As we discussed before, I try to use the principle/application method when studying the Torah, and it's really helped me. Most of the time, of course, God didn’t give the specific reason why he gave us certain laws and regulations, so we have to use sanctified “common sense” to find the thinking behind his commandments.
One of the main aspects of the Torah which have puzzled biblical scholars for years has been the dietary restrictions, specifically as they try to discern what was God’s purpose here. As you read the passage for today, you might have been perplexed yourself. In order for us to figure this out we would need to see a pattern concerning them. Several theories have been advanced over the years, and many of them have some merit. The first one is that the dietary laws were for health reasons. Trichinosis is a serious issue even today, and if someone was eating any pork products without cooking them very thoroughly, it could be lethal. On the other hand, it’s not good to eat any meat products without cooking them thoroughly, and God didn’t command them just to be careful in cooking, he commanded them to avoid them altogether. Another reason which has been forwarded is that God’s main purpose was merely to keep the Israelites separate from their pagan neighbors in order to minimize idolatry and other bad influences. Again, there is truth to that, but still the list of forbidden food seems a bit arbitrary.
There's one very interesting theory for which I have to credit author and musician John Fischer. Several years ago I read an article by him in which he addressed not only the food topic but several others, like why perfectly fine Levites who might otherwise serve as priests couldn’t do so because of a physical deformity. He answers a lot of questions we might have about the Torah under the heading “No oddballs allowed!” For example, a “fish” has fins and scales, so anything that doesn’t fit that description of how “normal” fish look is labeled as “unclean.” A Levite in the line of Aaron with a deformity is an “oddball,” so he’s not fit to be a priest.
Of course, much of the Torah is spent separating one thing from another: clean vs. unclean people, clean vs. unclean houses, clean vs. unclean food, holy days vs. regular days, etc. Yes, that’s right, there's a whole section in the Law about what to do if your house gets mold and becomes “unclean.” Remember, the very word “holy” means to be separate or different.
But everything changed once Jesus came. He turned their whole ideas about clean vs. unclean on its head, especially when it came to unclean people (see here for example). The moment he died, the curtain in the temple which symbolized our separation from God was torn in two, not from bottom to top but from top to bottom. The sign that said “No oddballs” has been taken down, and all of us are welcome.
Lord Jesus, thank you for providing access to the Father’s throne. Please don’t let me forget what it cost you.
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