LEVITICUS 3: THANKSGIVING IS THE FIRST MOVE OF WORSHIP
“‘If your offering is a fellowship offering, and you offer an animal from the herd, whether male or female, you are to present before the Lord an animal without defect. You are to lay your hand on the head of your offering and slaughter it at the entrance to the tent of meeting. Then Aaron’s sons the priests shall splash the blood against the sides of the altar. From the fellowship offering you are to bring a food offering to the Lord: the internal organs and all the fat that is connected to them, both kidneys with the fat on them near the loins, and the long lobe of the liver, which you will remove with the kidneys. Then Aaron’s sons are to burn it on the altar on top of the burnt offering that is lying on the burning wood; it is a food offering, an aroma pleasing to the Lord. (Leviticus 3:1-5)
For Israel, thanksgiving for what God has done is one of their first moves in worship. The Well Being Offering, also called in some translations, “Fellowship Offering,” is for the purpose of thanking God for wealth and prosperity, and with that comes the desire to share food with family and friends. So when an Israelite wanted to slaughter an animal, he dedicated it to the Lord in a well-being offering and gave to the Lord a memorial portion.
The Lord speaks of three examples of this well-being offering: cattle, sheep, and goats. The process is the same with each but the ritual is powerful. As with the burnt offering, they are to bring animals without blemish or defect, a reflection on God’s image of perfection and his creation and his desire for his people to offer up their very best to him.
Israelites are instructed to offer their best animal, lay their hands on its head, the priests will slaughter it at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting, dash blood on the sides of the altar, remove the entrails, kidneys, and fat portions around the loins and liver, add wood to the altar, and burn the fat portions on the altar to the Lord—they “turned them into smoke.”
Fat and blood are not to be eaten, and this is made explicit as a long-term ordinance “throughout your generations, in all your settlements”—a common refrain—“all the fat is the Lord’s” and do not eat blood: “This is a lasting ordinance for the generations to come, wherever you live: you must not eat any fat or any blood” (3:17). This, perhaps, is why so few cultures in the world today eat blood. It has become repulsive to us because it was set apart by God as something we were not to consume, because it separates life and death.
Thank you for establishing the sacrificial system to purge and cleanse sin and then enact the festivals and sacrifices in order for the community to enjoy the presence of the Lord in feasting and community fellowship.
Greg Taylor preaches for The Journey. Greg's wife, Jill, teaches math at Broken Arrow High School and Tulsa Community College. Greg and Jill have three adult children, Ashley, Anna, and Jacob. Greg is the author of many books, including his latest co-authored with Randy Harris, Daring Faith: Meeting Jesus in the Book of John.