Quite often I have been asked this question concerning what is my stand when it comes to Dietary Laws as given in the Bible. These questions come to me from Christians and non-Christians alike, which mostly arises from the drama Islam raises on pork. Now let’s take a look at what the Bible says concerning the dietary laws from the Old Testament.
1 The LORD spoke again to Moses and to Aaron, saying to them,
2 “Speak to the sons of Israel, saying, ‘These are the creatures which you may eat from all the animals that are on the earth.
3 ‘Whatever divides a hoof, thus making split hoofs, and chews the cud, among the animals, that you may eat.
4 ‘Nevertheless, you are not to eat of these, among those which chew the cud, or among those which divide the hoof: the camel, for though it chews cud, it does not divide the hoof, it is unclean to you.
9 ‘These you may eat, whatever is in the water: all that have fins and scales, those in the water, in the seas or in the rivers, you may eat.
10 ‘But whatever is in the seas and in the rivers that does not have fins and scales among all the teeming life of the water, and among all the living creatures that are in the water, they are detestable things to you,
We ought to understand that the clean and unclean context of animals, which people could eat or not eat came into being because animals were sacrificed in the Old Testament, a sacrifice which pointed to the redeeming sacrifice of Jesus (Heb10:1), the Lamb of God who takes away our sins (Jn1:29). When we understand, Jesus did not die for the salvation of animals but for the salvation of mankind, we learn that the clean and unclean context is what applies to men/women. Take a look at what determines clean and unclean in these animals and you shall notice that they are nothing but spiritual metaphors which indicate how an individual stands in the eyes of God.
…that He might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the LORD.
How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, Nor stand in the path of sinners, Nor sit in the seat of scoffers!
But his delight is in the law of the LORD, And in His law he meditates day and night.
Now consider the animal that chews its cud, which biologically is referred to as rumination, where the plant based food the animal eats goes into the rumen where it ferments through microbial action. This is then regurgitated as cud and chewed to further break down the food and access the nutrients. When it comes to the split hoof, its almost finger-like dexterity allows animals like wild sheep and mountain goats better traction in their hazardous environment. So, in the light of the fact that everything in creation glorifies God, the Bible teaches us that these indications metaphorically distinguish the godly from the ungodly. The animal that chews its cud describes one who meditates on God’s word and applies it to his/her life which he/she contemplates over (Psalm1:2) because the Word of God is that wholesome food (Deut8:3) which sustains this person spiritually, physically and mentally. As for the animals with divided hoofs, it symbolizes one who traverses through life knowing Jesus is the only dividing line that matters between men (Gen3:15) and so the godly do not build trusting relationships with the ungodly (Psalm1:1), knowing fully well that the lives of the ungodly revolve around serving only themselves and hence there can never be any sincere fellowship between the godly and the ungodly (2Cor6:14). So, metaphorically speaking the divided hoof teaches us that we are to love our neighbour in their times of need while maintaining a safe emotional distance from them but reserving intimate fellowship and communion with only those who serve the Lord Jesus Christ.
118 You have rejected all those who wander from Your statutes, For their deceitfulness is useless.
133 Establish my footsteps in Your word, And do not let any iniquity have dominion over me.
27 Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.
When it comes to sea creatures in Lev11:9-10 mentioned above, it is the same thing. The fins are what these creatures use to stay upright, move forward, stop and change direction while the scales not only protects them like armour but allows the fish a side-to-side swimming motion. This in itself symbolizes a person who receives God’s word and directs his life by it as life’s thumb rule (Psalm119:133), just like the animal that chews the cud while the scales speak of the guard the godly have to be on, in keeping themselves unstained by the world (James1:27), which meets the same purpose as conveyed by animals with divided hoofs.
14 Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness?
15 Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever?
16 Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said, “I will dwell in them and walk among them; And I will be their God, and they shall be My people.
When you understand, what the Bible refers to as the unbeliever being spiritually dead, sold by his representative Adam into sin (1Cor15:21), we learn the context of what it is not to touch something unclean as sited in 2Cor6:17 and Lev11:8. When you understand the context of clean and unclean as applying to people, then Peter’s vision at Joppa which occurs only moments before the Gentiles are preached the good news should come as no surprise to you. Yes, there is a saying out there that says “you are what you eat” but that is said in the context of eating healthy food to keep you healthy. In context of food however eating unclean animals doesn’t make you immoral/unclean and Jesus clears that in Mk7:14-23, when He says that it is what is in your heart that makes you unclean and not what you eat.
20 If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees, such as,
21 “Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!”
22 (which all refer to things destined to perish with use)–in accordance with the commandments and teachings of men?
23 These are matters which have, to be sure, the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body, but are of no value against fleshly indulgence.
To conclude, I must clear the dividing line between the ungodly and the godly. There is this popular notion of many inclusive humanists who believe that they have no reason to be denied the eternal paradise of heaven after they die, which is nowhere in their minds close to spending eternity with God as the Bible teaches about heaven, as these are somehow convinced of their self-righteousness, having never participated in any serious crime. The truth however is their depraved unbelieving hearts from which comes their character, is reason enough for them to burn in hell and deserve it but the mercies of God are presented to us in Jesus Christ, who cleanses His sheep of Adam’s disobedience and gives us a new nature which is His own, so that when we stand before God in all His holiness and majesty, what He sees in us is His own Son in whose image we are made and conform to, in being restored to God (Rom8:28-30), to this effect we are adopted into His family as God’s children.
Revelation 7 (Vision of the Apostle John)
9 After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands;
10 and they cry out with a loud voice, saying, “Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.”
11 And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures; and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God,
12 saying, “Amen, blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might, be to our God forever and ever. Amen.”
13 Then one of the elders answered, saying to me, “These who are clothed in the white robes, who are they, and where have they come from?”
14 I said to him, “My lord, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.