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120,000 SHEEP
by Philip Owen

          PETA would have had a cow! Economists would have harrumphed. Conservatives would have shaken their heads. Even we might have questioned such slaughter. Solomon had completed the building of the temple. As part of the dedication ceremony we read that “the king and all Israel with him offered sacrifice before the Lord. Solomon offered for the sacrifice of peace offerings, which he offered to the Lord, 22,000 oxen and 120,000 sheep. So the king and all the sons of Israel dedicated the house of the Lord” (I Ki. 8:62, 63). Even if we were to remove a couple zeroes from each figure, the number would be staggering, but 22,000 oxen and 120,000 sheep sacrificed on one occasion? Almost unimaginable—unless we get our hearts and minds right.

            The peace offering ordained by God for Israel was so called because it spoke of the peace with God that He bestowed on His people through His abundant mercy. Of course, we learn from Hebrews that the blood of bulls and of goats could never take away sin, and so there was no ultimate peace until Christ’s vicarious death by which He paid the penalty for our sins and satisfied the Father’s justice. Paul explained this in his epistle to the church at Ephesus: “But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off [i.e., Gentiles] have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace” (2:13, 14a). As such, then, the peace offering foreshadowed Christ’s propitiatory sacrifice.

            The peace offering was made for any of three reasons: in thanksgiving for God’s blessings, in fulfillment of a vow to God, or as a freewill offering. It would appear that Solomon’s offering might have involved the first and last of those reasons. Solomon’s heart overflowed with thankfulness and rejoicing that God had given Israel a temple, had permitted Solomon to construct it, and had thus demonstrated infinite favor toward His people by giving them a physical location in which God could and would manifest His presence among them.

            God had not commanded such an offering on this occasion; it was prompted by what Solomon recognized as the inestimable favor of a God of inexpressible glory and goodness. Like his father David before him, Solomon would not offer to such a worthy God something that cost him nothing. The result? The deaths of thousands of innocent animals and an ocean of blood (a faint and very imperfect prefiguring of the priceless blood to be poured out by the Lamb of God a thousand years later).

            For the still squeamish, it should be noted that the flesh from these sacrifices belonged to the offeror and was intended to be eaten (in fact, had to be eaten within two days or else burned). In all likelihood then, the meat would have been distributed to “all Israel” (v. 62) who had gathered for the momentous occasion of the dedication of the temple.

            But now we come to the application of our text. Clearly, we no longer offer animal sacrifices, mere types of the one efficacious sacrifice that pleased God—the sacrifice of His Son. And the question is: what does Christ’s sacrifice mean to you? What is the value you place on God’s infinite grace toward you? Do Solomon’s actions seem lavish and extravagant? Or do you recognize how utterly insufficient those deaths were to express the mercy and love of God that He had freely bestowed on Solomon and the nation of Israel? In other words, are your praise and thankfulness, are your giving and service commensurate with the price that was paid to redeem your soul and of the infinite and eternal blessings God has poured out on those He has been pleased to redeem? Our hearts should mimic that of the woman who poured the alabaster box of ointment on the feet of the Lord. Some of the disciples grumbled that it could have been sold for three hundred denarii (one denarius equaled a day’s wages) and the proceeds given to the poor. But the Lord commended the woman. May we be lavish in giving all our praise, our stuff, our time, and our energy to the Lord. After all, all we have belongs to Him. How much do you value God and His inexpressible gift?

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