Description / Transcription
Our Father in heaven, the words that we have sung are indeed our prayer. Where else can we go, Lord, where else can we go? You have the words of eternal life. So, Christ, we pray that You would reveal Your glory through the preaching of Your Word until every heart confesses Christ is Lord. In His name. Amen.
We come this morning to the beginning of a new section in Leviticus. Turn in your Bibles there. The third book in the Bible, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus. We come to Leviticus chapter 11. Chapters 1 through 7 deal with the sacrificial system, the series of five offerings. First how the worshiper would bring the offering and then the priestly responsibilities. Chapters 8, 9, and 10 deal then with the ordination and inauguration of that priesthood. Then in chapter 10 what happens when they go off script and deviate from the Lord’s instructions.
In fact, if you have Leviticus open, you see in Leviticus 10:10 Aaron is told you are to distinguish between the holy and the common and between the unclean and the clean. That’s what this next section of chapters is about, how the priests in particular, but also the people, were to distinguish between the unclean and the clean.
Let’s just be honest about what we’re coming to this week chapter 11 and then the plan is to do chapters 12, 13, 14, 15, a whole big chunk of them, next week. Good Palm Sunday text. But that will allow us to get to the Day of Atonement for Easter.
Here’s what one commentator says about this next section. “Chapters 11 to 15 in Leviticus are perhaps the least attractive in the whole Bible. To the modern reader there is much in them that is meaningless and repulsive.”
I hope that after this Sunday and next Sunday you will disagree with that sentiment, but certainly it is true on the face of it, even in a book that has many things that seem strange and repulsive, these chapters seem most strange and repulsive, and right now if any of you invited a friend here, you’re just, oh, stick with me. There’s lessons to learn here.
Chapter 11 through 15. You can think of it roughly as alternating between things that go in the body and out of the body that make you unclean. So chapter 11, what comes into your body by way of food, clean or clean. Chapter 12, what comes out of a woman’s body after childbirth, rendering her unclean. Chapter 13 and 14, what is on the body, diseases of the skin, clothes, or what comes in contact with the body or a house. Then chapter 15, so in, out, on, out, chapter 15, what comes out of the body by way of discharges.
This whole business of clean and unclean seems very foreign to most of us in the West, in America. But just think about it for a moment and it’s not that strange. There are all sorts of examples in every culture of things that don’t necessarily have any particular safety or hygiene reason and yet they’re just considered “don’t do that, do that.” So in some of your houses or in some different cultures, you’re supposed to take off your shoes when you come into the house, to walk around the house with your shoes on would be considered very rude and in other people’s homes it doesn’t matter.
What about, and forgive me for the gross illustration, but the kids her will appreciate it, what about picking your nose? Don’t do it right now. Picking your nose. It’s not sinful, it’s really not, but it’s gross. You see somebody doing it, and you think, that’s gross. That’s not… But why? You could even, you know, to pick at your ear, not terrible, but I won’t do it, but at your nose, it’s just unclean. In some cultures, if you were to wear the same clothes every day, of course, some places they don’t have the option of wearing different clothes every day, in some cultures it’s quite normal that you might have what we would call body odor, in other cultures very unclean, it’s considered.
What about the fact that when you brush your teeth, they put, the manufacturer puts some sort of minty flavor in there. It doesn’t do anything to make your teeth any cleaner or safer, but it feels good, doesn’t it? Just the mintiness, it feels clean.
And food. This whole chapter is about food. We have all sorts of examples of basically clean and unclean food laws. We don’t call them that, but what about the 5-second rule? When your food falls on the ground. Or more seriously, all the food has sell by dates, and it’s always a disagreement in my household, does that mean, well, we got it at the store before that, or it’s within a week of that, it’s poison to us, throw it out. There’s all sorts of federal guidelines about the intricate labels that must be there. Whole cities have banned Big Gulps or trans fats. There good cholesterol, bad cholesterol, MSG, GMO, non-GMO, organic, nonorganic, allergens are listed. So we pay very careful attention to our food.
And coming from another culture, there are things that people find strange. They might find it strange that we eat pigs. It was just helping me prepare for this sermon as the Trail Life BBQ was cooked. It was like living inside the New Testament repudiation of Leviticus 11. But many cultures, wow, you eat pigs? Or you often hear they’re surprised by just how much sugar. We love sugar in this country. But then you go to somewhere else, maybe in Britain, and you see a typical English breakfast and you wonder what in the world, baked beans? What good is going to come from that? You travel around, you realize that in some places it’s just unheard of that you would get tap water, even if it’s safe, it just…
I remember in some parts of Europe is would ask for just, no, I don’t want your fancy mineral water, I don’t need European water, just give me from the tap and I might as well have said I’ll just stick my head in the toilet bowl, what are you doing? And of course it came without any ice, because you want lukewarm tap water apparently in other places.
No. We all, every culture, every country, there are unwritten and increasingly written standards about what constitutes the right sort of food, the wrong sort of food.
So this is a strange chapter to us, and yet it’s really not that strange. Every culture has had these kinds of taboos.
Here’s how we’re going to approach chapter 11. I’m not going to read through the whole thing, but I want to approach it with three questions. What, why, and how.
So first, what is this chapter about? 2, why were these food laws put in place? And 3, how do they apply to the Christian today?
Here’s the first question – what is this chapter about?
Now go back to 10:10, which we already referenced once. This is very important and helps us understand the way in which the Levitical mind, the Old Testament world, operated. You are to distinguish between, and notice four categories, between the holy and the common, and between the unclean and the clean.
Now in the New Testament sometimes these become synonymous categories, but here in the Old Testament, these are different categories. The world of the Old Testament was divided between, so if you had a chart, you’d put on this chart, you’ve got two columns, holy and then common, or profane. That sounds really bad. We’ll just call it common. So you might think of in your own kitchen you have fine china, some of you, for a very special occasion, that’s holy. It’s set apart. You don’t use it all the time. Then you have your regular plastic or paper plates and these are for ordinary, common use.
So you have holy and common. So if you’re imagining these two columns, now I want you to think of this column called common and there’s also two columns under there, and that’s called unclean and clean. Within the realm of common there were these two further categories. You could be clean or unclean, or you might translate it as normal and abnormal, or pure and impure.
Now one of the really hard things for us is all of those designations sound like moral evaluations to us. They sound like good/bad, righteous/evil. But that’s not exactly what these categories, whether it’s clean/unclean, normal/abnormal, pure/impure. We’ll come back to that in a moment.
Holiness, so holy and common, holiness referred to the status of a person, place, or thing. The tabernacle was a holy place. There were holy things. Certain utensils, certain bowls, that were dedicated to the service of the tabernacle. There were holy people. Now in one sense, as we’ll see, the whole nation was a royal priesthood, a holy nation. So as a nation they were set apart from everyone else, and yet within that nation there were certain people who were holy; those were the priests. The rest were common. Doesn’t mean good and bad, it’s not a valuation, it’s a designation, a status. Holiness referred to the status of a person, place, or thing.
Clean or unclean referred to the condition. So status, condition. Referred to the condition of a person, or as we’ll see, of an animal or of a thing, and coming in contact with that animal or thing can then render you as a person clean or unclean. It can be confusing and we can misinterpret it because holiness can be a moral category, but to be common is not to be necessarily sinful. It’s not like the tabernacle was good and the rest of the world was evil, or the priests were good and the common people were not good.
Likewise, clean and unclean sound to us like a moral evaluation, and that’s the way the language is usually applied when we come to the New Testament. But here you need to understand to be ritually unclean is not automatically to be sinful. Now there were sinful things that rendered you unclean, but it is possible to be ritually unclean without being sinful.
So for example, the language in chapters 4 and 5, we don’t have time to go and look at it, but the language there frequently says the priest shall make atonement for him and he shall be forgiven. There we’re dealing with offenses against God, sins that need to be forgiven. But interestingly, in this section, chapter 12 verse 8, for example, it says the priest shall make atonement for her, it’s talking about a woman who gives birth, for her and she shall be clean. There was nothing sinful about giving birth. Aren’t we glad for that in our family, in your family. Nothing sinful about giving birth. So the woman was ritually unclean, and we’ll come to some explanations of what that may have been, but don’t hear in that she was bad, she was morally suspect. No, to give birth is a great blessing, but it rendered one ritually unclean.
The aim was to live as a holy nation, which meant adhering to rules about what made you clean and unclean.
Go to the end of chapter 11. Here’s the summary of what this chapter is about. Look at verse 44, end of the chapter 11, verse 44: “For I am the Lord your God. Consecrate,” so sanctify, set apart, “yourselves therefore and be holy for I am holy. You shall not defile yourselves with any swarming thing that crawls on the ground, for I am the Lord who brought you up out of the land of Egypt to be your God. You shall therefore be holy for I am holy.”
So this whole chapter is about how God’s people were to be holy. That is, as a nation they were to be set apart and one of the distinctive ways that they were set apart from the other nations is they had these food laws. These chapters, 11, 12, 13, 14,15, are moving toward the Day of Atonement in chapter 16 because that’s where we’re going to learn how does the nation deal with all of this accumulated uncleanness.
If you’ve ever found that your drain in your tub or in your sink, water is pooling up again and you put the Drano down and it doesn’t work and you’ve got to jam something. I’m really handy so I twist apart a wire hanger and jam that thing down and it’s gross what it pulls up. I think, what have we, who lives here? You have just accumulated sludge that’s preventing the proper water to drain.
The Day of Atonement is what do you do? Even with the best of our efforts, the people have been accumulating, for a whole year, just all of this uncleanness. What do we do with it? That’s Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. But we’re not there yet.
Here we’re trying to understand what this chapter is about, clean and unclean. There is a clear organization to this chapter. If you just read through it, it seems very confusing, but once you see the organization, it makes a lot of sense.
So go the beginning of the chapter. There are two main sections in chapter 11. Look at verse 2 – Speak to the people of Israel, saying, “These are the living things that you may eat.”
So verses 2 through 23 are about which animals they could eat, what were the clean and unclean animals that they could eat.
Now turn to verse 24, “And by these you shall become unclean, whoever touches their carcass shall be unclean until the evening.”
So two halves. The first half of the chapter is about you eat, animals, and then the second half is about you touch, eating/touching.
Now it’s even more delineated than that, because it very clearly goes through four different categories of animals.
The best way to see this is at the end of the chapter. Look at chapter 11, verse 46 – This is the law about number 1 beast, number 2 bird, number 3 every living creature that moves through the waters, and number 4 every living creature that swarms on the ground. The first half of the chapter about you can eat, it goes through those four kinds of animals. Then the second half of the chapter what you can touch, goes through those same four animals. You have animals on the ground, animals in the air, animals in the water, and then the swarming things. Or you can call them beasts, birds, fish, insects. This the same way all the way in Genesis chapter 1 that the created things are described. This is the, in the Old Testament, ancient world, this is their scientific classification of the animals – beasts, birds, fish, insects.
So go back, with that in mind as the big picture, and I said we’re not going to read all of this, we’re going to explain what’s in here. So first half, clean and unclean animals. Look at verse 2. We deal with the animals on the ground. These are the living things that you may eat among all the animals that are on the earth.
Verse 3. Whatever parts the hoof and is cloven-footed and chews the cud among the animals you may eat. Nevertheless, among those that chew the cud, so grazes among the grass, or part hoof, you shall not eat these – the camel, because it chews the cud but does not part the hoof, is unclean to you. And the rock badger, because it chews the cud but does part the hoof, is unclean to you. And the hare, because it chews the cud but does not part the hoof, is unclean to you, and the pig, because it parts the hoof and is cloven-footed but does not chew the cud, is unclean to you. You shall not eat any of their flesh and you shall not touch their carcasses. They are unclean to you.
Two basic requirements for these beasts on the ground – that you have a cloven hoof and you chew the cud. So you’re an animal that grazes and you have this hoof. So for example, cattle, sheep, goats – they’re in. Camels, badgers, hares, pigs – out.
Look at verse 9. So those were beasts of the earth. Verse 9: “These you may eat, of all that are in the waters.” So it gives a description. Just look at the conclusion, verse 12 of that paragraph: “Everything in the waters that does not have fins and scales is detestable to you.” So fish that are fishy, with fins and scales, but the ones that don’t in the water you cannot eat those.
Then verse 13: “These you shall detest among the birds.” And it gives a list of the birds that are unclean.
Then the fourth category, verse 20: “All winged insects that go on all fours are detestable to you.” So a lot of you are saying, “Well, this makes sense. Of course the insects are out.” But notice there’s an exception, verse 21: “Yet among the winged insects that go on all fours you may eat those that have jointed legs above their feet, with which to hop on the ground.” So good news, locusts, grasshoppers, you can eat them. The rest of the swarming things, you can’t.
So these are the instructions for eating the clean and unclean animals. You can’t eat the unclean ones for those rules. Beasts, birds, fish, swarming things.
Then in verse 24 we’re talking about touching, how you, because in an agrarian economy, world, you’re going to have all sorts of animals that are dead, carcasses, what do you do? How do you dispose of them? Touching the dead carcass of an unclean animal makes you unclean, so you need to wash yourself. That’s verses 24 through 28.
Then other swarming animals that are unclean. It mentions rats, mice, geckos, lizards. If any of the dead carcasses touches your wood or a garment or sacks or jars, then they become unclean and any food or drink in them is unclean. So unclean things touch them, they become unclean.
Except look at verse 36, here’s an exception: “Nevertheless, a spring or a cistern holding water shall be clean, but whoever touches a carcass in them shall be unclean.”
There’s a humanitarian purpose here. Think about it. Water is very scarce. You have a well, you have a cistern. This is your water source. If an unclean animal falls into the source, if that would render all of that water unclean, the people would suffer from drought. They would go thirsty, so here’s a humanitarian exception.
The clean animals become unclean to you if they die of natural causes, but if you kill the clean animals because you’re going to eat them or sacrifice them, then they are clean. See verse 39: “If any animal which you may eat dies, whoever touches its carcass shall be unclean until the evening, and whoever eats of its carcass shall wash his clothes and be unclean until the evening. And whoever carries the carcass shall wash his clothes and be unclean until the evening.”
Contact with dead animals makes you unclean unless it’s a clean animal that you killed for the purpose of presenting an offering or feeding your family.
Then verses 41 and following are more exhortations about the detestable swarming things.
So that’s basically what we have here, these two categories, what you eat/what you touch. Beasts, birds, fish, insects.
Second question. So that was the “what,” just to get the lay of the land, understand what’s in here. Now here’s the more difficult question – Why? Why were these food laws put in place? Why did God give these very detailed instructions to the Israelites?
I’ll give you a couple of bad answers. Some say, well, it’s just arbitrary. There’s no reason at all. It was a test of obedience. It was just to help the people learn self-control. That’s sort of an explanation of last resort. I can’t think of anything, there’s no reason at all.
Another bad explanation is to find in these laws very elaborate allegories. So some commentators, sometimes among the rabbis, would say pigs, you couldn’t eat pigs because they were in the filth of iniquity. And you couldn’t eat fish without scales because they were insincere. And you could eat food, animals that chewed the cud, because that was like meditating on spiritual food. Just don’t go there. That’s not very helpful.
Here’s some partial explanations which maybe have some element of truth to them and yet they really don’t get at the reasons suggested in the text. One of these partial reasons, which is very popular today, is to say, well, this is the Maker’s diet and this is God giving to us the perfect hygiene, the perfect diet to balance all of the things going on. God really meant to tell us exactly the way to have a healthy gut and certain animals would spoil in the heat, be susceptible to disease, so God was really looking out for His people.
Perhaps there’s some element of truth there. However, hygiene certainly cannot account for all of these prohibitions. The clean foods can get spoiled just as much as the unclean foods, and they knew how to cook things and prepare things. Yes, they didn’t have elaborate scientific knowledge, but they understood certain things made you sick. If this was God’s divine diet for health and hygiene, why did Jesus overturn it and pronounce all foods unclean and they still didn’t have refrigerators in Jesus’ day, so it’s not like suddenly they’re in a vastly different cultural dynamic.
One author puts it like this – even if some of Moses’ dietary rules were hygienically beneficial, it is a pity to treat him as an enlightened public health administrator rather than a spiritual leader. There’s no suggestion that he’s trying to give them some great nutritional diet.
Another partial reason is to see that these foods were excluded because they had pagan associations. It’s possible that they avoided some of these animals because pagans sacrificed to them. But then again, they also sacrificed the clean ones, the bull. If you know anything about ancient Egypt, the bull was a very important symbol for Egyptian and Canaanite deities and yet the Israelites could sacrifice the bull and they could eat the bull. So we can’t just say that these were associated with pagan rituals.
So then what are some better explanations? Why were the Israelites given these rules?
Let me give you three fundamental reasons.
One. These laws, and we’ll see this throughout the rest of the book with similar laws, these laws underscored that death is our enemy. They underscored that death is our enemy.
Think about it. Don’t eat the animals that eat other animals. That’s why you eat the beats that chew the cud, that graze. Almost all of the birds are predators and scavengers. Blood was considered to be the life of the animal, so the Israelites were not to eat the blood, or eat the animals that feasted on blood. It was reinforcing that death renders you unclean. Death is the definition of impurity. It’s the opposite of all the covenant promises. That’s why you have to stay away from dead animals. Death, you could say, is unnatural, polluting, unclean.
It also helps to explain the next chapters, the loss of fluids – childbirth, various discharges for men and women, was a kind of loss of your life force, as it were, and diseases of the skins suggested a world of curse and death. It’s not blaming the people for having those diseases, just like it’s not blaming men and women for having normal, natural bodily functions, but it was a kind of symbol of death or the loss of life.
Think about one of the strangest, most curious rules in the Pentateuch. It’s not here, but it’s repeated several times – do not boil a goat in its mother’s milk. Do not boil a goat in its mother’s milk. Commentators speculate maybe that has some pagan association. I think a better explanation is that confuses life and death. So a goat that you’re eating, it’s fine, you can eat a goat, baby goat, and you’re eating it, but you’re boiling it in its living mother’s milk. That’s not right. That’s a mixture of that which gives life, a mother’s milk, and then this dead goat, so you don’t mix life and death. This was to reinforce that death is the enemy. Death makes you unclean.
Second. The food laws underscored that God demanded perfection of His creatures.
There is a book written now some 50 years ago, a pioneering work by Mary Douglas, actually not a Bible scholar but an anthropologist. It’s called Purity and Danger, and it’s become very influential. I think she makes a number of good points. Like any new theory, she overstates her case and she came back years later and said I made a bunch of mistakes about the Bible. She wasn’t a Bible scholar, she was an anthropologist, but she had a famous chapter in there about these Levitical laws. Her basic argument still makes sense. She argued that these food laws were based on standards of normalcy and anomaly. Clean animals were those that were whole, perfect, the ones that conformed to their own class. Unclean animals were those that seemed mixed, imperfect, confused. Clean was a category to denote order, normalcy. This explains some of the other strange laws we’ll get into Leviticus about not mixing fabric or crops together. It’s about things staying in their proper place.
Again, this doesn’t account for everything, but just think about it. There’s something to this theory. Think about quote/unquote these abnormal animals. They don’t have a normal foot, or they have a normal foot but they don’t eat like they’re supposed to. Or look at verse 27 – all that walk on their paws among the animals that go on all fours are unclean to you. Animals are supposed to walk on all fours, but there are some that are walking on their paws and that doesn’t seem right.
Or the fish. The animals in the water, they live in the sea but they don’t have fins and scales. That’s not normal for a fishy creature.
Swarming things are particularly detestable. Why? Because swarming things they don’t quite fit in a class. They don’t quite fly, they don’t quite walk, they have legs and they have wings. They don’t belong to a class or to an order. They just swarm.
Which is why, remember that one exception? You can eat the locusts because they hop. Well, at least they’re using their legs the way their legs were supposed to be used.
This may seem strange, and yet there’s something to it. One other commentator says, unclean animals, one, had no proper place. So like some amphibians. Two, they had no proper form. Three, they violated proper locomotion, like water animals that walk. And four, they violated God’s original plan by eating other animals. So these are the carnivores, the scavengers. In other words, they reinforced that God wanted wholeness for His people and looked for there in the animal kingdom.
Which leads to the third reason here. Why? Why these food laws?
The food laws most fundamentally provided a symbolic reminder that God’s holy people were to be set apart. There was to be a distinction between these holy people who are going to come into their holy land and ministered to by these holy priests with a holy tabernacle, a holy temple. They’re a righteous, royal priesthood. They’re holy and they are to look different, act different, than these nations, and one of the most fundamental ways is to eat different. Don’t you still find that? That’s one of the first things you notice, some of you, if you’ve come here from another place, or when you travel, and the more you travel the farther away you get, and you get the farther away from outside of western cultures, one of the first things you notice, you notice what people eat. Things that you think are very normal, they wouldn’t dare to eat, and then they put before you things that you wouldn’t dare to eat and you have to eat.
What is the old missionary mantra? Where He leads me, I will follow, and what He feeds me, I will swallow. That’s what you do. And here it is, I have to take it.
What do you notice? You probably notice what people wear and what people eat. So it’s no surprise that those are two of the fundamental requirements as a way to show how these people were set apart. Now we’re going to come around in just a moment but the New Testament says you know what? There’s actually a better way to be set apart, because it’s relatively, these seem like very onerous rules, but it actually would be easier to just have certain things you can and can’t eat and certain clothes you must wear than it would be to pursue a whole life of moral purity and holiness.
But that’s why these rules were here. The set-apartness was not meant to feed their pride, but to mirror God’s holiness. To be holy was to be whole. It’s only a slight exaggeration to say they could eat what God could eat. Think about the sacrifices that they offered. The kinds of animals that God could eat, of course He didn’t need food, He didn’t really eat them, but the ones God could eat, they could eat, because they were to be holy like God was holy.
It’s not about pride, it’s not about moral, pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps. It’s about saying God, You are holy and You’ve delivered me by Your grace, so I will live this life of grateful obedience.
Which leads then to our final question. Hopefully some payoff for you enduring. How do these laws apply to the Christian today? How do these food laws apply to the Christian today?
Well, we need to establish that the New Testament is absolutely clear. There’s lots of difficult questions about how the law applies, but on this question the New Testament is absolutely clear, these food laws are no longer binding. Mark 7:19. Mark notes parenthetically, “Thus Jesus declared all foods clean.” 1 Corinthians 10:23 teaches that all foods are open to us. We must consider, however, the weaker brothers and eat and drink to the glory of God. Acts 10, you may recall Peter is on the housetop praying. He sees a vision of a sheet with all kinds of animals and a voice says, “Rise, Peter, kill and eat,” and Peter says, “What in the world? I’ve never done that my whole life, all of these delicious piggy animals. I can’t eat them.” And God says, “What God has made clean do not common.”
The story is given three times in Acts. The only other story given three times in Acts is Paul’s conversion, so that tells you something about how important this story was. The change of the food laws was bound to be one of the biggest controversies in the Church, as it went from almost exclusively a Jewish sect to one with Jews and Gentiles. So Luke makes sure in Acts to tell the story three times – Hey, I want you Christians to get it. Peter got a vision. He can eat, you can eat, all the animals.
1 Timothy 4 – all foods are clean because nothing God created is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving and sanctified by the Word of God in prayer. So the New Testament is abundantly, repetitively clear that these food laws are no longer binding on the Christian.
So then what is the point? Just a historical curiosity? Two points, as we close.
First, what do these teach the Christian? First, these laws show us how concerned God is for holiness in every area of life, in the ordinary things and down to the smallest details.
I referred to this story already from Mark chapter 7. Jesus says there is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him. Now He’s thinking about food laws, He’s not thinking about drugs and all sorts of different things that may devastate our body, He’s thinking about this Jewish context of foods and animals that you can eat. Jesus says it’s not what goes in that makes you unclean, it’s what comes out. He said to them, “Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him since it enters not his heart but his stomach and is expelled,” it’s kind of graphic there, Jesus, but He says, “How could that really make you unclean? It goes in and it goes out.” “Thus He declared all foods clean. And He said what comes out of a person is what defiles him, for from within out of the heart of man come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness, all these evil things come from within and they defile a person.”
See what Jesus is doing? He’s deliberately taking the Levitical category of defilement, of uncleanness, but He transposes it away from this ceremonial ritual key to one that is exclusively moral. And actually the ritual one, as odd as it seems would be easier. It’s preferable. It would be easier. If you could just walk out of here, what does it mean to be a good Christian? Well, you’ve got a list. Even if it’s a long list, I have a list of 14 animals I can eat and 24 animals I can’t eat. Woo, go.
But Jesus says, no, that’s not going to do it. You need to pay attention to what comes out, not of your stomach. Don’t be people living for your stomach, but your heart.
Some of us think, well, if I just go to church, I don’t commit any of the really nasty obvious sins, then I got this Christianity thing down. Just give me a list.
But God is concerned about all of life. What you watch, how you speak, how you fill out your taxes, what you do with your money, whether you shade the truth, how you respond when sinned against, what you do with your phone, how you talk to people. God still wants us to be holy. God still wants us to be set apart. But Jesus says what matters to Me is not that you have a different stomach; that’s easy. What matters to Me is that you have a different heart; that’s hard.
So these rules show us God’s abiding concern for holiness, not just in some big picture, but down to the very details of your life. When you’re scrolling through your phone and you see one of those headlines that you know is going to just lead you into temptation, no place good, and what do you do there?
Then second. The points of these food laws. Feasting on Jesus is the only meal that can make you right with God. See, the Old Testament taught you had to refrain from certain kinds of eating if you were to stay clean. The New Testament turns it on its head and says you need to partake in a certain kind of eating if you are to get clean. You see the difference? Old Testament, you’ll be clean if you don’t eat something. New Testament, if you want to be clean, you need to eat. What do you need to eat? You need to eat and feast upon the Lord Jesus Christ.
This is more relevant than we might think, because we certainly live in a time, in fact, you could argue that all times and all places are like this, we are very focused on food, some of us very much so. We think a lot about food. Some of us have a love relationship, some of us a hate relationship, most of us a love/hate relationship with food.
And our world, though it may think it’s miles away from Leviticus, our world reinforce salvation by food, either salvation by dieting, or salvation by partying, salvation by gluttony. And Jesus comes along and says, “You know what? True salvation doesn’t actually come by fasting. True salvation comes by feasting, feasting on the body crucified for you, on His blood shed for you.”
In almost any culture, including our own, there are just as many taboos and requirements as the Jews ever had, but they don’t work. You can’t get to heaven with a colon cleanse. You won’t be closer to God because you are closer to your ideal body mass index. You won’t have more of the Holy Spirit because you have less of your waist. Yes, of course, there’s a health and we attend to our bodies. I don’t want any of the doctors, I agree, exercise, eat healthy, do… But they are often idols of fitness, of diet, of health, and like every idol, you know it’s an idol when it’s a cruel deity, because false gods are always cruel to you. Only the true God really loves you. So if fitness, if diet, if health are your deities, they will let you down. They will never let up. They are cruel masters, cruel mistresses, and Jesus says, “Come to Me. My burden is easy. My yoke is light.”
John 6. So Jesus said to them, truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on My flesh and drinks My blood… Blood, flesh, a dead man. Everything that should have made you unclean. He was the very definition of defilement, and then He says, “Don’t just come near Me, don’t just touch Me, feast on Me and I will raise you up on the last day, for My flesh is true food, My blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him.”
Let’s pray. Heavenly Father, we come in the name of Jesus looking, needing to be made clean. So in faith we grab hold of Christ and in faith we feast upon Him, that we might be clean as the saints of old were clean, but this time not from refraining but from feasting. So deal with any stricken conscience in this room, with any seeking out their own self-salvation, with any who have wandered far off from the path of holiness, and bring us back to the way, the truth, and the life. Bring us back to Jesus, in whose name we pray. Amen.