For I am the Lord your God: ye shall therefore sanctify yourselves, and ye shall be holy; for I am holy: neither shall ye defile yourselves with any manner of creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. For I am the Lord that bringeth you up out of the land of Egypt, to be your God: ye shall therefore be holy, for I am holy. — Leviticus 11:44-45
My cousin was recuperating in the hospital after a near-fatal accident on his job. Because of the nature of his injury and to prevent the possibility of infection, scrupulous care was taken to prevent his visitors from contaminating the surroundings. A sign on the door let us know that before we entered his room we must put on surgical gowns and gloves. We were not allowed to touch him or the bed he was lying in, and I noticed that every nurse who entered scrubbed thoroughly and put on gloves before assisting him in any way. It was clear that every effort was being made to keep him free from germs. Maintaining a sterile environment was of paramount importance.
Leviticus 11 outlines God’s instructions to the Israelites regarding ceremonial purity. Whether it was selecting or preparing their food, caring for a mother and a new baby, diagnosing a disease, or disposing of waste, nothing was overlooked in the camp of Israel, lest someone be defiled. Obviously, God considers cleanliness and purity of utmost importance!
While the dietary and societal guidelines mandated for the Israelites were specific to them, the spiritual principal of separation from defilement applies to believers today. As God’s people, we must be willing to be different. We must be willing to separate ourselves from anything that would defile or contaminate the purity God has given us. In the New Testament, Paul wrote to the believers at Corinth, “Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you” (2 Corinthians 6:17). This doesn’t mean that we become hermits and withdraw from any contact with sinners. Rather, it means we carefully avoid anything that would influence us toward sinful practices. In a world contaminated by evil, we resist the sin around us, rather than partaking in it.
Do not let circumstances or other people’s expectations control you. Christians are instructed to be holy. Be firm as you stand true to God, and refuse to compromise on His standards for living!
In the Mosaic Law, cleanliness and godliness went hand in hand. In several areas of Jewish life, God’s Law had to be followed exactly to maintain purity physically and spiritually. Choosing which foods to eat was one of those areas. The Lord had not only the health of the people in mind when He gave these instructions, but He was also reminding them that they belonged to Him and that He wanted them to remain separate from anything defiling. However, even though obeying these laws could guarantee ceremonial cleanness, it did not make a person holy in character.
The concept of clean and unclean animals dates back to the time of Noah (Genesis 7:1-10). In this chapter, Moses did not list the names of which animals were clean or unclean, but he gave the characteristics of each so the people knew which animals could be eaten and which could not.
Requirements for the land animals were that they had to chew the cud and have a split hoof. If only one of these characteristics was possessed by the animal, it was rejected. The water creatures had to have both fins and scales, thus eliminating all shellfish, catfish, and eels. (These species are scavengers and thus could pick up parasites and infect those who ate them.) The forbidden fowl were birds of prey that would have been defiled by the dead carcasses they fed on. All insects were forbidden for food except those with jointed hind legs used for jumping, such as locusts, katydids, crickets, and grasshoppers.
Leviticus 11:24-43 deals with the touching of dead animals. This kept contamination from spreading throughout the camp and protected the Jews from sickness. It also taught the people to appreciate cleanliness and to stay away from anything that would make them unclean. The women of Israel were meticulous in their housecleaning to avoid any form of uncleanness.
In verses 44-47, the Children of Israel were admonished to sanctify themselves and be holy. In order to use wise discernment, they had to become familiar with God’s Law and then obey it on a daily basis. Parents had a responsibility to teach their children the Law and warn them of the consequences if they did not obey it (Deuteronomy 6:1-9). They were to remind themselves daily that they belonged to Jehovah, the true God, and that they were to keep themselves separate from the heathen nations around them.
(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
I. The way of access to God
C. By ceremonial purity
1. Separation from certain foods (11:1-47)
a. Animals unclean upon the earth (11:1-8)
b. Things unclean in the water (11:9-12)
c. Birds unclean in the air (11:13-19)
d. Insects that are unclean (11:20-23)
e. Defilement by contact with their carcasses (11:24-28)
f. Swarming creatures unclean on the earth (11:29-45)
g. Summary (11:46-47)
Though we live in a society where good is called evil and evil is called good, God’s requirements are unchanging. God still hates sin, and He will judge it. Purity pays!