Summary: Leviticus 3 would seem an odd Christmas text, but there is much to be found about a little known Old Testament sacrifice that can help us understand more about what God would want from us in this season of Christmas.
OPEN: Joe had ordered an expensive suit for a banquet, and the tailor finished alterations just in time. But as Joe left the shop, a sudden rainstorm doused the jacket & shrank one of the sleeves.
"We can’t do anything about it today," the tailor told Joe when he returned to the shop. "Just stretch the sleeve over your hand, and no one will notice."
With his arm contorted, Joe left the shop, and again was doused by rain. This time, a pant leg shrank.
"I can’t take care of that now!" exclaimed the tailor. "Pull the bottom of pants over your heel, and nobody will notice."
His body twisted, Joe again left the shop. Two women were passing by.
"That poor man!" said on. "I wonder what’s wrong with him?"
"I don’t know," said the other. "But he sure is wearing a nice suit!"
APPLY: When dealing with Christmas, many people love the tinsel and bright lights - it looks so nice and appealing, but at the same time, many sense that something is wrong. Something just doesn’t quite fit.
It’s not only that the whole season is commercialized beyond imagination so much so that stores across the nation begin decorating for Christmas long before Thanksgiving. There is a vast amount of crass commercialism that accompanies this holiday.
But, even beyond that, one observer has noted that the holiday season has a surprising dark side:
… in December - murder and robbery in the United States reaches its highest peak.
… the Christmas season ranks just under Memorial weekend in the number of car wrecks on the highway.
…the suicide rate will begin its annual climb during this month, until it peaks out at what some call the "big downer" New Years Eve.
He concluded: “This is the reality of Christmas. No tinsel, no glitter--just harsh reality.”
Why? Why has Christmas lost so much of glitter? I believe it’s because many have lost the focus of what the gift giving of the season is all about. So, what we’re going to do over the next few weeks is to understand God’s attitude toward gift giving. We’re going to look at the ultimate gifts – the gifts of sacrifice in the Bible.
I. A little bit of background:
Sacrifices were a daily part of life in the Old Testament. It probably wouldn’t have been unusual to see long lines of worshippers standing outside Tabernacle (every day but Sabbath) with their various offerings to give God
Leviticus starts out telling us about 5 of the most important of these sacrifices. The one we’re going to look at today was called the Peace or Fellowship Offering. This was unique sacrifice for at least 3 reasons:
– it was not required… it was voluntary
– it was THE ONLY one of 5 major sacrifices that the offerer got to share.
– AND It was the only sacrifice that focused on celebration
The other 4 sacrifices were solemn affairs, but the fellowship sacrifice was God’s invitation to party. Not only did you sit down to eat a grand meal with your family. You usually had so much you invited all your friends in to share in the sacrificial food.
And, THEN, the whole celebration was marked by the blowing of 2 special trumpets the Priests kept at the Temple. (Num. 10:10)
II. There are those who complain that Christmas has gotten too commercialized and gaudy. Too much focus on celebration and not enough on Christ
And they’re partly right. But God has nothing against fun and festivals, it’s just that God’s way of celebrating is subtly different than that of the world. The fellowship Offering is an excellent example of this.
ILLUS: The Jews were not the only people to perform Fellowship sacrifices (Even the pagans did them) but the Israelites had a specific command that made their sacrifices different:
“ Any Israelite who sacrifices an ox, a lamb or a goat in the camp or outside of it instead of bringing it to the entrance to the Tent of Meeting to present it as an offering to the LORD in front of the tabernacle of the LORD— that man shall be considered guilty of bloodshed; he has shed blood and must be cut off from his people. This is so the Israelites will bring to the LORD the sacrifices they are now making in the open fields. They must bring them to the priest, that is, to the LORD, at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting and sacrifice them as fellowship offerings.” (Lev. 17:3-6)
In other words, unlike the Pagans (who could make sacrifices just about anywhere) the Israelites, had to bring their offerings to the Temple.
What God was saying was – YOU ARE my people. If you’re going to celebrate, include ME. Make Me part of the fun. Invite me to the party.