Humanists can only offer unity without holiness, which is unity without wholeness. Humanistic unity, because it rejects God, must ultimately destroy our humanity. But God is determined to heal our enmity through holiness. He is determined to reconcile all things in Christ, and when they are reconciled they will be fully and completely whole. Some of this was pictured in the distinctions Israel was required to make between those clean animals they could eat and the unclean animals prohibited.
“And the Lord spake unto Moses and Aaron, saying unto them, speak unto the children of Israel, saying, these are the beasts which ye shall eat among all the beast that are on the earth…” (Lev. 11:1-47)
SUMMARY OF THE TEXT
Following the warning that the priests must be sober in order to teach the Israelites to distinguish between clean and unclean (Lev. 10:10-11), this chapter explains the clean animals that God allowed Israel to eat and the unclean animals they were forbidden from eating (11:1-2). Clean land animals chew the cud and have divided hooves (11:3-8). In the waters, Israel could eat the fish that had scales and fins, but the others are to be abominations to them (11:9-12). Among the birds, a number of specific species are prohibited (11:13-19). Among swarming flying creatures, only the hopping locusts, beetles, and grasshoppers may be eaten (11:20-23). Finally, we learn that all animals that die (except for those killed for sacrifice or eating) become unclean, and whatever their carcasses touch become unclean and the various requirements for cleansing (11:24-43). All of these instructions are given because God is the Lord of Israel, and they are to be holy just as He is holy (11:44-47).
WHAT MAKES THEM CLEAN OR UNCLEAN?
The great question is: what made certain animals clean or unclean? The leading contenders for answers are: A. It’s a mystery only God knows, B. It was hygienic and health related, C. It was symbolic. But I’ll add a fourth option that I lean towards, which is a combination of all three, with C (symbolism) being primary. Many of the unclean animals seem to be associated with predators, eaters of carrion, or in some way associated with death or the serpent that goes on its belly in the cursed dust (Lev. 11:42). But we should always interpret Scripture in light of Scripture, and especially the Old Testament through the lens of the New Testament.
One of the clearest and most extended passages in the New Testament on clean and unclean animals is found in Acts 10 where Peter sees a vision of a great sheet being let down to the earth, full of beasts, creeping things, and fowls of the air (Acts 10:11-12). Then Peter heard a voice that said, “Rise, Peter, kill and eat” (Acts 10:13). But Peter, being a faithful Jew refused saying, “Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean” (Acts 10:14). To which the voice replied, “What God hath cleansed, do not call common,” and it says that this happened three times (Acts 10:15-16). Immediately after this vision, Peter is asked to go to the house of a Gentile Centurion named Cornelius, and the Spirit gives the same command “rise” (Acts 10:20). Arriving at the house of the Centurion, Peter explains the vision to Cornelius, explaining that it would have ordinarily been unlawful for him as a Jew to keep company with a Gentile, but he says, “God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean” (Acts 10:28). After preaching the death and resurrection of Jesus and the forgiveness of sins, the Spirit came upon all those listening, and Peter called for their baptism (Acts 10:44-48).
THE ANIMALS ARE PEOPLE
All of this tells us that one of the primary purposes of the designation of clean and unclean animals was to distinguish between Jews and Gentiles. But with the coming of Christ, God was announcing that the salvation offered to Israel in the Old Covenant was now being proclaimed to all of the nations of the earth. This was prophesied in Isaiah: the wolf [unclean] will dwell with the lamb [clean], the leopard [unclean] shall lie down with the young goat [clean], etc. (Is. 11:6, cf. 65:25). The warring predatory nations shall be at peace with Israel and one another.
A great deal of the New Testament is taken up with the inclusion of the Gentiles in the New Covenant, and many Jews for any number of reasons (personal preference, ignorance, or fear) continued following the food codes, and so right on schedule there were conflicts in the early churches. Paul notes an example in Galatians 2 where even Peter withdrew from eating with Gentiles when certain Jews came into town, and Paul rebuked Peter openly because he was not walking according to the truth of the gospel – making something more than faith in Jesus Christ necessary for justification and therefore fellowship (Gal. 2:11-16). Later, in Acts 15 a more formal appeal was made to the apostles and elders in Jerusalem, and their decision made it clear that Gentiles were only to be required to keep themselves from idols, sexual immorality, and the only food restrictions were related to offerings to idols (Acts 15:20, 29).
So the animals represent people, particularly Jews and Gentiles, and therefore, so long as the Jews were the only people of God, the Jews could only eat “Jewish” animals. But once God made himself the God of all the nations, then God’s people were free to eat all the animals. The principle is that we must be holy as God is holy. In the Old Covenant, the primary focus was on distinguishing Israel from the other nations of the earth, but in the New Covenant, the primary focus is on reconciling the nations of the earth. “For [Christ Jesus] is our peace, who hath made both [Jew and Gentile] one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; having abolished in His flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of the two, one new man, so making peace” (Eph. 2:13-14).
Unbelievers promises unity and peace apart from Christ, which means letting sinners keep certain sins and demanding uniformity. When the enmity inevitably increases, they demand to be given more power to enforce more uniformity. But Christ is bringing unity through His holiness. Christ is bringing unity and peace through removing our sins and restoring us to our full humanity. Christ is reconciling the lions and the lambs of the nations by removing the enmity, not by turning us all into generic land animals. Humanists try to pacify our lust for sin and deform our humanity. Only Christ can remove our sin and make us more human. This requires faith in Christ, and obedience to His Word. This means husbands and wives, parents and children, pastors and parishioners, magistrates and citizens trusting and obeying Christ.