PastorRodney’s Weblog

Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

Leviticus 11:24-47; Be Holy!

08/07 Leviticus 11:24-47; Be Holy!; Audio available at:

Last week we looked at the food laws of Leviticus 11:1-23 and saw that God gave these laws to the people that he had chosen to be his distinct people, to teach his priests to make a distinction between clean and unclean.

We also looked at the New Testament or New Covenant, where Jesus declared all foods clean and by his cross broke down the wall of division that separated Jew from Gentile. God told Peter to make no distinction, and that what God had cleansed he was no longer to call common or unclean.

Analogy of the Gentiles

There is an analogy between the food laws and the nations. In the beginning God blessed Adam and Eve and told them to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. His blessing extended to all nations. But with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, God began to narrow his focus, blessing his chosen people, but promising, that ‘in your offspring all the nations of the earth shall be blessed’ (Gen.22:18). Jesus, the fulfillment of the promises, brought blessing to the Jew first, and then to the Gentile; ultimately to all the nations. In Revelation we will see people from every tribe and language and people and nation worshiping around God’s throne (Rev.5:9; 7:9). The food laws were a mirror of this. These laws were not in effect at creation; only plants were to be eaten in the garden. Although Noah understood the distinction between clean and unclean, God gave him every living thing for food (Gen.9:2-4). But then, to make a distinction, his chosen people Israel were to eat only clean things, setting themselves apart from the nations. Now that the promised Messiah has come, the food laws are irrelevant and serve only to divide.

Ephesians 2:13 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.

Romans 14 and the Law of Love

Understandably, there were many who had been raised under the law who struggled to accept that God had declared all foods clean. When I see a platter of shrimp and baby back pork ribs, I begin to salivate. But a Jew raised kosher would instinctively and unconsciously recoil, as Peter did with the sheet. Paul makes clear in Galatians, that when the gospel is at stake, when false brothers are slipping in to spy out our freedom that we have in Christ Jesus to bring us under slavery, we are not to yield even for a moment. When anyone denies the truth that we are justified by faith in Jesus Christ and not by the works of the law, we are to contend earnestly for the faith. In 1 Timothy 4 Paul is scathing against those who require abstinence from foods, calling them liars with seared consciences, who have departed from the faith and devoted themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons. But when the issue is a weak conscience, emotional hangups that do not allow a person to participate in things that God has cleansed without feeling a sense of guilt, Paul teaches in Romans 14 that we must submit to the law of love. I think it will be worth our time to detour over to Romans 14 before we get back in to Leviticus 11.

Romans 14:1 As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. 2 One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. 3 Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. 4 Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand. 5 One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. 6 The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God. 7 For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. 8 For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. 9 For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living. 10 Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; 11 for it is written, “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.” 12 So then each of us will give an account of himself to God. 13 Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother. 14 I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean. 15 For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. By what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died. 16 So do not let what you regard as good be spoken of as evil. 17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. 18 Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. 19 So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding. 20 Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for anyone to make another stumble by what he eats. 21 It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble. 22 The faith that you have, keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who has no reason to pass judgment on himself for what he approves. 23 But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.

Romans 15:1 We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. 2 Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. 3 For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.”

Paul clearly sides with the one who eats anything, saying it is the weak person who eats only vegetables, and that God has welcomed the one who eats. His statements in verse 14 that ‘nothing is unclean in itself’ and in 20 that ‘everything is indeed clean’ give away his position. But Paul gives very specific practical instruction here on these issues of conscience. The weak person is forbidden from passing judgment on the one who eats (v.3, 4, 10, 13) because everything is indeed clean. But the one who eats is forbidden to despise the weak (v.3, 10), or to stumble the weak (v.13, 15, 20, 21). We are to walk in love, to welcome one another, to pursue peace and mutual upbuilding, but we are not to quarrel over opinions. Those who doubt, who are unsure if a thing is approved, those who feel it would be a sin for them to participate are not to participate, because their participation is not rooted in faith.

When the gospel of grace through Jesus is in jeopardy, we are to defend the truth of the gospel against false teachers. But in matters of conscience, the one who abstains from food is not to judge the one who eats, and the one who eats is not to look down on or selfishly destroy the faith of one who does not eat.

Uncleanness by Contact

Now let’s jump back into Leviticus 11 and see what else it has to teach us. Verses 1-23 dealt with distinctions between clean and unclean land creatures, water creatures, those that live in the air, and insects, in regard to what may or may not be eaten. The remainder of the chapter deals with what kind of contact makes one unclean.

Leviticus 11:24 “And by these you shall become unclean. Whoever touches their carcass shall be unclean until the evening, 25 and whoever carries any part of their carcass shall wash his clothes and be unclean until the evening. 26 Every animal that parts the hoof but is not cloven-footed or does not chew the cud is unclean to you. Everyone who touches them shall be unclean. 27 And all that walk on their paws, among the animals that go on all fours, are unclean to you. Whoever touches their carcass shall be unclean until the evening, 28 and he who carries their carcass shall wash his clothes and be unclean until the evening; they are unclean to you. 29 “And these are unclean to you among the swarming things that swarm on the ground: the mole rat, the mouse, the great lizard of any kind, 30 the gecko, the monitor lizard, the lizard, the sand lizard, and the chameleon. 31 These are unclean to you among all that swarm. Whoever touches them when they are dead shall be unclean until the evening.

The uncleanness was not limited to eating. Merely touching a carcass of an unclean animal brought uncleanness for the rest of the day. Touching a live animal that was unclean did not bring uncleanness. So camels, mules, horses could be ridden and used for work, but they were not to be eaten, and disposing of one that died, as would certainly be a necessity from time to time, brought uncleanness until evening.

Unclean Objects

Not only did contact with a dead creature bring uncleanness to humans, it also brought uncleanness to inanimate objects.

Leviticus 11:32 And anything on which any of them falls when they are dead shall be unclean, whether it is an article of wood or a garment or a skin or a sack, any article that is used for any purpose. It must be put into water, and it shall be unclean until the evening; then it shall be clean. 33 And if any of them falls into any earthenware vessel, all that is in it shall be unclean, and you shall break it. 34 Any food in it that could be eaten, on which water comes, shall be unclean. And all drink that could be drunk from every such vessel shall be unclean. 35 And everything on which any part of their carcass falls shall be unclean. Whether oven or stove, it shall be broken in pieces. They are unclean and shall remain unclean for you. 36 Nevertheless, a spring or a cistern holding water shall be clean, but whoever touches a carcass in them shall be unclean. 37 And if any part of their carcass falls upon any seed grain that is to be sown, it is clean, 38 but if water is put on the seed and any part of their carcass falls on it, it is unclean to you.

This is interesting. Containers that come in contact with an unclean carcass become contaminated along with their contents. But the main water source; a spring or cistern does not become unclean. If you look at the gospels, you see Jesus coming into contact with and even consciously touching unclean people, lepers, blind, deaf, even the dead. He ate with prostitutes, tax collectors and sinners. But Jesus does not become contaminated through contact. Rather those who come in contact with Jesus are cleansed and made new, because Jesus is the source of living water.

Clean Animals that Die

Leviticus 11:39 “And if any animal which you may eat dies, whoever touches its carcass shall be unclean until the evening, 40 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.

Even clean animals that are not butchered or sacrificed, but die on their own bring uncleanness. Death entered God’s good creation through sin, and death spread to everyone because all sinned. God’s people are not to come into contact with death and decay. It is contagious and it brings separation from God.

The Serpent and the Garden

Leviticus 11:41 “Every swarming thing that swarms on the ground is detestable; it shall not be eaten. 42 Whatever goes on its belly, and whatever goes on all fours, or whatever has many feet, any swarming thing that swarms on the ground, you shall not eat, for they are detestable.

In this statement on swarming things we see a verbal connection with the fall and the curse. The only other place the word ‘on its belly’ is found is in Genesis 3:14, where the serpent is cursed to go on its belly. The curse brings uncleanness and death. God’s people are not to pursue interaction with the enemy.

Be Holy

Leviticus 11:43 You shall not make yourselves detestable with any swarming thing that swarms, and you shall not defile yourselves with them, and become unclean through them. 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.” 46 This is the law about beast and bird and every living creature that moves through the waters and every creature that swarms on the ground, 47 to make a distinction between the unclean and the clean and between the living creature that may be eaten and the living creature that may not be eaten.

This concluding statement gives the reason for separation from that which is unclean. Because God is your God, you must be holy as God is holy. This statement is quoted verbatim by Peter and the principle is taught throughout the New Testament. Peter 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 not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance. Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 4

1 Thessalonians 4:1 Finally, then, brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more. 2 For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus. 3 For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; 4 that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, 5 not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; 6 that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. 7 For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. 8 Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.

God requires holiness from believers today, but it is not abstaining from certain foods; God’s will is our sanctification, that we abstain from sexual immorality.

In Ephesians, where we saw that Jesus by his blood

Ephesians 2:14 …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,

Ephesians goes on to say about this one new man, the church,

Ephesians 5:3 But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. 4 Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. 5 For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous ( that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.

…10 and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. 11 Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. 12 For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret.

There is to be a clear distinction between God’s people and the world. Some things are not even to be touched, not talked about, not even named among you. We are to pursue that which pleases God.

Paul writes the church in Corinth to clarify what he meant about not associating with sinners.

1 Corinthians 5:9 I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— 10 not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. 11 But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. 12 For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? 13 God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.”

There is to be a standard of holiness within the church.

James 1:27 Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.

In Mark 7, when Jesus taught on what defiles a person, he 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.” 17 And when he had entered the house and left the people, his disciples asked him about the parable. 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.”

This is Jesus’ teaching on what defiles. And what defiles is not what you eat, but the heart issues that are already in you. Your thought life can defile you. You don’t have to do it, you don’t even have to say it; if you think it it demonstrates where your heart is and what you love. Pornography defiles. Taking what doesn’t belong to you defiles. Taking another’s life, or wishing another dead defiles. Unfaithfulness to your marriage vows defiles. Wanting what doesn’t belong to you defiles. Wickedness defiles. Tricking or deceiving others defiles. Sensuality defiles. Envy defiles. Speaking bad about others defiles. Thinking of self more highly than you ought defiles. Foolishness defiles. These are heart issues. These are not just what we do; these are manifestations of who we are. These are inward and outward attitudes and actions that betray a corrupt heart. Actions and desires are evidence of a deeper problem.

The good news is that this is not a list of things we must do or not do to be clean; rather we worship a God who cleanses the unclean and transforms sinners into saints. In the New Covenant Jesus gives a new heart to those who turn to him. He doesn’t plaster a superficial coat of paint over a rotting core, making it look nice on the outside; he comes inside, he gives us his Spirit, he gives us new desires, he changes us from the inside out.

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~

August 8, 2016 - Posted by | Leviticus | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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