Feasting with God #16
Text: Deuteronomy 14:3
3You shall not eat any abomination.
Has it ever struck you how strict the diet was for the Israelites? Sure, today we see things labeled “Kosher,” and we know that Jewish people don’t eat pork. But I suspect that unless we’re a part of that demographic, the restrictions of their meal plans don’t really stand out.
This verse today from the book of Deuteronomy serves as the overarching theme of what the nation of Israel was not to eat: no “abomination.” The meaning of this word depends exclusively on the perspective of the person who speaks it, so as God is the one speaking it, what he means is that the Israelites were forbidden to eat anything that God would deem offensive. Maybe his rules on their food were a little bit arbitrary, but he was grooming this nation to be one that was exclusively his, one to be separate from all the pagan nations of the earth. The nation of Israel would have the true God, while all these other nations would have false gods. One way this distinction was to be outwardly shown was through diet. In worshiping the true God, the Israelites would obey God’s commands for what they were and were not to eat.
Now why don’t Christians follow these dietary laws? It’s fairly common for Christians to eat things like pork and shellfish, but since we believe and follow the whole Bible, including the Old Testament, it seems we ought to make ourselves aware of these laws and do our best to follow them, so that we can be God’s pious people just as ancient Israel was. But the answer comes in Acts 10:13-15. Peter was given a vision of animals, all kinds of animals that would be called unclean or abominations. “And there came a voice to him: ‘Rise, Peter; kill and eat.’ But Peter said, ‘By no means, Lord; for I have never eaten any thing that is common or unclean.’ And the voice came to him again a second time, ‘What God has made clean, do not call common.’”
This new church of which Peter was now a part was no longer restricted to the nation of Israel. The Gospel message was to be taken to all nations, and disciples made of all the people throughout the world. There was no need for a diet to distinguish the people of God’s nation from all the heathen nations, because all nations were to be God’s. And more than this, these laws of diet were given as a requirement to enhance the holiness of God’s people. But because of what Jesus had done – keeping all the law perfectly, and dying for the sake of all uncleanness and abomination – there is no need for us to try to save ourselves by any law. We are saved by grace and faith. This is given to us freely, and that sets us free.
“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery” Paul writes (Gal. 5:1). No laws can burden us, no special diets are required. Instead, now, we are free to live and act in love – free to “eat or drink, or whatever you do,” but in every case, whatever we do, to “do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31).
Yes, there are still things that will distinguish the Christian Church from the rest of the unbelieving world, but it’s not obedience to any law. Instead, what set Christians apart are the fruits of the spirit: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self control; against such things there is no law” (Gal. 5:22-23). We live free from all laws, so we live in love toward God and one another, and that – not what foods we eat or don’t eat – marks us as God’s people.
Lord, guide us to a greater understanding of our Christian freedom, and to an appreciation for what a great gift it is you have given us. Although we are no longer bound by any laws, O Lord, lead us to submit ourselves to the law of love, in which we can share the Gospel message of your Son who set us free, that others might also rejoice in this freedom. In your Son’s name we ask it. Amen.
Scripture quotations are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.