Deuteronomy 14:3-21

Ceremonially Clean & Unclean Animals

Are there foods that you will just not eat? Is it an irrational thing? Can you rationalize it? Sometimes, our hatred of certain foods just doesn’t make sense. But it’s there and it’s real.

For me, my food prejudice is directed toward what I call “puffy beans.” Puffy beans, to me, are those beans that look puffy by volume. Navy beans, pinto beans, kidney beans, butter beans, you get the drift. Those beans. I cannot eat them. There was an episode of the classic sitcom, All in the Family, where Gloria, too, has an irrational dislike of puffy beans. She claims that she is allergic to them. Mike doesn’t believe it and coaxes her into eating one bean. She freaks out and immediately thinks she is having a reaction, that her neck is swelling up. Finally, Mike takes her hands away from her neck and reveals that there is nothing wrong with her. She just has an irrational dislike for puffy beans. I am just like Gloria in that episode. I do not claim that I am allergic to them. I just don’t like them. I don’t like the texture. I don’t like the dryness of puffy beans. Who chooses to eat something that feels funny to your taste buds and has not real taste.


The crazy thing about my dislike for puffy beans is that I love chili beans (as we call the dish in the South). Otherwise, it’s just chili and chili is was you put on hot dogs and a hot dog, in the South, is not a hot dog without chili. That’s the distinction between chili and chili beans in the South. Yankees just don’t understand that distinction and it’s a pity. They actually put what we call chili beans on a hot dog. That’s just crazy. Chili without beans is chili and that is for hot dogs and the other is for a nice warm bowl of delight on a cold winter’s evening. I love chili beans. Ground beef, diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, onion, chili powder, garlic, cayenne pepper, kidney beans, and something secret my wife just said that she cannot reveal as part of her recipe. Those chili beans that my wife makes are the bomb. I could literally each the entire crock pot of her recipe by myself. My desire to not be flagrantly brutish makes me stop with two bowls. Why is it that I will eat chili beans when the beans are kidney beans, a puffy bean. I will not eat kidney beans by themselves. I will only eat them when they are drown in the exquisite mixture of ground beef and seasoning that my wife makes in her chili beans recipe. Kidney beans and any puffy bean by themselves, can’t get it down. It’s a titanic struggle to swallow the putridness of such beans by themselves. Oh but, drown kidney beans in a sauce of ground beef, tomatoes, unions, and the proper seasonings and that just slides down the throat in a joyous union between by body and chili beans.


The seemingly strange nature of the food restrictions for the Israelites that I read about in Deuteronomy 14:3-22 made me think of my own irrational preferences when it comes to puffy beans, as I call them. I may have this disdain for kidney beans because of no apparent reason at all other than personal preferences and it may seem weird too that God restricts His people from eating certain foods from animals that He Himself created. Sounds weird doesn’t it. Let’s read it together:


3 Do not eat any detestable thing. 4 These are the animals you may eat: the ox, the sheep, the goat, 5 the deer, the gazelle, the roe deer, the wild goat, the ibex, the antelope and the mountain sheep.[a] 6 You may eat any animal that has a divided hoof and that chews the cud. 7 However, of those that chew the cud or that have a divided hoof you may not eat the camel, the rabbit or the hyrax. Although they chew the cud, they do not have a divided hoof; they are ceremonially unclean for you. 8 The pig is also unclean; although it has a divided hoof, it does not chew the cud. You are not to eat their meat or touch their carcasses.


9 Of all the creatures living in the water, you may eat any that has fins and scales. 10 But anything that does not have fins and scales you may not eat; for you it is unclean.


11 You may eat any clean bird. 12 But these you may not eat: the eagle, the vulture, the black vulture, 13 the red kite, the black kite, any kind of falcon, 14 any kind of raven, 15 the horned owl, the screech owl, the gull, any kind of hawk, 16 the little owl, the great owl, the white owl, 17 the desert owl, the osprey, the cormorant, 18 the stork, any kind of heron, the hoopoe and the bat.


19 All flying insects are unclean to you; do not eat them. 20 But any winged creature that is clean you may eat.


21 Do not eat anything you find already dead. You may give it to the foreigner residing in any of your towns, and they may eat it, or you may sell it to any other foreigner. But you are a people holy to the Lord your God.


Do not cook a young goat in its mother’s milk.


Why did God restrict the Israelites from eating certain animals? There were probably several reasons. First, predatory animals ate the blood of other animals as the devour their prey. Because God commanded them to drain the blood from animals before they ate them, they could not eat animals also that ate blood of other animals. Blood is sacred in God’s eyes and thus they were restricted in this manner. Second, many of these animals had been associated with pagan ritual sacrifices in the past and thus God did not want His people to be associated with such things even in the most remote connection. Third, many of these animals, by nature, carried diseases that could be transmitted to humans without first having cooked these animals thoroughly. Being able to cook these foods thoroughly was not always an option for the Israelites at this time. Finally, perhaps some of these restrictions were to remind the Israelites that they were completely different as God’s people from any other people on earth. All of these reasons combine to set the Israelites apart from the pagan cultures that surrounded them. God wanted them to be different. God wanted them to stand out so that people would be drawn unto the Lord through His people Israel.


Although we are no longer under the food restrictions of the Old Testament (see Acts 10:9-16), we can still learn from these restrictions because they are lessons in seeking to be holy as unto the Lord. Seeking to do God’s will is not just something we do on Sunday. It should permeate everything about our lives. We should be distinctive in the culture in which we live. We should seek to be God’s children by obeying His Word in everyday life. In our health practices, in our financial practices, in our ethical practices, just how we handle ourselves in everyday life should scream that we are a child of God through the saving grace of Jesus Christ. We should be so distinctive that people are drawn to us by how different we are from the norms of our culture. We should be in the world but not of it so that we can draw others to the message of Jesus Christ’s grace that will save them from their sin nature that has jailed them in a sentence to eternal damnation. We can reach the culture by meeting people where they are at but we cannot accept things as holy that God declares as unholy in His Word. We must reach them with the loving message of grace and how it has transformed our own lives from exactly where they are at. The world should see something distinctively different in us just as God wanted the Israelites to be a beacon in an ugly, ungodly pagan world. We are the new Israel as Christians. We are to be distinctively different so the world can see the difference and be drawn unto Jesus Christ. Once we do that, we let the Holy Spirit go do what He does!


Amen and Amen.

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