Friday, March 28, 2008

The Holy Diet?

These days as people read through the Bible, Leviticus is on the top of the list of "Books of the Bible Most Likely to be a Sleep-Inducer" (it actually is just shy of first place, with Numbers leading the pack). When I hear people complain about this book, though, I have to admit it kind of bothers me. Why should our awesome, indescribable Father's words be boring? Is there something missing?
Well, one of the reasons that Leviticus is decidedly unexciting to us, is that half of the book relates to laws that only had to do with the Temple (or tabernacle), so they are commandments that we can't possibly live out today. The other half are laws that can be applied today, but most people would rather not do them or are taught that they don't apply. I'm sorry if that sounds mean or harsh; I'm only stating my observations. Please don't take offense, just bear with me for a few minutes.
However, on a very good note, in recent generations, our Heavenly Abba has breathed new life into the pages of the "testament before the new one" as slowly, but surely He is drawing the hearts of His people nearer to His, an actual real revival - not in the charismatic sense, but as a return to the Scriptures. This is going on in every area of the world, in every aspect of life. I will talk more about this after we discuss this week's portion, Shemini ("Eighth" - Leviticus 9:1-11:47).
Contained in this week's portion is the story of Aaron, the High Priest, and his sons, Nadab and Abihu. You see, Nadab and Abihu thought it would be cool to offer up some fire to God in their own way. I guess you could call it "creative worship." However, God didn't see it that way; in fact, fire came out and consumed Nadab and Abihu in front of all the Israelites. The Holy One was sending a very clear (and costly!) message that is echoed from this point to Revelation - "to obey is better than sacrifice."
The next part of this portion talks about a very interesting, much misunderstood and much debated topic. I even had qualms about talking about it on here, because I really dislike controversy; as my Dad always said - "HE said it, I didn't say it." The topic is that of the "holy diet" or the laws concerning which animals are given the Heavenly stamp of approval for human consumption. Before you click away from this blog right now, let me tell you that I have learned something over the course of the past ten years that may give you a new perspective...if not, I hope it's at least mildly entertaining.
"Yeah, I know, God told the Jews not to eat pork or shellfish (what! no lobster or Alaskan snow crab legs?) or a bunch of other animals that no one here in America eats anyway (well, actually I have heard tales of squirrel stew). If that is your current attitude, please bear with me for a few more minutes; I promise I'll explain what changed my own thinking.
What was the reason for these obscure laws? Why does God care about what His people eat? There are at least two theories about this.
1) God wanted His people to be healthy.
The health reason is probably the most popular reason, and is made more widely known by Jordan Rubin's book, The Maker's Diet. You will most often hear this reason today - "I'm eating Biblically for my health." It is actually said to be the reason that the Jews in Europe were not as harmed by the Bubonic Plague (and then were blamed for causing it). I agree - I do believe that our Creator knows what is good for our bodies, and what is not. However, there is another less-commonly spoken of reason for following the holy diet.
2) God said it.
That's it? That's the reason? Yes, I believe that that, in itself, is sufficient reason for His people to follow the holy diet. Look, I'm no nutritionist, so I can't get into all the chemical molecules and digestive systems of those "unclean" animals (well, maybe I do know a little) as to why they are "unclean." But there's a whole lot more to this "clean" and "unclean" thing (tahor and tamei in Hebrew, respectively) than we give credit to God for. You see, in this context, those words are actually not referring to the physical essence of something, but the spiritual. In other words, the Israelites of this time knew something that their children would forget; that is, that something can be physically "clean", but spiritually "unclean." This is exactly what Yeshua (Jesus' Hebrew name) was talking about when he was telling the Pharisees to wash the inside of the cup, and then the outer part.
But what about Peter's vision?!!!
I know there are so many Scriptures from the newer testament going off in your head right now that you could scream! I don't have room or time to address every single one of them today, but perhaps on later posts. Simply put, if you read the context of those verses, they are either talking about one of two things:
1) Allowing Gentiles to come into the faith.
2) Food sacrificed to idols. That is, meat (pork was not even considered "food" at the time of these writings) that was sold in the market that could or could not have been offered to idols.
Now what?
Probably half of you are denouncing me as a heretic at this moment and are never going to read Tavita's Purse again. The rest of you, if you would like more information on the holy diet, I have a few suggestions:
1) Pray - definitely ask God for continued wisdom and guidance.
2) Read this portion of Scripture, and re-read those portions in the newer testament to really discover the context.
3) Read some books. As I said, the Maker's Diet talks about this, as well as Holy Cow! Does God Care About What We Eat?.
4) REMEMBER - this is NOT a salvation issue. For it is "by grace you have been saved, so no man can boast." But also remember, there are blessings for obedience! That has been my personal experience, for sure!
My family slowly started adopting the Biblical diet when I was about 10 years old. I can't say that I was terribly disappointed, even though I had enjoyed lobster when we went to Canada in the summer or that I grew up in North Carolina, the home of the "best" pork barbecue. My younger sister and I really were excited to be able to read about something in the Bible and then actually do it...just like the Israelites! It was so fun as we began to celebrate the Feasts of the Lord (Leviticus 23), and see the pages of the Bible spring to life!
For those of you that feel like you are not part of this because you have no Jewish background, take a look at Ephesians 2:11-22. Throughout the books of the older testament as well, this phrase is repeated "this law shall be the same for you as for the sojourner (or foreigner) dwelling with you." Everyone's invited! This is an equal employment opportunity!
Have any questions or comments? Please feel free to leave them, just remember to be nice!

Thank you to Chic-fil-A for the above picture!


Martha A. said...

I find the books in the old testement interesting as I think that God placed many of them for health reasons. For example the one about a woman being unclean after she has a baby for a certain amount of time, I believe was so the women's body could heal properly after childbirth. It is not a surprise to me that the amount of time is 6-8 weeks as that is medical professionals know is the best for our bodies, yet many people do not follow this length of healing as it is hard for our flesh or pride and we want to get back to work. I do not follow them, but avoid unclean meats usually etc. Anyhow, I found your thoughts interesting! There are so many interesting things in Lev. I am amazed people find it boring!

Martha A. said...

Oh, also even though we do eat unclean meats some when that is what God provides, I do think we feel better when we do not eat them!

Growing Hearts in the Fishbowl said...

I love your blog! This post is so interesting. I have the book The Maker's Diet, and I just need to delve deep into it and start studying it. :)

Thanks for visiting my blog!


wendymom said...

I somehow missed this wonderful blog. I like how you pointed out that a reason to honor this commandment is because 'He said so'. Obedience provides refreshing peace within.
Another thing too- avoiding shellfish is more FRUGAL!