Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Zevachim Shelamim - - He is our Peace (Sacrifices 3)

A couple of weekends ago my extended family had a wedding. What a privilege it was to attend, to celebrate with family via the ceremony and the wedding supper afterwards!  It has been common in families for generations to commemorate a marriage with a celebratory meal. Have you ever thought about why? One of the most universal conventions of humankind has been to commemorate with a shared meal, around a table, the sealing of a bond. In addition to wedding suppers, think presidential "state dinners". 

Ponder with me about altars. In the Christian church service, what takes place there? And....why THERE? Marriage, baby dedication, communion ritual, people announce their decision to follow Christ, people gather to pray, ordination of church leaders, to name a few. 

 One of my favorite, recently-discovered vocal artists is Steffany Gretzinger, who has a song, "Remember", in which she sings "You took the altar, and made it a table." From ancient times the altar has been considered a touch point between heaven and earth, a gate, a mystical portal between this earthly realm and the heavenly. In the Jewish sacrificial system, anything that touched the altar became ritually set apart, consecrated to God, and entered His presence. The whole of the sacrifices were celebratory, covenantal feasts. 

Remember, although animals were sacrificed on the altar, the korbanot were about life, not about death. The blood of the animal represented life, and was a vehicle to enable mortal man to draw near to God. The Hebrew word "zevach" means, in a general sense, a "feast of meat". In the parallel context with the korbanot, sacrifices, it means a "covenantal feast".  God, the Holy One of Israel, is the covenantal partner with the Jewish people (and later with all who believe on His Son). As the Jews would continually re-dedicate themselves to God, they would bring zevachim to the covenantal center, the Temple, for a covenantal feast, a feast to celebrate the rejuvenation of their bond with Him. 

The Hebrew word for "altar" is "mizbayach", which means "the place the zevach is brought". If the only purpose for the altar were atonement (as most Christians understand), you would think the word would be "makhaper", "place of atonement". The very name "mizbayach" in Hebrew represents the fullness of this touch point between God and man. 
Today, we are focusing on the zevachim shelamim (shared sacrifices of peace). See Leviticus 7:11-21. Shelamim (sh'lamim) is a plural word from the root "shalom". Even most Protestants know what the word "shalom" means. It is a customary Jewish greeting, meaning "peace". When Jesus greeted His disciples after his resurrection He said "shalom" - - "Peace be unto you". The shelamim are peace offerings, offered to express thanks or gratitude to God for his bounties and mercies, for His deliverance, or to mark the fulfillment of a vow.

Remember how the first korban we studied was completely burnt up? Well, this one is different. With the shelamim, part of the animal (the "choice fats) was burnt on the altar. Some of it (the brisket) was given to the priests for their use. The rest was shared - - eaten by the one making the offering and his family/friends, as a celebratory meal. Shelamim were the only category of sacrifice eaten by the one who offered it. The shelamim offering was a voluntary offering. It was also the only one of the five categories of sacrifices NOT commanded by God. (After all...are thanksgiving and gratitude true, if commanded?) Shelamim were never mentioned in Scripture in conjunction with transgression, expiation or atonement. 

I neglected to mention this in the post "The Approach". Well, actually, I had not learned it yet. So, I will mention it here. Did you know that loaves of bread and wine were presented at the offering of every Temple sacrifice?! (See Numbers 15:1-14 and Numbers 6:14-15) Think about the implications of that...."You took the altar, and made it a table.

Examples of shelamim we see in Scripture: 
1 Kings 19:21  Elisha prepared 12 oxen as a feast for the local people 
1 Samuel 28:24  The woman of Ein Dor prepared a "veal meal" for King Saul. 
Genesis 31:44   Joseph and Laban shared a covenantal meal. 
1 Samuel 11:15  Saul and his men 
1 Samuel 1:21-28 Hannah brought a peace offering as she fulfilled her vow to consecrate Samuel to God
Exodus 12:7-8  And...Passover.  

Now, when evangelical Christians think of the Passover sacrifice/meal, we think strictly of atonement, don't we?
However, although Jesus died, was buried and was resurrected during the Passover season, thereby securing our salvation, Passover was a type of peace offering.  How is this so?  The meat of the slaughtered animal was eaten by the family, and bitter herbs and unleavened bread were also eaten.  Did Jesus Christ become full atonement for us?  Yes, He did.  He also fulfilled the peace offering, by eternally making peace with God on our behalf.
{In the following passage, the ( ) words are mine, as are the underlined passages.}

But now, you (Gentiles) who were once far off have ben brought near 
through the shedding of the Messiah's blood.
For He Himself is our shalom - - 
He has made us both one and has broken down the m'chitzah (dividing wall)
which divided us
by destroying in His own body the enmity occasioned by the Torah (Law)
with its commands set forth in the form of ordinances.
He did this in order to create a union with Himself
from the two groups in a single, new humanity
and thus make shalom (peace),
and, in order to reconcile to God both (Jewish believers and Gentile believers) in a single body 
by being executed on a stake as a criminal
and thus in Himself killing that enmity.
Ephesians 2:13-16 (CJB)

"Nothing can separate what you bring together.  Now and forever, I will remember . . . "
                   "Remember", by Steffany Gretzinger  https://youtu.be/1azGmqJN7ok


"Making Sense of Sacrifices, Part 2", by Dr. Jennifer Scrivner, Beth HaShomer Ministries

Monday, August 17, 2020