Diet: Health and Holiness
Holy Lord, so often my world seems devoid of purpose. Thank You for giving me the great work of praise.
Consider: "Because holiness is supremely an attribute of God, and of God alone, he is by definition the only source of holiness. Any pursuit of it apart from him is doomed to failure" (David Winter).
Today's passage is one we love to avoid. It seems so obscure and unnecessary. Why is it included in inspired Scripture? People have gone through these dietary regulations and sought to explain them from a health viewpoint. Declaring certain foods "unclean" and so best avoided in hot climates makes sense. But it doesn't seem to explain the whole list adequately, or square with what we know of others at the time. There's a better explanation. Verses 44 and 45 say it's to do with holiness. Health may be a spin-off, but it's not the main point.
Throughout history and even at the present time, it is quite common for nations to have a distinct diet with definite food taboos. Food eagerly devoured in one country (think horse, dog or sauerkraut!) is despised or taboo in another. Many countries are known for a favorite dish. So the people of Israel demonstrate their distinctiveness through their diet. In this way, whether or not they can explain it, they mark themselves out as belonging to God. The essence of holiness is that they are to be distinguished from others by complete obedience to him. Diet is one of various practical ways of making their obedience visible. In commanding this, God reminds them that he is Lord over all, not just in the tabernacle but even in the kitchen. Some people sense that the key difference between clean and unclean is that "clean" things are those that seem most wholly to conform to one's expectations about animals, fish or birds, not deficient or crossing boundaries. It's modeling God's desire for wholeness among his people, and for distinctiveness.
Food laws no longer distinguish Christians from others (Mark 7:1-23; Acts 10:9-15), but distinct patterns of behavior should still distinguish us as belonging to Christ (Eph. 4:17-21).
Ask in what ways you live a distinctive life that demonstrates that you belong to God. Could there be other ways to do so as well?
Teach me to learn of Your ways, Lord, from ordinary things in life as well as from its more obvious spiritual aspects.