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Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

Leviticus 11:1-23; Making Distinctions

07/31 Leviticus 11:1-23; Making Distinctions; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20160731_leviticus-11_1-23.mp3

Be Holy for I Am Holy

Peter, in 1 Peter 1:14-16 says:

1 Peter 1:14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, 15 but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”

Do you know where that is written? That actually shows up twice here in Leviticus 11.

Jesus, in the context of teaching us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us, alluded to this passage. He said:

Mathew 5:48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Leviticus 11 is a chapter on various food laws, what can and cannot be eaten, what is clean and what makes one unclean, and how to handle various kinds of contamination. Leviticus 11-15 is a section that deals with all manner of things that make one unclean, in an order of increasing duration of uncleanness; from eating the wrong kinds of animals and contact with dead animals, to childbirth, to various skin diseases, to mold in a garment or a house, to bodily discharges. The reason God gives for these various laws is here in Leviticus 11:44-45

Leviticus 11:44 For I am the LORD your God. Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am holy. You shall not defile yourselves with any swarming thing that crawls on the ground. 45 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.”

This is a big deal, because we just saw in chapter 10 two guys, newly ordained priests, set apart for the ministry, were torched by the LORD because they failed to distinguish between the clean and the unclean, and to treat God as holy.

Leviticus 10:3 Then Moses said to Aaron, “This is what the LORD has said: ‘Among those who are near me I will be sanctified [or treated as holy], and before all the people I will be glorified.’” And Aaron [their father] held his peace.

Making Distinctions

In Leviticus 10, Aaron was instructed:

Leviticus 10:10 You are to distinguish between the holy and the common, and between the unclean and the clean, 11 and you are to teach the people of Israel all the statutes that the LORD has spoken to them by Moses.”

A primary role of the priest was to teach the people, and to help them distinguish between holy and common, clean and unclean. Chapters 11-15 deal with the distinctions between clean and unclean, and chapters 17-22 deal with the distinctions between holy and common. These chapters climax with the great day of atonement in chapter 16, which takes away the defilement of the people.

Holiness and Election

The main point of this section is that God’s character is to be reflected in his people. He his holy, he is separate, he is totally other, unique, in a class by himself, no one is like him; so his people are to be holy, separate, distinct, set apart, in a class by themselves.

Leviticus 11:45 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.”

Deuteronomy 14 also deals with food laws. It starts this way:

Deuteronomy 14:1 “You are the sons of the LORD your God. …

2 For you are a people holy to the LORD your God, and the LORD has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. 3 “You shall not eat any abomination.

The reason for making distinctions between unclean and clean food is ‘the LORD has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.’ The election of Israel as a distinct people who belong to God is the reason for distinguishing between clean and unclean.

Noah and Clean Animals

This distinction between clean and unclean animals is not new. We see this distinction all the way back in the account of the flood in Genesis 7-9. God commanded:

Genesis 7:2 Take with you seven pairs of all clean animals, the male and his mate, and a pair of the animals that are not clean, the male and his mate,

After the flood subsided,

Genesis 8:20 Then Noah built an altar to the LORD and took some of every clean animal and some of every clean bird and offered burnt offerings on the altar.

Only the clean animals were offered to God as sacrifices. But notice that Noah and his descendants were not restricted to eating only the clean animals.

Genesis 9:2 The fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth and upon every bird of the heavens, upon everything that creeps on the ground and all the fish of the sea. Into your hand they are delivered. 3 Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything. 4 But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood.

Noah was allowed to eat bacon, shrimp, lobster, catfish, rabbit, albatross, spotted owl, whatever he wanted. Remember, Genesis 1 tells us that God created everything,

Genesis 1:21 So God created the great sea creatures and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarm, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.

25 And God made the beasts of the earth according to their kinds and the livestock according to their kinds, and everything that creeps on the ground according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.

Clean, Unclean, Detestable

Everything God created was good. But now in Leviticus 11, as a reflection of his own holiness, God is restricting the diet of his chosen people. The first 23 verses of Leviticus 11 deal with distinguishing between clean and unclean land animals, aquatic creatures, birds and insects.

Land

Leviticus 11:1 And the LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying to them, 2 “Speak to the people of Israel, saying, These are the living things that you may eat among all the animals that are on the earth. 3 Whatever parts the hoof and is cloven-footed and chews the cud, among the animals, you may eat. 4 Nevertheless, among those that chew the cud or part the hoof, you shall not eat these: The camel, because it chews the cud but does not part the hoof, is unclean to you. 5 And the rock badger, because it chews the cud but does not part the hoof, is unclean to you. 6 And the hare, because it chews the cud but does not part the hoof, is unclean to you. 7 And the pig, because it parts the hoof and is cloven-footed but does not chew the cud, is unclean to you. 8 You shall not eat any of their flesh, and you shall not touch their carcasses; they are unclean to you.

Waters

Leviticus 11:9 “These you may eat, of all that are in the waters. Everything in the waters that has fins and scales, whether in the seas or in the rivers, you may eat. 10 But anything in the seas or the rivers that does not have fins and scales, of the swarming creatures in the waters and of the living creatures that are in the waters, is detestable to you. 11 You shall regard them as detestable; you shall not eat any of their flesh, and you shall detest their carcasses. 12 Everything in the waters that does not have fins and scales is detestable to you.

Air

Leviticus 11:13 “And these you shall detest among the birds; they shall not be eaten; they are detestable: the eagle, the bearded vulture, the black vulture, 14 the kite, the falcon of any kind, 15 every raven of any kind, 16 the ostrich, the nighthawk, the sea gull, the hawk of any kind, 17 the little owl, the cormorant, the short-eared owl, 18 the barn owl, the tawny owl, the carrion vulture, 19 the stork, the heron of any kind, the hoopoe, and the bat.

Insects

Leviticus 11:20 “All winged insects that go on all fours are detestable to you. 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. 22 Of them you may eat: the locust of any kind, the bald locust of any kind, the cricket of any kind, and the grasshopper of any kind. 23 But all other winged insects that have four feet are detestable to you.

There is a lot of speculation on why God makes the distinctions he does. Some suggest health reasons and avoiding diseases, but that doesn’t fit with the fact that Noah was permitted to eat any animals after the flood, and that Jesus declares all foods clean in the New Testament. Some suggest creatures that don’t fit well into their environment or class are considered unclean, like water creatures without fins or scales; but this seems to miss the fact that God created all things good, according to their kind. Some think the unclean animals are those used in pagan worship, but if that were the case, the bull should certainly be unclean. Many have tried to find symbolic meaning in the kinds; for instance a divided hoof pictures the ability to distinguish between good and evil; and chewing the cud pictures those who meditate on God’s word. But this can be as creative as the interpreter’s imagination. Some feel the distinctions are purely arbitrary; as God established one tree in the garden as a test; a tree that was pleasing to the eye, good for food, and desirable to make one wise; this tree was off limits because God said so. In the same way, there was nothing inherently bad about the unclean animals; it was merely a test of obedience.

It seems in general, that the creatures which are considered unclean are those that have to do most with death, decay and destruction; results of the fall. God breathed life into his creation; man through his rebellion brought death, decay, and destruction and it tainted all of God’s good creation. Most of the unclean animals are either carnivores, preying on blood and the carcasses of other animals, or they are wilderness animals, associated with wild uninhabited places. The birds listed as unclean are birds of prey. Rodents, lizards, snakes, worms, flies are all associated with death, disease and the grave.

Jesus and the Law

Be holy because I am holy. This is quoted in the New Testament. Does this mean that we should avoid pork and seafood and start eating locust? Jesus was rebuked by the Pharisees for not following the washing traditions of the Jews. Jesus said:

Mark 7:15 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.”

That is a radically comprehensive statement, and it sets aside the Leviticus distinctions. When his disciples asked him in private about what he said,

Mark 7:18 And he said to them, “Then are you also without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him, 19 since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled?” ( Thus he declared all foods clean.) 20 And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. 21 For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22 coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. 23 All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”

In Luke 11,

Luke 11:38 The Pharisee was astonished to see that he did not first wash before dinner. 39 And the Lord said to him, “Now you Pharisees cleanse the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. 40 You fools! Did not he who made the outside make the inside also? 41 But give as alms those things that are within, and behold, everything is clean for you.

Does this mean that Jesus changed God’s law?

Matthew 5:17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.

Jesus came not to abolish the law, but to fulfill it. These food laws, like the entire Bible, points us to Jesus

Colossians 2:16 Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. 17 These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.

Jesus is the substance of which the whole levitical system was a foreshadowing. Jesus is what the law was teaching about.

Paul warns Timothy of the danger of those who try to put us back under obligation to follow the

1 Timothy 4:1 Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, 2 through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, 3 who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. 4 For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, 5 for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.

So how did Jesus bring fulfillment to the food laws? In Acts 10, Peter

Acts 10:10 And he became hungry and wanted something to eat, but while they were preparing it, he fell into a trance 11 and saw the heavens opened and something like a great sheet descending, being let down by its four corners upon the earth. 12 In it were all kinds of animals and reptiles and birds of the air. 13 And there came a voice to him: “Rise, Peter; kill and eat.” 14 But Peter said, “By no means, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean.” 15 And the voice came to him again a second time, “What God has made clean, do not call common.” 16 This happened three times, and the thing was taken up at once to heaven.

The context of this event is Cornelius. Cornelius was a Gentile. God sent an angel to tell Cornelius to send for Peter. In Acts 11, responding to criticism, Peter relayed what happened next.

Acts 11:11 And behold, at that very moment three men arrived at the house in which we were, sent to me from Caesarea. 12 And the Spirit told me to go with them, making no distinction. …

Peter went to a Gentile’s house

Acts 10:28 And he said to them, “You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a Jew to associate with or to visit anyone of another nation, but God has shown me that I should not call any person common or unclean. 29 So when I was sent for, I came without objection. I ask then why you sent for me.”

Peter shared the good news about Jesus, and the Holy Spirit fell on the Gentiles. In Acts 15, there was debate over the need for Gentile converts to submit to the law. Peter referred back to this incident

Acts 15:8 And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, by giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us, 9 and he made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith. 10 Now, therefore, why are you putting God to the test by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? 11 But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.”

Jesus declared all foods clean. He invited Peter to eat all manner of Levitically unclean creatures, and when Peter refused, the Lord said ‘what God has made clean, do not call common.’ This happened three times to make the point clear. Although the surface meaning of this statement is that God has cleansed all creatures for even a Jewish believer like Peter to eat, the point God was making was that the distinction between Jew and Gentile, which was evident in the dietary restrictions, had been erased. The Levitical law made distinctions between clean and unclean. Peter was told to make no distinction, because God made no distinction between Jew and Gentile in salvation. Even Jews can be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus just like Cornelius and other Gentiles had. Paul makes this clear in his letter to the Gentile church in Ephesus.

Ephesians 2:12 remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.

Galatians 3 says

Galatians 3:28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

The distinction of Israel as the chosen people of God out of all the peoples of the face of the earth ended at the cross. Jesus broke down the dividing wall of hostility and abolished the law of commandments expressed in ordinances.

Do we tend to build back up the walls that Jesus came to tear down? Do we tend to draw distinctions between people? Not Jew/Gentile distinctions, but distinctions between people we like to be around, and those we just don’t connect with? Do we draw distinctions between social status, appearance, those who are different from us, those we consider unclean? Jesus came to kill the hostility and make peace. He came to bring us near. ‘Do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance.’

We no longer need to be ritually clean by keeping dietary laws in order to draw near to God. Jesus cleansed us once and for all by his shed blood on the cross. Now he is calling to himself people from every nation and tribe and language and people (Rev.5:9; 7:9).

The holiness he demands is not outward conformity to a list of prohibitions, but an inward Holy Spirit transformation of desires. What does your heart love? What does it go after? Jesus wants to change your heart!

1 Corinthians 10:31 So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

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August 2, 2016 - Posted by | Leviticus | , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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