Given the complex legislation and rituals found in the Mosaic law, it can be easy to assume there was no room for spontaneous praise under the old covenant. This would be a false assumption, however, because God has always been delighted to receive special offerings from those whose hearts have been set apart to serve Him (Deut. 10:12–22). When worshipers under the old covenant wanted to present a special offering before the Lord that was not part of those rituals for propitiation, dedication, or expiation that everyone had to offer (Lev. 1–2; 4), a peace offering was brought to the sanctuary out of the overflow of the worshiper’s heart.
Today’s passage describes what was involved in the peace offering, which could be given any time people wanted to celebrate the peace they enjoyed with God. The peace offering was given under three circumstances — for thanksgiving, upon the payment of a vow, or as a free expression of the worshiper’s goodwill (7:11–18). Freewill offerings were given in response to God’s unexpected or unsought generosity. A vow offering was brought to celebrate an answer to prayer after a person vowed to praise the Lord if He answered the worshiper’s prayer. The peace offering for thanksgiving is probably better translated as a “confession” or “praise” offering that was given when someone was in dire need of deliverance. All of these peace offerings are seen in Scripture. Hannah’s lavish offering when she dedicated Samuel to the Lord is an example of a peace offering given to commemorate the payment of a vow (1 Sam. 1:21–28). Psalm 22:22–31 was probably part of the liturgy that could be sung when peace offerings for deliverance or freewill peace offerings were given.
The peace offering was the only sacrifice worshipers could eat. Only part of the animal and cereal was offered up, and the rest was left for the person bringing the offering and anyone else in the vicinity of the sanctuary to consume (Lev. 7:11–18). Being at peace with God is a special occasion indeed and worthy of celebration with a great feast. For many Israelites, this may have been the only time they ever ate meat. Moreover, strict cleanliness laws had to be followed regarding the eating of the sacrifice (vv. 19–21). Though at peace with the worshiper, our Creator remained holy and could still not tolerate any impurity in His presence.