Thursday, February 21, 2013

What About These Dietary Laws?

One Year Bible
Old Testament passage for Thursday, February 21, 2013:  Leviticus 11:1-12:8

These also shall be unclean to you among the creeping things that creep on the earth: the mole, the mouse, and the large lizard after its kind; the gecko, the monitor lizard, and the chameleon."  Leviticus 11:29-30 (NKJV)

The above verses are but two in a long list of various animals that were NOT TO BE EATEN in ancient Israel -- lizards, mice, moles, etc.  The real question should be, "Who wants to eat them anyway?!"

The larger question concerns all these dietary laws in the book of Leviticus.  Why are they there, and what was their purpose?  Are they to be followed legalistically or do they have a broader meaning and context?

Here's the quick answer:  All laws in the Old Testament fall into four categories -- the moral law, the spiritual law, the practical law, and the ceremonial law.  Without getting too technical, the first two of these must still be followed in terms of a godly life (sanctification).  Example:  don't steal, don't commit adultery, don't worship idols.

The second two have varying degrees of application today.  The ceremonial law is still in effect, but it is FULFILLED IN JESUS.  He is our Passover Lamb!  We do not need to go through various ceremonial procedures to come into relationship to God!  Jesus paid the price and we enter by faith.  All those ceremonies were shadows pointing toward Jesus.  The ceremonial law is only still in effect IN JESUS.

The practical law is another story.  It is wonderful that our God reached down into history and cared deeply about the daily condition of His people.  He knew that the fallen world was full of diseases and dangers.  Therefore, He made provision because of the development at that time of the ability to care for human needs (example: leprosy, sanitation, etc.).  This is the case for many of the practical laws of the Old Testament.  They are simply good advice given concerning sanitary practices and eating certain animals. 

For example:  the most common dietary prohibition in the Old Testament is concerning pork.  The reason is that there was serious concern about the spread of disease through pork.  It is a historic fact.  Such things as trichinosis and other diseases have been real health hazards.  Today, advances in food care have practically eliminated such concerns.

The real issue is this:  were dietary and sanitary prohibitions in the Old Testament ceremonial or practical.  The answer is clear:  They were practical and in no way made a person more acceptable to God.  Jesus was crystal clear about this.  Such passages as Matthew 15:1-11 directly address ceremonial washing of hands and concludes with a powerful declaration that what you EAT does not defile you (affect your spiritual holiness).  In the New Testament only one thing makes us acceptable:  THE BLOOD OF JESUS. 

Dietary considerations today are a matter of health concern, not holiness before God.  With that in mind, what do you think you should do about your diet today?


  1. I believe Jesus and the disciples were eating bread in Matthew 15, not pork.

    The ceremonial "washing of the hands" isn't to be found in the Old Testament which was the crux of this part of scripture.

  2. Dear Bro. Bob, I remember coming to your house for prayer meeting in the early 70's when I was new in the faith. Thank you for the input you gave into my life. For the last few years I have realized that Jesus never taught anything contrary to what He had said in the first 5 books of the Bible. One of the functions of the Law (instructions) is to bless us.

    "And now, Israel, what does YHVH your God require of you, but to fear YHVH your God, to walk in all His ways and to love Him, to serve YHVH your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments of YHVH and His statutes which I command you today for your benefit" (Deuteronomy 10:12-13)

    I'd like to look a little deeper into the four categories you mentioned. The Holy Spirit has led me to consider all the instructions to be good, true and valid for us today--even though not all are addressed to me. Some are to be done only when we enter the promised land. Some are for men only, women only, priests or Levites only, etc.

    To "keep" commandments does not mean to legalistically follow a set of rules. The word means to guard, as in "The LORD bless you and keep you." We can guard, protect, and value all of His instructions, even the ones that are not addressed to us.

    Thanks again for your faithfulness. I want to listen to everything Jesus said, and obey it with the true understanding and Spirit in which He gave it. Bill Moore

  3. Bill, I do believe that all of Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, reproof, instruction in righteousness. However, it is obvious that many portions of the Old Testament point toward Jesus and the New Testament. It is a matter of continual study and the disciplines of biblical interpretation to determine the ways in which Scripture speaks to us today. It is that light that I see at least four fundamental categorizations of Old Testament law: 1) moral 2) spiritual 3) ceremonial and 4) practical. There is no doubt that there is overlap in many of these and some laws don't fall easily into neat categories, but this helps me to find correct application of truth to our lives today as we walk out our faithfulness to Christ.