Bible Verse: “You must distinguish between the unclean and the clean, between living creatures that may be eaten and those that may not be eaten.” Leviticus 11:47
Scripture Reading: Leviticus 11-15
We’ve probably all heard the phrase, “Cleanliness is next to godliness (or holiness).” You may have even heard someone say that it’s in the Bible.
But it does have some biblical roots. Chapters 11-15 of Leviticus outline some cleanliness requirements for the people of Israel. The people could not approach God in an unclean state. J.E. Hartley has said it this way: “The clean is not necessarily holy, but the holy is always clean.”
The text does not explicitly say why these particular foods and activities (some of them natural occurrences over which the person has no control) made the people of Israel unclean. The historical, cultural, and theological contexts in which these laws arose give some insight into why these laws were given.
Israel was forbidden from eating certain foods. Nothing inherent in the animals listed makes them unclean (though some have suggested as much). However, all the animals listed as unclean for Israel to eat are also forbidden from being offered as a sacrifice. Since the sacrificial restrictions were given first, the limitations on the diets of Israelites reflect what was appropriate to offer God. This suggests that what was not offerable to God was not consumable by Israel (IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament – see Leviticus 11:3-7).
Following the food laws, several chapters discuss everything from diseases to normal bodily functions. It has been noted that many of these particular things that made Israel unclean, especially the laws regarding sex, were in direct contradiction to the religious practices of the surrounding nations. In the cultures around Israel at this time, sex was part of the cultic practices. Sex and sexuality were brought into the worship of their gods. Israel was to be dramatically different from these nations.
God had called Israel to be His own people. He had rescued them from slavery and was establishing them as His holy and separate people.
God still calls His people to be different from those in the world around them. Jesus told His disciples that they would be known for how they loved one another (John 13:35). Paul wrote to the church in Rome not to conform to the ways of the culture around them but to be renewed (Rom. 12:1-3). God wants His people to be identifiable by the culture around them because they live deliberately differently. Do we?
Prayer: God of deliverance, You have rescued us from bondage to sin and have called us to be Your holy people. Thank You for my deliverance. Help me to live in a way that reflects the salvation You have given me. Help me to be the right kind of different from the world in which I live.
Reflection: We can be known as Christians in two ways: what we believe and how we live. Which are you known for?
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