Clean Animals


Worship must be governed by the Word of God and not whatever we happen to think is best.

“Then the Lord said to Noah…. ‘Take with you seven pairs of all clean animals….And Noah did all that the Lord had commanded him’” (Gen. 7:1–5).

The first readers of Genesis would have found many parallels between the Noahic covenant and the covenant made with Moses and all Israel. In His wise providence, the Lord designed the life of Moses to repeat, in certain ways, the life of Noah so that His people would not only learn the history of the world but would also know how to serve God in their day.

In today’s passage, we find another example of this. Of every living thing in the land and air, Noah was to save one pair, male and female, to repopulate the earth (Gen. 6:19–21). Yet this was not the sum total of animal life aboard the ark; in 7:1–5, the Lord orders His servant to gather seven pairs of each clean animal for preservation.

We are not exactly sure how Noah knew which animals were clean and which were not, but God probably gave him a revelation concerning this information. Clearly however, the generation to whom Moses was writing would have been able to make this distinction. The Mosaic law distinguished between clean and unclean animals in order to establish the proper diet for the nation of Israel (Lev. 11). In addition, the rules for sacrifice mandated that only clean animals could be offered up to the Lord (chap. 3–7).

It is the sacrifice of clean animals that captures our focus today. After Noah left the ark, he made an offering to God with these pure animals (Gen. 8:20). When the Israelites read this narrative, which repeatedly calls Noah a righteous man (6:9; 7:1), they would have seen that part and parcel of holiness is to obey the regulations for worship given to them in the law of Moses. If they were to be righteous like faithful Noah, they would have to make a distinction between clean and unclean in their worship just as he did.

The principle behind this stipulation remains in force for the new covenant church. We must structure our worship according to the Word of God, and thus we cannot tailor the praise of the Lord according to our own whims. Some things are not appropriate for worship. We must be careful to draw near to our Creator with reverence and awe, for He is a consuming fire (Heb. 12:28–29).

Coram Deo

One of the great heritages of the Reformed tradition is the regulative principle, which recognizes that worship must be governed by the Word of God and not whatever we happen to think is best. How do you approach the worship of our covenant Lord? Do you praise Him as He has commanded, or do you think it appropriate to do things in worship not sanctioned in Scripture? Endeavor to make your private and corporate worship conform to His Word.

Passages for Further Study:

Lev. 10, 
Ps. 100, 
Mark 7:1–13, Acts 2:42, 
Rom. 12:1–2

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