothers and sisters. They’re looking out for Number One. And the Apostle Paul
says, ‘You come to the Lord’s table like that, and let me tell you what’s going
to happen. You’re going to die.’ Does that sound familiar? “He who touches
the unclean thing shall be cut off.” And here’s Paul in First Corinthians 11
saying, ‘Friends, if you come to the table of communion with the Lord Jesus
Christ and His people, and you don’t love His people, you don’t love the
communion of the saints, you don’t love the fellowship of God’s people, the Lord
will bring curse and condemnation to that, because the celebration of communion
is not only celebration of our union and communion with our exalted Head, it’s a
celebration of union and communion with all those who are united in communing
with the Lord Jesus Christ: all His people, all His children, all who trust in
Him.’ And so the Apostle Paul draws from the principles of Leviticus 7, even as
he expounds to us how we’re to come to the Lord’s table in First Corinthians 11.

Notice also the last three verses–19, 20, and 21
of this section–so stressing ritual purity as absolutely essential for
participating in this offering and meal.
And that ritual purity of course
is reflective of the ethical demands of fellowship with God. You can’t come to
the Lord and say, ‘Lord, I’m enjoying Your peace and Your presence,’ when you
are living a life in rebellion against Him. He’s exposing that hypocrisy, and
he’s saying the Lord will judge that kind of hypocrisy. You can outwardly claim
to be enjoying peace with God and be living in fact against the rule of His
word. God will expose that hypocrisy and judgment.

You see, the point of this passage is that those who
have truly experienced peace with God by His grace, and who want to celebrate it
and thank Him, will willingly do so at personal expense with generosity in their
hearts towards their brethren, and the corresponding uprightness of their moral
life. There is much to be learned in this passage, but we hasten on, for time is
flying.

II. The law of fat and blood.

Look at verses 22 to 27. Let’s hear God’s word.

“Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Speak to the sons of Israel,
saying, ‘You shall not eat any fat from an ox, a sheep, or a goat. Also the fat
of any animal which dies, and the fat of an animal torn by bests, may be put to
any other use, but you must certainly not eat it. For whoever eats the fat of
the animal from which an offering by fire is offered to the Lord, even the
person who eats shall be cut off from his people. And you are not to eat any
blood, either of bird of animal, in any of your dwellings. Any person who eats
any blood, even that person shall be cut off from his people.’”

We see from this passage–and this is the
second part of the passage: the law of the fat and the blood–that the fat
belongs to the Lord and the blood belongs to the Lord
. Well, what
does that mean? Why? Well, in the Old Testament sacrificial
worship, the fat and the blood belong to the Lord because the fat symbolizes
the best
…now I know that’s not logical to you! When you go to Char
or to Shapley’s you’re not going there to eat the fat of those juicy
steaks. Now, some of you may like a little bit of it with your meat, but
that’s not the part that you want the most. But in the mind of the Hebrew the
fat–which included more than what we call the fat, it also included other parts
of the animal–in the mind of the Hebrew that was the choicest part of the
animal, it was the best of the animal. And by reserving that for Himself in
these animals which are offered for sacrifice, even when other parts of that
animal were going to be shared with the people of God or for the priests…by
reserving the fat God was indicating that the best belonged to Him.
And
by forbidding the taking of blood He was indicating that blood, as a symbol of
life and as a symbol of the means by which God gives life, that life belongs to
God
.

So in Old Testament sacrificial worship the fat
and the blood belonged to God because the best belongs to God, and life itself
belongs to God
. Now, this is a statement that has been made before in
Leviticus, chapters 1 to 7. It’s a reiteration of God’s prohibition against
eating the fat or the blood of sacrificed animals, and the point is simply this:
those who love the Lord will gladly give Him their best, and they will
acknowledge that all life is from Him. You see, real faith freely gives its
best to God, and owns God as the Lord of life.

Can you imagine a young Hebrew lad going with his
father on the way to give the peace offering, and he’s saying, ‘But Father, why
do we have to give the fat to the Lord? Do you realize how much we could make in
market off of that?’ And his father says, ‘Son, let me tell you a story about a
man named Abraham. And the Lord came to him and said, ‘Abraham, take your son,
your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the mountain which I will show
you and sacrifice him to Me there.’ My son, the Lord had required of Abraham the
thing that he loved best. Should we not give of the best we have to the Lord?’

This reservation of the fat and the blood was a
reservation of the best and of life itself for the Lord, and the Old Testament
worshiper acknowledged that in bringing it to Him, and it’s reiterated here in
verses 22 to 27.

III. The wave offering

But finally, look at verses 28 to 38. Hear God’s
word.

“Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Speak to the sons of Israel,
saying, ‘He who offers the sacrifice of his peace offerings to the Lord shall
bring his offering to the Lord from the sacrifice of his peace offerings. His
own hands are to bring offerings by fire to the Lord. He shall bring the fat
with the breast, that the breast may be presented as a wave offering before the
Lord. And the priest shall offer up the fat in smoke on the altar; but the
breast shall belong to Aaron and his sons. And you shall give the right thigh
to the priest as a contribution from the sacrifices of your peace offerings. The
one among the sons of Aaron who offers the blood of the peace offerings and the
fat, the right thigh shall be his as his portion. For I have taken the breast
of the wave offering and the thigh of the contribution from the sons of Israel
from the sacrifices of their peace offerings, and have given them to Aaron the
priest and to his sons as their due forever from the sons of Israel.

“‘This is that which is consecrated to Aaron and that which is
consecrated to his sons from the offerings by fire to the Lord, in that day when
he presented them to serve as priests to the Lord. These the Lord had commanded
to be given them from the sons of Israel in the day that He anointed them. It is
their due forever throughout their generations.’ This is the law of the burnt
offering, the grain offering, and the sin offering and the guilt offering and
the ordination offering and the sacrifice of peace offerings, which the Lord
commanded Moses at Mount Sinai in the day that He commanded the sons of Israel
to present their offerings to the Lord in the wilderness of Sinai.”

And you see there in that particular requirement
that part of the offering, the fat, that belonged to the Lord, and so it was to
be completely consumed on the altar. But the thigh and the breast, that part of
the peace offering was to be given to the priest. And in signification of this
the priest would lift it up and perhaps show it to the people, thus, maybe, the
name ‘wave offering.’ It was held up to show that this was being given to the
Lord in the offering, but that the priest had the right to partake of it in
accordance with God’s command.

And the principle there is that even as the
people give directly to the Lord themselves, they are providing generously for
the ministry of the word.
God’s people are to give publicly and directly to
the Lord, but a very good portion, that wave portion of their peace offering, is
to be provided to the priests for their care and upkeep, for the support of
ministry. So even as the people of God bring this free will, this votive
offering to the Lord, even in giving to the Lord they were giving to the support
of ministry. The principle is one that Paul draws on in First Corinthians, that
servants of the Lord and His word are to live by the service of the word, and
God’s people are to be willing and generous in their support of them.

I have no exhortations to give you in that end: I’m
cared for you better than I deserve to be cared for, but maybe I can go to some
other church sometime and preach this for some ministers that aren’t being so
well taken care of! God’s principle is that these ministers are to be well
cared for, and they’re given a very choice part of this sacrifice.

There is so much more to study in God’s word. It is
rich with truth. As we think about peace offerings, and as we think about the
law of the blood, and as we think about the wave offerings, let us think of the
principles, the enduring principles of worship, and let us think of the Lord
Jesus Christ, who fulfills all of these things.

Let us pray.

Our Lord God, we thank You for Your word, Your
truth. We love the blessing of communion with You in Your ordinances, Your means
of grace, Lord’s Day after Lord’s Day as we gather under Your word and
sacrament, and with Your people to lift up our voices in prayer and praise, and
to hear from You and to meet with You and to enjoy the fellowship of Your
presence. We pray that this would be the delight of our hearts and lives, and
that it would transform them accordingly, by Your Spirit. We ask these things
in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Would you stand for God’s blessing?

Grace, mercy, and peace to you, through Jesus
Christ, our Lord. Amen.

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