God cares even if we don’t realize it

2 Replies

Front Page Spiritual Health

This morning, I was reading in the Old Testament book of Leviticus, and I was in the chapters giving the regulations for what kind of animals are okay to eat, what to do about dead animals, and what to do with skin rashes.

It’s interesting to me to think that the people of old had no idea what germs and viruses were. They had no idea what parasites were, yet the commands God gave them were exactly what they needed to protect them from these medical dangers.

I was struck with two thoughts in relation to that. First of all, I am grateful that God in heaven cares enough about people to give us such explicit instructions on what things are good for us and what things aren’t good for us. It truly does make me feel thankful to God for loving me enough to tell me not to eat a vulture or not to touch a dead weasel. It may seem a little silly to us in our day of antibacterial everything, but I can tell how important these commands would have been to people back then.

The second thing I thought about, though, was that the people of Israel would have had absolutely no idea why eating pork is a potentially dangerous thing to do. They had no awareness of trichinosis or anything else. What’s more, is that they had no ability to learn about the parasites present in pigs. It would be thousands of years before the theory of parasites would be understood. In other words, God gave them a command that they could not possibly understand, that they would never be able to figure out but one that they would benefit from if they kept it.

I take great comfort in the knowledge that God’s commands are given for my benefit even if I never understand his rationale behind them.

2 comments

  1. Dave Hynes

    Hey Jeff!
    Wasn’t the command not to eat pigs part of a larger law about not eating animals that had cloven hooves but didn’t chew cud? If they did one but not the other, they were considered unclean (camels and rabbits I think fell into this category with pigs). If they did both, they were ok (cattle and wild deer?).

    I’m not trying to pooh-pooh the idea of God’s protecting us even when we don’t understand it; there are clearly laws that govern health and hygiene that wouldn’t be understood until modern germ theory was advanced.

    I tend to think of such prohibitions in the Law as teaching the Israelites to distinguish between common and holy (I think Leviticus actually says that). This brings up a question – Are these distinctions necessary, or still existing, now that Christ has come and we live under grace?

    Have a great one!
    -Dave H.

  2. Jeff Post author

    Hey Dave!

    Yep, that’s the passage I was reading this morning. The guideline was that cloven hooves and cud-chewing indicated a clean animal. For fish, the rule was scales and fins. For insects, the rule was jointed legs for hopping. For birds, there was a list of prohibited birds (but the majority of them are either scavengers or at least carnivores).

    So your question is a good one. Is this about protection for God’s people or is it simply an arbitrary distinction between holy and common?

    On the one hand, I think it is dangerous to think that God only declares things holy when they somehow work out to our benefit as if holiness is human-focused. However, I think it’s important that in this passage, God doesn’t call the “clean” animals holy and the “unclean” animals common. Instead, he consistently uses the words “clean” and “unclean” as if to indicate safe / unsafe along with the concept of “ceremonial cleanliness.”

    That’s why I am so fascinated by the practical truth in these commands that we can see from today’s point of view but couldn’t be imagined back in the day when they were given. I don’t know all the story on the health benefits of each of the animals mentioned in this passage, but I am struck by how the animals that were mentioned as clean are the most consumed animals globally (chickens, sheep, goats, cows, fish with scales and fins) while the unclean animals are rarely eaten even in non-Judeo-Christian cultures (vultures, eagles, reptiles, cats, dogs). There are some exceptions (pigs, oysters, eels, sharks, snails), but by and large, these biblical guidelines have held to be culturally widespread.

    As long as I’m on a role here, I may as well address your last point. Do these regulations apply to us today?

    I want to be brief, so here’s my bullet point list:

    • These regulations did not apply for the thousands of years between Adam and Moses.
    • The NT explicitly declares on a number of occasions the “repeal” of the dietary commands.
    • Nevertheless, we should probably take them more seriously than we do. Perhaps, just perhaps, there are some health reasons for the OT commands, and perhaps, just perhaps, we could benefit from them.

    Regardless, I’m glad we have a God who gives commands that highlight his glory and also work to our benefit. What awesome love!

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