“We live in a changing world, but we need to be reminded that the important things have not changed, and the important things will not change if we keep our priorities in proper order.” – S. Truett Cathy
People eat some weird things. After I graduated high school, I had opportunity to travel to Tanzania. My flights got all messed up on the way there, and I ended up spending an unplanned night in Zurich, Switzerland. The hotel had a buffet that was offered to me for supper, and I was excited to try some new foods. One of these new foods was escargot (snails). I might have been served a bad batch, but they were pretty nasty, and I decided escargot was not for me! I am always up to trying something new, and have been able to try some interesting and unique foods in my life.
Some cultures eat spiders, scorpions, puffer fish, dogs, horses, camels, and more! It can leave some pondering, is it okay to eat this? Many have pointed to the dietary laws of the book of Leviticus as proof that certain foods can/cannot be eaten. But, what was God’s intention in providing the dietary laws? Why did He give to Israel? What exactly were their intentions?
I don’t mean to beat this point into the ground, but we MUST remember that Leviticus was given to God’s people to show them how to be set apart, sanctified, holy, unto God. This purpose is even restated in the giving of these dietary laws in Leviticus 11:45 – “For I am the LORD that bringeth you up out of the land of Egypt, to be your God: ye shall therefore be holy, for I am holy.” This section (Leviticus 11-15) will designated holy vs. unholy, clean vs. unclean. God was very interested in His people be HOLY. Before we look at the relevance or irrelevance of the dietary laws, let’s take a look at the animals on the list.
Three distinct groups or divisions are made in the dietary law: land, water, sky. Land animals are found in vs. 1-8. Clean animals would include large animals that had both a divided hoof and chew their cud. The smaller animals are mentioned in Vs. 29-30. Water animals are found in vs. 9-12. Clean animals would have fins and scales (sorry catfish lovers). Sky animals are found in vs. 13-23. Unclean birds are specifically named, and most believe they were unclean because they ate carrion (dead or decaying flesh). Vs. 24-43 give additional rules for swarming creatures, and those animals that die naturally.
Why are some animals clean and some unclean, and what in the world does it have to do with us today? There are five major schools of thought on the reason or purpose for the dietary laws:
“Through this system of symbolic laws the Israelites were reminded at every meal of their redemption to be God’s people. Their diet was limited to certain meats in imitation of their God, who had restricted his choice among the nations to Israel. It served, too, to bring to mind Israel’s responsibilities to be a holy nation. As they distinguished between clean and unclean foods, they were reminded that holiness was more than a matter of meat and drink but a way of life characterized by purity and integrity.” – Gordon J. Wenham
Today, we are not bound by the dietary laws. Acts 10, God tells Peter to kill and eat. Ephesians 2:14-15 reveals that there is no distinction between Jew and Gentile. See God commanded the Israelites to refrain from eating animals designated unclean because, as a holy God, He expected His people to be holy. For us today the truth remains, Be ye holy, for I am holy.
I am grateful that I can eat lots of interesting and unique foods today. But I am also thankful for the great reminder in the book of Leviticus that I ought to be distinctly Christian, set apart to God, and holy. I hope today you will choose to live holy before the Lord. Just as Israel was reminded at every meal that they were to be distinct; I trust you will be reminded throughout the day today that God wants you, His child, to be holy.
Daily Scripture Reading
Leviticus 11 - 13
(Follow this Scripture Reading Plan to accompany this devotion and read through your Bible in a year)
“For I am the LORD that bringeth you up out of the land of Egypt, to be your God: ye shall therefore be holy, for I am holy.”