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.”
Leviticus 11 is a chapter full of the descriptions of the types of critters that the people of Israel under the Levitical law could not eat. It is a strange-feeling set of commands. God tells them not to eat animals with certain kinds of feet, certain kinds of birds, fish without scales (outlawing catfish eating which is fine by me), and bugs that don’t hop.
If you have ever gone through a Bible study on Leviticus, you have probably heard somebody give you all sorts of interesting reasons why certain animals could not be eaten. Perhaps someone comes out with a medical reason why it was unsafe to eat pork in that time period. Of course, many of the forbidden birds are scavengers which would have carried disease. These and many other such reasons are often cited in order to help us in modern America to be OK with the fact that God gives restrictions.
But, take a look at the verse above. It is the reason that God gives for not allowing that particular people to eat those particular foods at that particular time. He offers them no explanation. He offers no justification for his reasoning. He offers them no nutritional or medical validation for his decision. Instead, he gives them an answer that Americans don’t’ like, but which Christians should learn to love. It basically comes down to this, “I’m God, I’m holy, and I said so.”
God is holy. Part of his holiness is that he is different than the corrupt world around him. He therefore has the right to make his people look and act differently. He has the right to tell them to eat different things and abstain from different things for no other reason than that it reflects to others that God is different and his people are different, special, set apart, holy.
I have no problem with people discovering ways in which God’s nutritional laws were good for the people of Israel during that time period. I think it’s rather fun in reality. But such thought is not necessary. God is holy. God told them what to do to be like him. His commands do not have to make sense to our human understanding. In fact, the first lesson that we should learn is that we do not have to make sense out of God’s commands in order to obey them. He is our God, and we are his followers. That is why we obey.
Does this mean that I’m eschewing pork chops and sushi? No way. Jesus relieved us of the legal constraints regarding clean and unclean foods in Mark 7 (for which I’m grateful). In fact, much of the New Testament points us in a direction that teaches us to live under love for God rather than under legalistic restrictions.
But we still should learn at least two things from Leviticus 11. First, God’s commands do not need to make perfect sense to us for us to obey them. Second, God’s people will necessarily look and act differently than the world around them. So, if it’s not about pork chops, ask yourself how you look different than your friends, neighbors, and co-workers. How do you demonstrate the holiness of God in your life?