In these three chapters we find the description of which animals, birds and sea animals are considered “unclean” for food. Animals which have both split hooves and chew their cud are clean, and those who do not chew their cud and/or do not have split hooves are unclean. Similarly, if sea animals have both scales and fins, they are clean and if they are missing one or both, they are considered unclean. Among birds, those that are called birds of prey – vultures, raptors, owls, herons – are considered unclean.
The readings for today also talk about being unclean regarding bodily fluids (especially blood), and skin diseases, and ceremonial purification in order to be able to worship God in the temple.
Three New Testament references shed some light on how we are to think about food that is considered kosher (clean) or non-kosher (unclean). Jesus said (Matthew 4:4) to the devil when he was being tempted – “one does not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God”. In other words, food is secondary to life—believing and following God is primary. This is supported by Jesus’ words in Mtt 6:25 “do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink…”. Jesus also says that it is not food which enters the body via the mouth but that which comes out of the mouth—i.e. evil words from the heart which defile a person. The evil that has taken hold in our minds and our hearts is what we must deal with –confess, repent, and be forgiven; be made clean by the Lord Jesus Christ.
Just a note: Food is not unimportant. It is that we consider the source of our food–God–to be the most important in our lives.
Perhaps that last sentence I wrote is also the application of this Bible text: The source of all that is good is God. We look to the Holy Triune God—Father, Jesus, Holy Spirit—as the source of true life and holiness. Becoming clean is what happens when we ask God to forgive our sin and to cleanse us from wrong-doing. Going through purification rites – while not wrong, is not what will ultimately make us clean and pure. It is God’s forgiveness and God filling us with the Holy Spirit that makes us pure or righteous.
Oh Lord God, we pray that your Holy Spirit would reveal to me areas of wrong-doing, especially those that make me feel unclean, so I can repent. Forgive us oh Lord, in our distress and cause us to forgive those who have sinned against us and whom we’ve sinned against. Forgive the guilt of our sin, (Psalm 32:5). Our times are in your hands oh God. Save us in your steadfast love, (Ps.31:14-16).
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