The whole burnt offerings of Leviticus one are the basic offerings of the ceremonial law. God required them daily, morning and evening (Exodus 29:38-42, Numbers 28:1-8), and doubled on the Sabbath (Numbers 28:9-10). These whole burnt offerings directed attention to the work of Christ, His giving Himself as a propitiation for the sins of His people (Leviticus 1:4, 1 John 2:2 and 4:10). The grain offerings accompanied and were given on the basis of the whole burnt offerings (Leviticus 2).
The next offerings Moses outlines in Leviticus are Peace offerings (Leviticus 3). These too are blood offerings. After slaying the animal, the fat parts and volatile internal organs, such as the kidneys and liver, were put on the altar. Leviticus 3:5 indicates a particular procedure. “Then Aaron’s sons shall offer it up in smoke on the altar on the burnt offering, which is on the wood that is on the fire; it is an offering by fire of a soothing aroma to the LORD.”
The priests placed the peace offering on the burnt offering which was on the wood on the altar. Catch the significance. The basis and foundation for peace with God is the prior atonement or propitiation of Christ. The apostle Paul captures this image in Romans 5:1, “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
There were three types of peace offerings, the thanksgiving (Leviticus 7:12 and 15), votive, and freewill offerings (Leviticus 7:16). Worshipers brought votive offerings upon the fulfillment of a vow (Leviticus 22:21). Freewill offerings were special gifts and contributions (Exodus 36:3). In the thanksgiving offerings, worshipers gave special thanksgiving to the Lord (Leviticus 7:12). These three offerings gave opportunity to celebrate the peace with God men and women were actually experiencing.
Peace offerings were unique in that worshipers partook of the offerings. God reminded them, “It shall be eaten on the day of his offering” (Leviticus 7:15, 16; 19:6; 22:30). Peace offerings therefore included fellowship meals based upon the atoning work of the Savior portrayed in the whole burnt offering (Leviticus 3:5).
The counterpart is the communion table. The apostle Paul makes this connection with several rhetorical questions. “Is not the cup of blessing which we bless a sharing in the blood of Christ? Is not the bread which we break a sharing in the body of Christ? Since there is one bread, we who are many are one body; for we all partake of the one bread. Look at the nation Israel; are not those who eat the sacrifices sharers in the altar?” (1 Corinthians 10:16-18). When you come to the communion table and partake of the sacrifice of Christ by faith, you celebrate the peace you have with God and the forgiveness you have before God because of what Christ has done for you.
The New Testament more particularly connects us to the thanksgiving peace offerings. The words “sacrifice of thanksgiving” (Leviticus 7:12) translate to “sacrifice of praise” in both the Hebrew and Greek Old Testaments. The writer to the Hebrews picks up these very words in speaking of our praise to God. “Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name” (Hebrews 13:15). When you sing praise to God you are offering up your thanksgiving peace offerings.
In praise and in communion you therefore stand connected to ancient Israel. However, you are in a much better position. You do not have the shadow of the things to come. You have the substance. You have Christ.