Is It Kosher? – Leviticus 11

The main principle that we saw in Leviticus 10 was that we are to discern between the holy and the common, the clean and the unclean. Here in Leviticus 11, we’re given regulation after regulation regarding what we’re allowed to eat and what we’re not allowed to eat. Now, for those of you who want to argue that this is not intended for us today, I would challenge you to simply set all of your arguments aside and just do it. Give up your pork, give up your crab and shrimp, give up your skink and skunk, give up eating your owl and raven, and actually try living by the kosher diet for a month. Give it a month and see what you think.

Now, of course, these verses were not put here for us to debate over them for millennia. God didn’t intend that we would have confusion about which animals some of these things are, and whether we’re truly supposed to obey it or not. I think that God’s intention was much bigger than that. So, I simply won’t address the issue any more than I’ve already done.

What is God getting at?

You already know: discern between the holy and the common, the clean and the unclean. Ten times does the phrase “it is unclean for you” appear. Outside of that, the idea of unclean appears twenty times in Leviticus 11. In these two sections, we find the animals that either chew the cud but don’t have the split hoof, or the animals that have the split hoof but don’t chew the cud. We find certain lizards – whether reptile or amphibian – are unclean. If something touches the carcass of one of these unclean animals, whatever touched the carcass is unclean, and there are certain regulations to either cleanse it or completely destroy it depending on the object.

Outside of clean and unclean is a complete different set of distinguishing. There are birds that we can eat, and then there are birds that are “detestable”. Similarly, there are certain sea life that we can eat, and then other sea creatures are “detestable”. This phrasing of “detestable” shows up ten times. It is in relation to certain sea creatures, certain birds, snakes, and certain insects (like the centipede).

Now, notice that nowhere in this chapter does the word “sin” appear. God doesn’t say that those who eat these things are “sinful”, but rather “unclean”. To be unclean limits you quite noticeably from a lot of functions in Israelite culture, but it doesn’t limit you from being an Israelite. One of the more significant things to notice is that they who are unclean cannot approach God. The reason for this is that God is pure, and we’re supposed to discern the holy from the common.

In fact, when we come to the end of Leviticus 11, the very last verse even reads that. Why do we need to keep a kosher diet? “You must distinguish between the unclean and the clean, between the living creatures that may be eaten and those that may not be eaten.” This is absolutely critical to note. Not everything is sin. There are some things that are spoken against in the Bible, but they aren’t sin. There are other things that are called sin, but aren’t abominable. Then, we find a completely different class where if an Israelite commits this kind of wickedness, they are to either flat out be killed or be cast out of the camp to wander alone and now as a foreigner and alien to God. There is no atonement for these kinds of sins (much like the blaspheme of the Spirit).

Here in Leviticus 11, we never find the word sin. I would claim that certain acts that we do as Christians could also be labeled as “unclean”, meaning that they will separate you in your relationship with God, but they won’t flat out defile you. These would be things like the Corinthians misusing the spiritual gifts, going into debt, not counting it all joy to face trials, or even not keeping the ceremonial laws regarding cleanliness. These won’t damn you (of course, there is no one sin that will send you to hell), but they will affect your walk with Christ.

We are called to discern even in these matters. Doesn’t it seem rather trivial? In all of the aspects of my life, why would God dedicate such a discourse on what I am and am not allowed to eat? Does God actually care that much about the intimate details of my life?

In Mark 7:14-23, Jesus takes up the task of explaining this chapter to us. He calls the crowd to himself, and he teaches them, “Nothing outside a man can make him ‘unclean’ by going into him. Rather, it is what comes out of a man that makes him ‘unclean’.” His disciples then ask what he was talking about, and Jesus replies with, “Are you so dull?”

The original language gives quite a sharp rebuke: Are you stupid?

Which, if I were one of the disciples at that moment, I would probably have to confess, “Apparently….”

Jesus continues, “Don’t you see that nothing that enters a man from the outside can make him ‘unclean’? For it doesn’t go into his heart, but into his stomach, and then out of his body… What comes out fo a man is what makes him ‘unclean’. For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance, and folly. All these evils come from inside and make a man ‘unclean’.”

What is Jesus saying?

The point of discerning between the clean and the unclean goes beyond just food. Look at the words that He calls “unclean”. Theft, murder, adultery, greed, lewdness, slander, arrogance, and folly are “unclean” things? Jesus is showing us that in practicing discernment in what we eat, we are practicing discernment between the holy and the common. It isn’t simply clean and unclean here. This is a discernment between the ways of the world and the kingdom of God.

We find all of these qualities quite active in our world today, and it is quite necessary for us to unlearn them as we continue to follow Christ. But notice what Jesus said. It isn’t what goes into your body that defiles you. What he is getting at is that when certain things, like murderous complaints, come out of your mouth, it shows that you’ve already been defiled. Focus upon the more important things.

I believe fully that God cares even about what we eat. Yet, I must also confess that if I’m focused upon my food being ‘godly’ – or clean – and yet I’m allowing lies and arrogance to come out of my face, then I’m focusing upon the minors instead of the majors. I’m not better than the Pharisees. In Matthew 23, Jesus got on the religious leaders for this very thing. Your mouth is where your heart is, even if you think that by what you take in (whether in food or in listening to sermons, music, etc) is somehow putting you one step closer to God than others. It isn’t about what you listen to, or what you eat, or what you watch, if the truth is that what already comes out of you is perverse and unholy. Turn from your wicked speech, and then deal with the secondary issues.

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Obesity and the Bible

In my quest to anger as many evangelicals as possible, it seemed this would be a great chance (that was a joke). A couple years ago I challenged myself to running my first Tough Mudder.

I walked it.

In case you don’t know, Tough Mudder is a 10-12 mile obstacle course designed by British Special Forces. They have about 20-25 obstacles per course. In training for this, I dropped about 25 pounds. This was my introduction to the subject of fitness and nutrition. As with everything in my life, I wanted to know, “How does it relate to God and the Bible?”

So, I looked up every source I could find – maybe you can find more? – regarding obesity in the Bible. I found three places where it is mentioned. Notice, first of all, the absolute lack of mention. This should tell us something. Apparently, the writers of the Scriptures so expected that we wouldn’t be obese that they just flat out didn’t even mention it. Let us take a look at the three times it is mentioned:

Judges 3:12-23 (but read the whole chapter)
The Israelites did evil in the sight of the Lord, and so God allowed them to be oppressed by Moab. The king of Moab – Eglon – attacks Israel with the help of the Ammonites. Israel cries out for deliverance. A man named Ehud is raised up to deliver Israel from her oppression. In verse 17 we read, “He presented the tribute to Eglon king of Moab, who was a very fat man.” First mention. Ehud tells the king that he has something to present to him as tribute, and Eglon sends the people out. Ehud then stabs the king and kills him, but notice the testimony in verse 21-22: “Ehud reached with his left hand, drew the sword from his right thigh and plunged it into the king’s belly. Even the handle sank in after the blade, which came out of his back. Ehud did not pull the sword out, and the fat closed in over it.”

This is like the ultimate fat joke.

This king was soooo fat… that when you punch him in the stomach, his fat sucks your hand in! (In this case, sword…)

What is the next time obesity is mentioned?

1 Samuel 4:12-18
Eli the priest is sitting at the gate of the city Shiloh. There has been a war going on against the Philistines. The report is brought that his two sons have died in battle. The Philistines have captured the Ark of the Covenant, which is seen as the very throne of God in the eyes of the Israelites. Notice verse 18, Eli’s response to this news: “When he mentioned the ark of God, Eli fell backward off his chair by the side of the gate. His neck was broken and he died, for he was an old man and heavy.” First, note that falling backward in the Scripture is always a sign of judgment. Second, notice that Eli’s obesity is not the main focus, but rather an added detail just to show you the corruption and wickedness of this priest.

So we have a second fat joke.

This priest was sooooo fat… that when he fell off his chair, he broke his neck.

What is the third reference?

Job 15:20-35
Job’s “friend” Eliphaz is giving a discourse on the wicked man. He mentions that the wicked will suffer torment and ruthlessness. He speaks of the despair that is in store for the wicked. He mentions the judgment against the wicked by God. Then we reach verse 27, where the story seems to change. “Though his face is covered with fat and his waist bulges with flesh, he will inhabit ruined towns and houses where no one lives, houses crumbling to rubble.” Notice again that the obesity is not the main focus, but is an added detail just to show how wicked this made-up man is.

What do all three of these passages have in common? The obesity is never the actual issue being addressed. It is always a passing detail that is added to show for the amount of wickedness of the person. This causes me to ask some very sober questions. Is it possible that obesity is so foreign to the mind of the godly that the Bible simply just doesn’t address it directly? Is it possible that obesity is such a sign of lack of discipline that it is only ever associated with the wicked? Is it actually possible that only the wicked are obese?

These are difficult questions, and I don’t think I can give honest answers.

What I can say is this:

It is abundantly clear that obesity and the lack of discipline do go hand in hand. I know of those who are very disciplined in their life before the Lord, but when it comes to their physical body, they are quite undisciplined. How can this be so? My contention isn’t necessarily with the obesity itself, but rather with the heart that would consider it a non-issue.

Some would even say, “Well, I’m going to get a new body anyway!”

Whether that is true or not can be debated. What is more important is to note the attitude in that statement. From where is that statement drawn? Is it drawn from a heart that desires to please God, whatever that might mean? Or is it drawn from the heart that desires to please self?

I’m not sure how many of you have had the same experience as I, but I’m going to assume that you also have seen the evangelists, prophets, apostles, etc that claim to be doing big things for God, but their testimony is completely questionable simply because they obviously weigh at least 250 pounds. How many speakers have you seen and heard where as soon as you look at them, you start calling into question their discipline before the Lord?

Partially, this is valid. Partially, this is not valid. There is indeed the connection between the two. How can you say that you are devoted to the Lord, and at the same time be devoted to junk food, candy, and all sort of other unhealthy habits that lead to obesity? It isn’t a matter of having a “healthy diet”, and the people who are obese know exactly what I’m talking about.

It is true, I haven’t ever been obese.

And yet, even being at the place where I was beginning to turn toward 200 pounds I felt quite convicted of my weight and lack of physical ability. So, I want to challenge anyone who struggles with their weight. I want to give you a few resources to search this out. From what I’ve learned, it is 70% diet and 30% exercise (a round number guestimate, obviously). When I first started dieting, I told myself that I could have dessert, but if I ate it, I needed to do extra exercises. For cakes and pastry sweets, I had to do extra arm workouts. For oils and fried goodies, I had to do extra abdominal workouts. For chocolate and candies, I had to add extra distance to my walks or jogs. It was enough to cause me to question how badly I really wanted it.

So here is the biggest resource that I found to inspire me:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCajFsJ74oE4zt3sPkOP_81g

and to start a workout plan, I suggest using his video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=75Ksd1za5Hw

For information on nutrition, check out this website:

http://knowledgeofhealth.com/

Also, I’ve found a lot of beneficial information here:

https://www.youtube.com/user/strengthcamp (be forewarned, there is obscene language)

Those sources should be enough to get you started. What is more important than learning the information is doing it. Okay, so I need to lose weight. How? Now that I know how, let’s do it. The biggest hinderance is not the lack of time or the lack of discipline. The biggest hinderance attitude. When I feel that this is necessary, I will make time for it. If I think it is something that “just needs to happen”… someday… then it’ll never happen. The choice is yours. First, how much do you truly believe the Scriptures and do you truly desire to please God with your life? Second, what are you going to do about?