22 June 2013

"Blessed is the man"--Psalm 1:1

Psalm 1_1

There are at least 50 places in the Bible that use the word, “Blessed.” Or “Blessed be…” Psalm 128:1Blessed is the man who fears the LORD. Matthew 11:6“Blessed is he who is not offended because of Me.” And of course, all the Beatitudes begin with the phrase, “Blessed are…” Matthew 5:3-8“Blessed are the poor in spirit…they that mourn…the meek…those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.” 2nd Corinthians 11:31Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Revelation 20:6Blessed and holy is he who has a part in the first resurrection.

When referring to God, the word “blessed” means “glorified, revered.” When referring to a person, that word “blessed” can also be defined as one who is “happy,” or “to be congratulated.” Today, we’re going to look at what type of person is truly “blessed,” and is deserving of “congratulations.” We’re going to read the first two verses of the first Psalm, and look a little deeper at what the psalmist is saying here.

If we want to be blessed in this life—and especially in the life to come—there are some things we need to avoid. Some people just don’t get that. They think that true joy and happiness come from the things we do and the things we get right now, here in this life. But we’ll talk more about Joel Osteen some other time. And when things don’t quite work out the way they expected them to, and their lives start crumbling around them, and they wonder how it happened, and how they can fix it. And how many times, when we tell them that if they would just stop doing things the way they're doing them, and trust God, and follow His ways that they will be better able to deal with their situation. It doesn't mean that their lives will suddenly turn to sunshine and unicorns, but they’ll have a more lasting and true peace about those things.

But, they usually want to hear about how they can keep doing the same thing they’ve been doing, the same way they’ve been doing it—even if it’s the wrong thing to do, and the wrong way to do it—they want to keep doing the same thing, but get a different result. And that is the definition of what? Insanity. Instead of turning to the LORD. When we turn to God for answers—He may not FIX our problems, but He will give us the strength and the patience we need to endure until those storms pass. So, how does one find true blessedness?

Psalm 1:1Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful. We are blessed when we avoid the ways of the world. What we see here in verse 1 is a progression. When we get caught up in sin, is it because we charge right into it? Do we wake up one day and say, “It looks so nice outside. I think I'll get hooked on meth today!” I can't imagine that sentence has ever passed through anybody’s lips. But how many times—especially for believers—is it very gradual, and very subtle? How many times have we wound up somewhere doing something that we were so absolutely sure “that would NEEEVVVER happen.” And then you look up one day and you think, “What the heck am I doing here!!”

It's a slow fade when you give yourself away
It's a slow fade when black and white have turned to gray
Thoughts invade, choices are made, a price will be paid
When you give yourself away
People never crumble in a day
It’s a slow fade
--Casting Crowns, “Slow Fade”

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly. We need to be really careful about who we look to for advice. There are many psychologists and psychiatrists, and therapists, that—they have all these years of school, and college, and you walk in and they have these fancy diplomas on their wall—and they don’t know a thing about how to help you get through your problems. Other than, “Here, take this pill! It will make you happy!” Many times, our problems—whether they are physical, or emotional, or psychological—most of the time, the root of that problem is spiritual. We may be looking at our problem through our own eyes, and the problem looks impossible—to us. But is anything impossible with God?

Another example: when somebody does something to us, what does the world say we’re supposed to do? Get even with them. What did Jesus say to do? Yeah, you know, that whole “Turn the other cheek” thing.

--“You don’t know what Naomi said about me!” They blasphemed Christ.
--“But Joseph’s been cheating with my girlfriend!” His people committed harlotry with other gods.
--“That drunk driver killed my baby daughter!” And your sins nailed Jesus to the cross.

And I guarantee you one thing: what you're fixin’ to do to that person is a whole lot worse than what they did to you. It’s never about “getting even”, now, is it? Isn't it always “get even—and then some”? Somebody does something to you, you have to do worse to them, right? No. Walk away. Don’t walk in the counsel of someone who says you need to “get even” with the one who offended you and hurt your delicate little feelings.

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners. How many of y’all remember what high school was like? Not every school is the same, but in most, you’ve got your jocks over here, your cheerleaders over here, your science geeks over here, then you’ve got a group made up of kids who aren’t in ANY group. They’ve made their own group. “We are the ‘not-in-any-group’ group!” You could tell what type of person somebody was by the group they hung out with. The same when it comes to us, and which group we belong to—do we stand with saints or do we stand with sinners. There’s no neutral territory. Hebrews 3:12Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God. Unbelief is evil. I'm sure we've all heard someone say they know a friend who is “walking with one foot in the world, and one foot in the kingdom.” That is an absolute impossibility. One cannot walk with one foot in the world and one foot in the kingdom. They will either have both feet in the world or both feet in the kingdom. Matthew 6:24“No man can serve two masters…” James 4:4The friendship of the world is hostility with God. So which path do we stand in? Do we take sides with the world, or with God?

Now, does that mean we can't have friends who aren’t Christians? No, it does not. We are, in fact, encouraged to have non-Christian friends rather than friends who claim to be Christians, but are living an immoral lifestyle. 1st Corinthians 5:9-11I wrote to you in my epistle not to keep company with sexually immoral people. Yet I certainly did not mean with the sexually immoral people of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner—not even to eat with such a person. Let me give you one example of this. I found a video while back from a ministry in Los Angeles. A woman from this ministry was talking to a couple of young men outside the BET awards. They wanted to see all the big-name rappers. These men said, “Yeah, we’re Christians.” And during the course of this interview, these men said (I kid you not) that these rappers were—quote—“God-fearing men.” Apparently, in some people’s eyes God-fearing men rap about going to clubs, having multiple sexual partners, drugs. And these men who claimed to be Christians were standing in the same path with them! Psalm 101:3I will set nothing wicked before my eyes; I hate the work of those who fall away; it shall not cling to me. Philippians 4:8Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest…just… pure…lovely…of good report…any virtue…any praise, think on these things. We can have non-Christian friends—we should, so we can let our light shine before them, they can glorify our Father in Heaven—that doesn’t mean we should be imitating them.

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful. This is the most dangerous of all. Because if you are walking or standing, you can look around and eventually you'll say, “What am I doing? I'm outta here!!!” But when you sit at someone’s table, you are making yourself comfortable with what they are offering you. When you see a friend—especially one who claims to be a brother—you see them doing something you know is sinful, and not only do you say nothing to him, but you take part in it, you are “sitting in the seat of the scornful.” Proverbs 23:6-8Do not eat the bread of [the greedy], nor desire his delicacies; for as he thinks in his heart, so is he. "Eat and drink!" he says to you, but his heart is not with you. The morsel you have eaten, you will vomit up, and waste your pleasant words. In other words, don’t partake of another’s evil, because they may act like they're your friend, but when it’s all said and done they don’t care about you, and you're going to be in worse shape than you were before.

Another thing to consider: think about how Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons go about their work. Do they just stand outside the Wal-Mart and hand out tracts? No. They knock on your door. They want to come into your house. And what do they want to do? They want to sit down with you. And they want you to be comfortable. And if you know what Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormons believe, then you know Satan is coming through that door too, right? 2nd John 9-11He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into your house nor greet him; for he who greets him shares in his evil deeds. When we lived in our last house, we lived about 3 blocks away from a Mormon church. And on 3 separate occasions we had some Mormon missionaries come to our door. And it was cold outside. And we stood at the door. And they tried to tell me all about their polygamous prophet. And I want you to know, they did not step one foot in our house. And they probably about froze. But I was not about to let them in the house. Why? Because I was not a good neighbor? No. Because God tells us not to! You want to preach your false god, you can do it from outside my door. But you ain't stepping foot inside.

Now, Psalm 1:2 kinda gives us the other side of the coin. It shows us what we can do to find true blessedness. Psalm 1:2But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night. What is the Law? It’s all those 613 commandments in Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. Which is the great commandment? Matthew 22:37-38“‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment.” This is what we meditate on day and night. Love the LORD our God with everything in us, and our neighbor as ourselves. Where does it teach us to do that? The Law. You can watch talk shows, read all kinds of books written by people who don’t know the LORD—and don’t want to know Him. You can get all kinds of advice from the newest, trendiest pop psychologist. But you will never know how to please the LORD if you don’t read His word.

Charles Spurgeon said,
“‘His delight is in the law of the Lord.’ He is not under the law as a curse and condemnation, but he is in it, and he delights to be in it as his rule of life; he delights, moreover, to meditate in it, to read it by day, and think upon it by night. He takes a text and carries it with him all day long; and in the night-watches, when sleep forsakes his eyelids; he [reflects] upon the Word of God. In the day of his prosperity he sings psalms out of the Word of God, and in the night of his affliction he comforts himself with promises out of the same book.”
He’s saying that “day and night” doesn’t just mean the sun coming up and going down. But the day can also refer to when things are going good, and the night when things aren’t so good. And in it all, we know that God is sovereign over it all, that nothing happens in our lives that He does not allow, and if He does allow it to happen it is so we can glorify Him in the midst of our trouble. Psalm 30:5Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.

Blessed be Your name
In the land that is plentiful
Where your streams of abundance flow
Blessed be Your name

Blessed be Your name
When I'm found in the desert place
Though I walk through the wilderness
Blessed be Your name

Blessed be Your name
When the sun's shining down on me
When the world's 'all as it should be'
Blessed be Your name

Blessed be Your name
On the road marked with suffering
Though there's pain in the offering
Blessed be Your name
--Matt Redman, “Blessed Be Your Name”

When things look bleak, we have promises from God that He will see us through it. When we have joy, we can find countless ways to praise Him for His goodness! No other religion on earth gives any assurance that you are pleasing that particular deity. Not the Buddhist god, nor the Hindu god, nor the god of the Jehovah's Witnesses or the god of the Mormons. And especially not the god if the Muslims. But if we know Christ then we can know, without a doubt, that we are indeed children of the One, True, Living God. Let me finish up this quote from Spurgeon.
“‘The law of the Lord’ is the daily bread of the true believer. And yet, in David's day, how small was the volume of inspiration, for they had scarcely anything save the first five books of Moses! How much more, then, should we prize the whole written Word which it is our privilege to have in all our houses!”
Think about that for a second. When these Psalms were written, all they had was the Torah. They didn’t have the book of Romans. Or Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John. They did not know about the cross. They did not know that the sinless Son of God would be made sin for us, so that we could be the righteousness of God in Christ. All they knew was “LAW”. Consider this also: there are some parts of the world where if you get caught with a Bible, you're dead! There are still other places that have never seen one! Yet how casually do we treat it, we who can go into any Wal-Mart or Target, without fear of prosecution—or persecution—and pick one up, and it’ll cost you 5 bucks. Some countries, it’ll cost you your life! But blessed are we when we take this book, and read it, and study it, and believe in the promises contained inside and understand that this is the perfect word of God, not just a bunch of stories. “Bunch of stories from old Jewish guys.” No, they are not. This beloved book is no less than a collection of 66 love letters from God to His people.

I'll close with an example of a man who did not walk in the counsel of the ungodly. In Luke chapter 23, after Jesus has given up the ghost it says in Luke 23:50-53
  • Now behold, there was a man named Joseph, a council member, and a good and just man—a good and just man, in the middle of that Sanhedrin that wanted Jesus dead.
  • He had not consented to their decision and action—a good and just man in the middle of a bunch of blasphemers—but he voiced his opposition, and did not walk in the counsel of the ungodly.
  • And he was looking for the kingdom of God—His delight was in the Law of the LORD and on that Law he meditated day and night.
  • This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then he took it down and wrapped it in a linen shroud and laid him in a tomb cut in stone, where no one had ever been laid—When it was all said and done, he took the Word of God, went to great lengths to care for it, and laid it in his own tomb—knowing that Christ’s body wasn’t going to be there forever. And three days later, it wasn’t.
We don’t need advice from the ungodly. We don’t need to imitate sinners and we certainly do not need to partake of and feel comfortable conforming to the ways of those who mock and scorn God. Let us meditate on the Law of the LORD, let it be our guide to living lives that please Him, knowing that our God and Savior Jesus Christ fulfilled all 613 commands contained therein, freeing us from its yoke and giving us life and life more abundantly! Praise Him for His indescribable Gift! (2nd Corinthians 9:15).

26 May 2013

A Survey of the Old Testament Law--Clean and Unclean Animals (part 2)

We’re gonna skip ahead a few verses and see God complete the list in Leviticus 11:27, 29, 30, 41-4227 And whatever goes on its paws, among all kinds of animals that go on all fours, those are unclean to you. Whoever touches any such carcass shall be unclean until evening...29 These also shall be unclean to you among the creeping things that creep on the earth: the mole, the mouse, and the large lizard after its kind; 30 the gecko, the monitor lizard, the sand reptile, the sand lizard, and the chameleon... 41 And every creeping thing that creeps on the earth shall be an abomination. It shall not be eaten. 42 Whatever crawls on its belly, whatever goes on all fours, or whatever has many feet among all creeping things that creep on the earth—these you shall not eat, for they are an abomination.’” Of those things that go upon their paws, of course, would be a wide variety of animals, such as dogs, cats, weasels, mice, rats, lions, tigers, bears—oh my! We discussed the case of Samson several weeks ago. That he would have been unclean indeed after removing the honeycomb from the carcass of the dead lion. One rather interesting note I would like to point out. The word that is translated “paws” in verse 27 is the Hebrew כַּפָּיו (qappiv). Literally, this word means “hands.” So if the skeptic really wants to push the whole “four-legged insect” thing, and argue that we Christians are trying to “make excuses” for the terminology used in verses 20-23, we can simply point to this text and show them that these are indeed cultural uses of the various words, for I am sure they would argue that dogs, cats, bears, etc. have “feet” and not “hands.” But again, it’s that whole professing to be wise they became fools thing we keep seeing over and over again.

Then God prohibits reptiles—snakes, lizards, etc. These of course would be related to the serpent. Why would God want to prohibit His people from defiling themselves with things related to the serpent? Might it have something to do with a little episode that occurred right after the dawn of human history? Genesis 3:1Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, "Has God indeed said, 'You shall not eat of every tree of the garden'?" The serpent, inhabited by the one whom Jesus described as being “A murderer from the beginning…a liar, and the father of it” (John 8:44), was eventually cursed by God for his actions, Genesis 3:14-1514 So the LORD God said to the serpent: "Because you have done this, you are cursed more than all cattle, and more than every beast of the field; on your belly you shall go, and you shall eat dust all the days of your life. 15 And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel." Do we want to be handling the thing that God has cursed more than any other creature on earth? Did God want His people to associate with that creature that symbolized the thing that brought sin and death into the world?

And finally, just to avoid any loopholes, He commands the people not to eat anything that goes upon its belly, or has four legs, or has many legs. This would be worms, any kinds of four-legged animal, or anything that had any number of legs (spiders, centipedes, scorpions, etc.). He says if you touch the dead body of any of these things, you are unclean.

Now, what were the injunctions? You could not eat them; you could not touch their carcass. Does this mean you could not handle them while they were alive? No; you could indeed come into contact with these animals while they were still alive. But once they were dead—hands off! So what was the punishment if you handled one of these carcasses? You were unclean until evening. Leviticus 11:24-26, 32-40, 43“‘24 By these you shall become unclean; whoever touches the carcass of any of them shall be unclean until evening; 25 whoever carries part of the carcass of any of them shall wash his clothes and be unclean until evening…32 Anything on which any of them falls, when they are dead shall be unclean, whether it is any item of wood or clothing or skin or sack, whatever item it is, in which any work is done, it must be put in water. And it shall be unclean until evening; then it shall be clean. 33 Any earthen vessel into which any of them falls you shall break; and whatever is in it shall be unclean: 34 in such a vessel, any edible food upon which water falls becomes unclean, and any drink that may be drunk from it becomes unclean. 35 And everything on which a part of any such carcass falls shall be unclean; whether it is an oven or cooking stove, it shall be broken down; for they are unclean, and shall be unclean to you. 36 Nevertheless a spring or a cistern, in which there is plenty of water, shall be clean, but whatever touches any such carcass becomes unclean. 37 And if a part of any such carcass falls on any planting seed which is to be sown, it remains clean. 38 But if water is put on the seed, and if a part of any such carcass falls on it, it becomes unclean to you. 39 And if any animal which you may eat dies, he who touches its carcass shall be unclean until evening. 40 He who eats of its carcass shall wash his clothes and be unclean until evening. He also who carries its carcass shall wash his clothes and be unclean until evening…43 You shall not make yourselves abominable with any creeping thing that creeps; nor shall you make yourselves unclean with them, lest you be defiled by them.’” Not going to go into the various details in this passage, because I think you get the idea. If you, or anything you may come into contact with, comes into contact with the dead body of any of these prohibited animals—or even the carcass of an animal that you are allowed to eat—then you and/or that thing are unclean until evening. And in verse 40, if you slaughter an edible animal, and come into contact with its carcass, you are unclean until evening. In all of these cases, you wash your clothes, you are unclean.

So what is the lesson here? Simply this: that there are things God considers to be evil, unclean. And God associates these unclean things with death. If you're climbing through a rocky crevice and a lizard jumps on your shoulder, are you unclean? No. If that lizard dies and falls on you, are you unclean? Yes. If a fly is buzzing around and lands in your sandwich, do you have to throw that sandwich out? No. If that fly dies and lands in your sandwich, do you have to throw it out? Yes. And we are not to have anything to do with these dead things. That’s what the word “sanctify” (or, “consecrate”) means—to separate one’s self from those things which God calls unholy, profane, vile, etc. God will command His people in that very thing later on in Leviticus 20:7-8“‘7 Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am the LORD your God. 8 And you shall keep My statutes, and perform them: I am the LORD who sanctifies you.’” To consecrate or sanctify literally means to set apart for one’s own use.

Now, to bring this into the New Testament writings, what word does Paul use to describe those who do not know Christ? Dead. Ephesians 2:1And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins. Ephesians 2:5Even when we were dead in trespasses, [God] made us alive together with Christ. Our Lord Christ, when He was praying the night before His crucifixion, begged in John 17:19“And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified by the truth.” He kept himself separate from sin, so that all who believe in Him might be separate from sin. Another theme Paul picks up on, a verse I have already mentioned, Ephesians 5:11Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness. So that when we do sin, 1st John 1:9If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. That is, when we do come into contact with the works of the flesh—the flesh in which Paul says dwells no good thing (Romans 7:18)—we do not have to wash our clothing, and go around shouting “Unclean! Unclean!” until evening. Because we are already clean. John 13:10“He who is bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean.” From birth, we are all dead—all unclean. We can try to pretty ourselves up, make ourselves look more attractive to God, but what does He see? A dead man. No matter how many “good works” we try to do to bathe ourselves, we will always be dirty, dead, unclean. But when Christ saves us, according to His mercy…through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, we are clean. Completely clean (see again John 13:10). We will, however, come into contact with a world that is wholly unclean. And we must always seek His washing, that He may keep us clean. Not as though we need to be rebathed—but washed from the filth of the world. He has bathed us—we need only to wash. We wash by confessing our sins, that we may continue to be a vessel worthy of being used. Adam Clarke— 

“Sin exists in the soul after two modes or forms: (1.) In guilt, which requires forgiveness or pardon. (2.) In pollution, which requires cleansing. Guilt, to be forgiven, must be confessed; and pollution, to be cleansed, must be also confessed…As the blood of Jesus Christ, the merit of his passion and death, applied by faith, purges the conscience from all dead works, so the same cleanses the heart from all unrighteousness. As all unrighteousness is sin, so he that is cleansed from all unrighteousness is cleansed from all sin.”

So, why all these injunctions against eating certain animals? Well, apart from their connection with filth, their symbolizing sin and darkness, there is what lies at the heart of said injunctions. Really, when you get right down to it, God gives us the reason for these discrepancies in the last few verses of the chapter, Leviticus 11:44-47“‘44 For I am the LORD your God. You shall therefore consecrate yourselves, and you shall be holy; for I am holy. Neither shall you defile yourselves with any creeping thing that creeps on the earth. 45 For I am the LORD who brings you up out of the land of Egypt, to be your God. You shall therefore be holy, for I am holy.46 This is the law of the animals and the birds and every living creature that moves in the waters, and of every creature that creeps on the earth, 47 to distinguish between the unclean and the clean, and between the animal that may be eaten and the animal that may not be eaten.’” Quite simply, God tells the people that the reason for these rules is so that they may be separate from all the peoples they will come into contact with. He is giving them these most basic rules for separating themselves from things that God calls unclean. Stay away from those large beasts that simply eat anything they seize upon. Among the things that live in the water, avoid those things that feed off the silt and soil of the murky bottom and become hosts for all kinds of disease. From among the flying things—whether birds or bats or insects—only the locust and its kind, for the excluded birds are birds of prey, and feed on death. Do not eat dogs, or anything that goes on four paws, since they too dine on death. And as far as the lizard, the mouse and rat—these are vermin, and are to be distasteful to the people. And as far as the snake is concerned: is it any surprise that God would forbid the eating of the flesh of that which convinced our first parents to rebel against God?

Now, let’s bring up a couple of subjects that need to be addressed. First, let’s talk about Noah. When he was gathering animals into the ark, what did he gather? Genesis 7:1-21 Then the LORD said to Noah, “Come into the ark, you and all your household, because I have seen that you are righteous before Me in this generation. 2 You shall take with you seven each of every clean animal, a male and his female; two each of animals that are unclean, a male and his female.” How did Noah determine which animals were clean and unclean? Had God yet made the distinction between clean and unclean? Well, obviously He had made the distinction. But how did Noah know which animals he was to take by twos and which he was to take by sevens? That is a very good question, and one for which we do not have a clear answer in Scripture. So all I can say is that God must have communicated this distinction to him somehow, without commanding the writing down of the communication of these facts. But why seven of the clean animals? Why an odd, rather than an even number of the clean beasts? Easy. So that he may have three pairs to propagate said species, while having one specimen left to offer as a sacrifice to God (see Genesis 8:20).

Now, on the other side of things, are we still bound by these regulations concerning what we can and can't eat? Well, no…and yes. Allow me to explain. We are not forbidden from eating any animal. This is clear (no matter how hard the legalists want to say otherwise) from a simple reading of Peter’s vision while on a rooftop in Acts 10:9-159 The next day, as they went on their journey and drew near the city, Peter went up on the housetop to pray, about the sixth hour. 10 Then he became very hungry and wanted to eat; but while they made ready, he fell into a trance 11 and saw heaven opened and an object like a great sheet bound at the four corners, descending to him and let down to the earth. 12 In it were all kinds of four-footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, creeping things, and birds of the air. 13 And a voice came to him, "Rise, Peter; kill and eat." 14 But Peter said, "Not so, Lord! For I have never eaten anything common or unclean." 15 And a voice spoke to him again the second time, "What God has cleansed you must not call common." God has now cleansed those things which He once called “unclean.” This was not the first time Peter had heard God say something along those lines. For he heard our Lord Jesus say Matthew 15:11“ Not what goes into the mouth defiles a man; but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man.”

Guess what all that means? We can eat pork chops! And venison. And we can even eat rattlesnake! And shrimp—Boiled shrimp, broiled shrimp, shrimp kabobs, baked shrimp, sautéed shrimp. Shrimp creole, shrimp gumbo. Pan fried, deep fried, stir-fried—and any other way that Bubba came up with. And calamari, too!! Because you see, the injunctions that separated the Israelites from eating certain animals was meant to point us to the One who would separate us as sheep from goats. That even as the distinction between clean and unclean animal had been removed, the middle wall of separation between Jew and Gentile had been dismantled (Ephesians 2:11-14). And now that Christ has come, He has fulfilled the Law, and having the substance of which the Law was only a shadow (Colossians 2:16-17). Romans 14:14I know and am convinced by the Lord Jesus that there is nothing unclean of itself. And we can now eat even something that was sacrificed to an idol—just so long as we do not cause a weaker brother to stumble.

The Jerusalem council, called to answer the question of circumcision, came to declare that there are still some prohibitions on what we can eat. Acts 15:28-2928 It seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things: 29 that you abstain from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. Farewell. The implications of this letter are so far-reaching, concerning the Jehovah's Witnesses’ forbidding of blood transfusions, as well as the abomination of the Catholic Mass, that to devote time to either of them would be to take away from the subject at hand. What things are we still commanded to not eat? Things strangled, things offered to idols, and the eating of blood. So while we can eat pretty much any animal without fear, there are still some limits on our diet.

That said, let me simply conclude with this. Colossians 2:20-2220 If you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations—21 "Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle," 22 which all concern things which perish with the using? Life in Christ has nothing to do with eating pork, or any other animal for that matter. Are we to be different from the world around us? Yes. But that difference is not summed up in our diet. Food does not commend us to God; for neither if we eat are we the better, nor if we do not eat are we the worse (1st Corinthians 8:8). That was the Law. We are no longer under law, but under grace (Romans 6:14). We do not fulfill the law by avoiding the flesh of certain animals, rather If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself," you do well (James 2:8). He who loves another has fulfilled the law…Therefore, love is the fulfillment of the law (Romans 13:8, 10). For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself" (Galatians 5:14). So grab a hot dog and enjoy it!

Jesus Christ is Lord.

11 May 2013

A Survey of the Old Testament Law--Clean and Unclean Animals (Part 1)

In this chapter God spells out which animals are clean and which ones are unclean. God says, in so many words, “You shall eat this…you shall not eat that.” He lays out very explicit instructions about which animals were OK to eat, and which ones were not. And there are many who are under the impression that the reason for the inclusion or exclusion of certain animals was for health reasons. Eh, not necessarily. Still others speculate that the reason the unclean animals are considered unclean is because they were used in the religious services of the various pagan nations. Maybe, but I don’t believe that is the entire reason. Basically, God is training the people about separating good from evil, using the most basic elements of their lives—food. If you can't obey His rules about things as simple as food, then you're not likely to obey Him about the more important things.

Leviticus 11:1-31 Now the LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying to them, “2 Speak to the children of Israel, saying, ‘These are the animals which you may eat among all the animals that are on the earth: 3 Among the animals, whatever divides the hoof, having cloven hooves and chewing the cud—that you may eat.’” Let me stop right there. This is a very narrow window that God is giving them. Basically, He’s saying “Whatever animal I have told you to sacrifice to Me—those are the ones you can eat.” This would include cattle, oxen, sheep, and goats—and any animal in any of their classes. They could eat any of those animals. Anything else—off limits. The first prohibited group: those who chew cud but do not have cloven hooves. Leviticus 11:4-6“‘4 Nevertheless these you shall not eat among those that chew the cud or those that have cloven hooves: the camel…5 the rock hyrax…6 the hare…unclean to you.” And here we have the first of the favorite subjects for the skeptic—the cud-chewing rabbit. Let’s admit this upfront: rabbits are not ruminants as we understand them today, and as “scientists” understand them. They do not have four stomachs; they do not swallow their food, regurgitate it, and chew and swallow it again. So let’s look at what they do. What they do—and this gets kinda messy—what rabbits do is they chew their food, swallow it, digest it, let it go through their digestive system, pass through the other end, and chew it again. Yeah, big “yuck!” factor there. So although they are not “ruminants” in the purest form, and although they do not bring their food up from their stomach and eat that, they do still digest their food and bring it up again and eats its digested form. So there.

The next group: pigs. Leviticus 11:7-8“‘7 and the swine, though it divides the hoof, having cloven hooves, yet does not chew the cud, is unclean to you. 8 Their flesh you shall not eat, and their carcasses you shall not touch. They are unclean to you.’” Out of all the animals in this chapter, if you asked 1000 people on the street “What is meant by a ‘kosher’ diet” nearly all 1000 would most likely whip out the same answer: “It means you don’t eat pork.” Everybody knows Jews don’t eat pork. And yet there are literally hundreds of animals that were off-limits. Notice I say “were off-limits.” Well talk about that later on.

So what is it about pigs that God tells the people, “Don’t eat them or handle their carcasses”? Well, what do pigs eat? They eat whatever they can. If you throw anything into a pig pen, they’ll eat it. Even a person, falling into a herd of swine, will have his flesh consumed by them. And what do they live in? Mud. And what else may very well be mixed in with that mud? I think you know. So the pig is a dirty animal. You just look at it, how it lives, where it lives, what it lives in and what it eats—and God says, “Don’t put that in your body.” And in fact, nearly every society (save a few) considers the swine to be a filthy creature. Arabs, Egyptians, Phoenicians—these consider pigs to be an animal so detestable that they will not eat their flesh. And so God uses the swine as a teaching tool, to teach them that there are things that are clean, and there are things that are not clean. And they must learn to distinguish.

Next, God moves on to the creatures in the seas and rivers. Leviticus 11:9-129 These you may eat of all that are in the water: whatever in the water has fins and scales, whether in the seas or in the rivers—that you may eat. 10 But all in the seas or in the rivers that do not have fins and scales, all that move in the water or any living thing which is in the water, they are an abomination to you. 11 They shall be an abomination to you; you shall not eat their flesh, but you shall regard their carcasses as an abomination. 12 Whatever in the water does not have fins or scales—that shall be an abomination to you.’” Basically, the only thing you can eat of those things that swim is—fish. Anything else is prohibited. And notice what God says in verse 10. He includes “all that move in the water or any living thing which is in the water.” Now, He’s not talking about seaweed or underwater vegetation. He’s talking about animals. This would include shellfish—clams, oysters, crabs, mussels, lobsters, octopus, squid (No calamari—NOOOOOOO!!!!!), scallops, and…shrimp. And just like those people who think a kosher diet just means you don’t eat pork, we have another item where the world just does not understand. That is the altogether most important matter of all—eating shrimp. Now, I know the question that’s on your mind. You're thinking—“Huh?” Allow me to explain.

Or, rather, allow Neil Simpson, from his blog titled “Eternity Matters” to show us. Neil writes—
Their argument goes like this:

  • Yes, Leviticus 18:22 says Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination.
  • But Leviticus 11:10 says, And all that have not fins and scales in the seas, and in the rivers, of all that move in the waters, and of all the living creatures that are in the waters, they are an abomination unto you
  • Therefore, the Bible cannot be the word of God and homosexual behavior must be moral because the Bible is an undependable, contradictory book that equates shrimp eating with sexual immorality.  And people who teach that homosexual behavior is a sin are bigoted hypocrites who only follow the parts of the Bible they like.

“Their” refers to theological liberals and activist homosexuals who want to commit sexual perversion while claiming the name of Christ. Neil quotes one of their websites, titled “God Hates Shrimp”:
“…anti-gay fundamentalists selectively quote the Bible. They enthusiastically and openly embrace those parts of the Bible which affirm and justify their own personal, pre-existing prejudice against gay people, while declining to become as enthusiastic about verses like the ones listed above.

After all, how many times have you heard a fundamentalist say that eating shellfish was an abomination? But they sure don’t hesitate to say it about gay people, do they? What does that tell you?”

And this is what happens when people don’t actually study the Bible—especially when they don’t go back to the original Hebrew and Greek.

Because if they had gone and studied the Hebrew, they would find that from a linguistic standpoint, their argument falls flat on its face. Which is probably why they don’t study in the original languages. If they had looked at the Hebrew, they would see that the word translated “abomination” in Leviticus 18:22 (the prohibition against homosexuality) is תּוֹעֵבָה (tow’ebah), meaning “a disgusting thing, abomination, abominable.” The word תּוֹעֵבָה (tow’ebah) comes from תָּעַב (ta’ab), meaning “to loathe, abhor, regard as an abomination,” or “Things which are abominable to YHVH.” This is a different word than what is translated “abomination” in Leviticus 11:10 (and all the other verses in chapter 11 that describe eating or touching the carcasses of certain animals as “abomination”), the word there being is שֶׁקֶץ (sheqets), meaning “detestable thing or idol, an unclean thing, an abomination, detestation.” Now while the meaning of the word שֶׁקֶץ (sheqets) is similar to the meaning of תּוֹעֵבָה (tow’ebah), they are used quite differently in Scripture. First, the word שֶׁקֶץ (sheqets) is used only eleven times, with nine of those times being in Leviticus, and always in the context of unclean animals—things that we are to see as detestable (The root word שָׁקַץ (shaqats) is found only seven times, in the same contexts). However, תּוֹעֵבָה (tow’ebah) is found one-hundred-seventeen times in the Old Testament, its root תָּעַב (ta’ab) is found 22 times. And when these are found, they almost always refer to acts that God sees as punishable by the severest means possible—acts like homosexuality, bestiality, incest, rape, etc. So the whole “If homosexuality is a sin then so is eating shrimp” argument falls flat on its face when a deeper study is undertaken.

And one final note: the punishment for eating shellfish was that the person would be unclean until evening. The punishment for committing acts of homosexuality was being “cut off from his people”—basically, the person was put to death. What was the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah? Jude 1:7Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities around them in a similar manner to these, having given themselves over to sexual immorality and gone after strange flesh, are set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire. Of course, when we get to Leviticus 18:22 (and Leviticus 20:13) I will prepare you for the inevitable excuse from the theological liberal who will say, “No, the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah was they were inhospitable to their guests!” But we’ll cover that when we get there.

One possible reason for the prohibition is this: what do we know about these creatures? They usually live in the lower, darker parts of the water. Shellfish, especially, feed off of the things of the deeper, murkier waters. I will never forget the one and only time I ever ate an oyster. When my wife and I were dating, she took me to a fancy seafood restaurant for my birthday. The dinner I ordered included broiled oysters. As soon as I bit into it, I knew I should have spit it out, because it tasted like a mouthful of mud. And all night, I was running to the bathroom. Because they live in in the mud, and they feed on whatever passes by—and they live in darkness. And God is teaching them to avoid those things of the dark. Romans 13:12Let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. Colossians 1:13—[God] has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love. 1st Thessalonians 5:5You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness. Darkness—like leaven—is nearly always associated with evil. And we are constantly reminded to avoid evil. One of the simplest ways we can learn to distinguish between good and bad is in the foods we eat, knowing where they come from. And if we cannot learn these truths from the simplest lessons on things we can see, then how can we possibly understand anything God tries to teach us about spiritual things? When Jesus was teaching Nicodemus about being born from above, what challenge did our Lord lay down? John 3:12“If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things?” Paul picked up on this principle, and taught us about hope in Romans 8:24Hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees? And if we cannot learn to distinguish between those animals that God calls clean and unclean, then how will we ever learn to distinguish between clean and unclean spiritual things?

God does not stop with land and sea animals. He then moves on to birds Leviticus 11:13-1913 And these you shall regard as an abomination among the birds; they shall not be eaten, they are an abomination: the eagle, the vulture, the buzzard, 14 the kite, and the falcon after its kind; 15 every raven after its kind, 16 the ostrich, the short-eared owl, the sea gull, and the hawk after its kind; 17 the little owl, the fisher owl, and the screech owl; 18 the white owl, the jackdaw, and the carrion vulture; 19 the stork, the heron after its kind, the hoopoe, and the bat.’” OK, let’s get one thing out of the way first. Yes, the word translated “bat” literally means “bat.” And of course the skeptic will come along and say “HAH! Contradiction! A bat is a mammal, not a bird!” And they will think themselves oh so clever because they have found the one thing that, after thousands of years, will undo all of Christianity and every belief in God—they have found the one thing that the most devoted hater of God has never, ever, ever found before—that a bat is not a bird. And that will make every Christian shake in their boots and renounce everything they believe. Or so they think. What? You mean your faith isn't shaken by such an astonishing discovery? Well good—it shouldn’t be.

First of all, let’s take the simplistic approach to answering this objection. Man may not classify a bat as a bird—but that is not to say that God doesn't. If God says that a creature with wings is a bird—it’s a bird, no matter what man says about it. The same way that when skeptics come up with the tired, old, “Why doesn't the Bible mention dinosaurs,” We simply take a deep breath, remind them that the word ‘dinosaur’ wasn’t invented until the 1800’s, and gently point them to God’s description of a brachiosaurus in Job 40:15-24 and His description of a plesiosaur in Job 41:1-34. (By the same token, they laugh and say “Well, what about ‘unicorns’”? We then point to Job 39:9-12, and educate them about the Monoceros, cousin to the triceratops. For a deeper study of this subject, let’s look at the Hebrew again, shall we? The word translated “birds” in Leviticus 11:13 is עוֹף (‘owph), which means, simply, “flying creatures, fowl, insects, birds.” It was not a word which was applied only to birds specifically. It meant anything that had wings and/or flew. This comes from the root word עוּף (‘uwph), meaning “to fly, fly about, fly away.” Again, don’t be afraid when skeptics point out these supposed contradictions. These assertions are made by people who have spent their lives convincing themselves that God does not exist, that His word cannot be trusted (or, “Hath God indeed said?”). These are the people, of whom Paul says …although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools…who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen (Romans 1:21-25).

So, with that behind us, why the injunction against these flying creatures? Probably because they feasted on flesh. They were either predatory birds or scavengers. Thus, they would eat the raw flesh of animals that either they killed, or another animal had killed, or had died naturally. And, as we read in Exodus 22:31 and Leviticus 7:25 and Leviticus 17:15 and Leviticus 22:8, God commanded the people not to eat the flesh of animals which had been torn by beasts or had died naturally. There are also, among this list, those birds who detest the daylight, but do their roaming in the dark—much like the shellfish who live in the darkness of the deep.. From J. A. MacDonald’s contribution to The Pulpit Commentary—“Wicked men also, like owls, hate the light. When honest people of the day are sleeping, these prowlers are plotting mischief. Witness the burglaries, the murders, the prostitutions, the debaucheries, practised by them under the cover of darkness.” Or, as Jesus said, John 3:19-20“19 And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. 20 For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.” Paul, of course, used this as a springboard from which to warn the church at Ephesus in Ephesians 5:11And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. The warnings in the New Testament—and in fact all of Scripture—are so numerous that space would not permit commentary on them all at one time. Suffice it to say we should not seek to partake of those things which feed on blood, and which love darkness rather than light.

Leviticus 11:20-23“‘20 All flying insects that creep on all fours shall be an abomination to you. 21 Yet these you may eat of every flying insect that creeps on all fours: those which have jointed legs above their feet with which to leap on the earth. 22 These you may eat: the locust after its kind, the destroying locust after its kind, the cricket after its kind, and the grasshopper after its kind. 23 But all other flying insects which have four feet shall be an abomination to you.’” OK, here we go again. We must take a minute to answer the insufferable critics of Holy Writ. What is the objection here? How many legs do insects have? Six. But the skeptic takes the KJV, which mentions “fowls that creep, going upon all fours” or other translations where God describes these “creeping things” which “creep on all fours.” And they scream “Contradiction!!” And we must take them by the hand, stroke their delicate little egos, and explain to them on their level. First, let’s get this out of the way: the word “all” (as in “all fours”) is not in the Hebrew. No matter which translation you use, the word ‘all’ is in italics. That means the translators inserted it. Sometimes they get it right, but in this case, the word ‘all’ doesn't belong. It should simply say “creeping things that creep on four.”

Now, the obvious question to the skeptic: “Don’t you think these people, when they heard this, would immediately scream, ‘But Moses, insects have six legs!’?” I mean, seriously! If I read a newspaper article that said something about a man having “all three of his arms amputated” I would put that paper down and say, “But humans only have two legs! This newspaper is mistaken!” But this passage has been transcribed in this same manner for thousands of years! If the skeptics are correct about scribes making mistakes in their transcription, or deliberately altering the text to avoid some problem or another, don’t you think this would be one of the places where they would deliberately alter the text?!?! They had nearly 1500 years to bury this thing, and yet they let it stand! This makes it as obvious as it could possibly be, then, that the difficulty and apparent contradiction is not owing to God not reckoning that the very insects He created have six legs. Nor is it owing to the Israelites not having sense to know this. The difficulty lies in the mind of the skeptic who reads this and flashes off in the wrong direction, thinking to undermine the truth of God with his own depraved, fallen, God-hating human thinking—said thinking the skeptic refers to as “logic.”

But let’s put together what we know: We know that the typical Israelite would read this and, if it is indeed a contradiction, say “That can't be right! Insects have six legs, not four!” We also know that God is referring to the extremely broad classification of animals called “Anything that has wings, whether birds, or bugs, or bats.” We know this because the word translated “flying insects” at the beginning of verse 20 is the very same word translated “birds” in verse 13. No kidding! Leviticus 11:13“‘And these you shall regard as an abomination among the (עוֹף (‘owph))’” Likewise, Leviticus 11:20—“‘All (עוֹף (‘owph)) that creep on all fours shall be an abomination to you.’” We also know that in this particular section, God is now going to shift the focus from birds to some kind of bug in verse 21. The Hebrew that is rendered “every flying insect that creeps on all fours” in verses 20, verse 21, and verse 23 is (remembering, of course, that Hebrew is read from right-to-left):

on four
swarming things

The world (especially the internet) is teeming with arguments from skeptics saying things like (and I quote), “So, the bible gives some examples where insects have "4 legs" and "walk on all 4 legs". There are no 4-legged insects according to biology. This is a simple matter of counting to 6, but one source has it wrong.” And herein, they prove, for all the world to see, what one looks like when professing to be wise, they became fools. Allow me to explain more fully.

For one thing, if one were to observe a grasshopper, or a cricket, or locust, or any of their kind when they walk, they would notice something: none of them use their back (leaping) legs for walking. It’s true. Watch one of these things walk, and you will see that they move their body forward on their front four legs, while the back (leaping) legs drag behind them. It is only after they have travelled a certain distance that they move their back (leaping) legs to keep up with the body. But during the act of walking, the back (leaping) legs are completely passive. Notice in the following videos:

Notice how these guys don’t use their back (leaping) legs for locomotion—they are simply passive hangers-on until the little guy needs to jump. So that leaves us with the question, “But what about bugs other than the leapers? What about flies and beetles? What about caterpillars and butterflies? Cockroaches? All these have six legs, don’t they? Huh? Huh?” Calm down, Timmy. We’re about to finish it all up here. Let’s talk a little about what is meant by “feet” and “legs.” You see, when the skeptic cries, “Four-footed insects! That’s a Contradiction®!!” they are guilty of what I call “anachronistic interpretation.” That is, trying to use modern nomenclature and modern thought in trying to interpret something that was written over 3500 years ago. We need to understand what God means when He says of the grasshopper kind, that they have “legs above the feet.” This does not mean simply having legs above the 2 rear appendages. This means that the 2 rear appendages (the leaping legs) rise above the front 4 appendages—which appendages are used for ground transport. However, when you look at a cockroach, butterfly, housefly, beetle—their 2 rear appendages are at the same level as the front four appendages. That is, they do not rise above, geographically, those front four appendages. Notice in the two images below:

The misunderstanding, common among skeptics and atheists, concerning what they call “four-legged insects” is simply due to historical and cultural context. In the Jewish culture of the time, they considered the front 4 appendages of an insect to be “feet” while the rear 2 appendages were considered “legs.” Therefore, they considered an insect to have 4 “feet” and 2 “legs”—thus, 6 appendages. Long story short, when God talks about the “feet” of these “flying swarming things” He is talking about the 2 rear appendages. The term “feet” is applied to the front four appendages. While the beetle, ladybug, housefly, cockroach, grasshopper have 6 appendages, those appendages are divided between 4 (front) feet and 2 (rear) legs.

Consider this also: what year are we currently in? This is 2011. Does that mean that every single culture considers this to be the year 2011? No. In China, the year is 4708—and that depends on which calendar you use. Let’s use this principle in discussing the way that the Jewish people reckon years. Do they mark years according to the birth of Christ? Uh, not hardly. So to the Jew, he reckons it to be the year 5772. Next question: how much does a ton weigh? “Well, duh, 2000 lbs.” Not so fast, Timmy. Are you talking about a “long ton”, which is used in the UK, and contains 2,240 lbs.? Are you talking about the “short ton”, used here in the States, which weighs 2,000 lbs.? Or, perhaps, the “metric ton” weighing 2,204 lbs.?

Let’s talk about hands, shall we? When the police bind the upper extremities behind the back, what do they use? Wristcuffs? Or handcuffs? But do they put them around what most people consider to be the hand? Or do they encompass only the wrist? Where exactly does the hand begin? Scientists and anatomy professors may have their own opinion—but various cultures may disagree. For example, it was not uncommon (in fact it was quite common) in Roman culture to consider the wrist as part of the hand. Also, does the hand include the fingers? Or are they separate from the hand? What about the stomach? Where does it begin and where does the esophagus end? We could go on with other examples but I believe these will suffice.

So, now we've gotten that misunderstanding out of the way, why this injunction? Why is it OK to eat locusts and grasshoppers and crickets and cicadas and other bugs like them—but not beetles, houseflies, moths, or cockroaches? Why? Because God said so. This is one grouping of clean/unclean that I cannot determine why God would call some “clean” and others “unclean.” Other than, perhaps, that flies and cockroaches feed on dead, rotting things while the grasshopper kind feeds on vegetation. But then again, so do some of the other forbidden insects. Because there is no clear-cut reason for the injunction against eating insects other than those of the locust kind, we will simply chalk it up to “because God said so.”