Reading: Deuteronomy 14
1 “You are the sons of the LORD your God. You shall not cut yourselves or make any baldness on your foreheads for the dead. 2 For you are a people holy to the LORD your God, and the LORD has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.
3 “You shall not eat any abomination. 4 These are the animals you may eat: the ox, the sheep, the goat, 5 the deer, the gazelle, the roebuck, the wild goat, the ibex, the antelope, and the mountain sheep. 6 Every animal that parts the hoof and has the hoof cloven in two and chews the cud, among the animals, you may eat. 7 Yet of those that chew the cud or have the hoof cloven you shall not eat these: the camel, the hare, and the rock badger, because they chew the cud but do not part the hoof, are unclean for you. 8 And the pig, because it parts the hoof but does not chew the cud, is unclean for you. Their flesh you shall not eat, and their carcasses you shall not touch.
9 “Of all that are in the waters you may eat these: whatever has fins and scales you may eat. 10 And whatever does not have fins and scales you shall not eat; it is unclean for you.
11 “You may eat all clean birds. 12 But these are the ones that you shall not eat: the eagle, the bearded vulture, the black vulture, 13 the kite, the falcon of any kind; 14 every raven of any kind; 15 the ostrich, the nighthawk, the sea gull, the hawk of any kind; 16 the little owl and the short-eared owl, the barn owl 17 and the tawny owl, the carrion vulture and the cormorant, 18 the stork, the heron of any kind; the hoopoe and the bat. 19 And all winged insects are unclean for you; they shall not be eaten. 20 All clean winged things you may eat.
21 “You shall not eat anything that has died naturally. You may give it to the sojourner who is within your towns, that he may eat it, or you may sell it to a foreigner. For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. “You shall not boil a young goat in its mother’s milk.
22 “You shall tithe all the yield of your seed that comes from the field year by year. 23 And before the LORD your God, in the place that he will choose, to make his name dwell there, you shall eat the tithe of your grain, of your wine, and of your oil, and the firstborn of your herd and flock, that you may learn to fear the LORD your God always. 24 And if the way is too long for you, so that you are not able to carry the tithe, when the LORD your God blesses you, because the place is too far from you, which the LORD your God chooses, to set his name there, 25 then you shall turn it into money and bind up the money in your hand and go to the place that the LORD your God chooses 26 and spend the money for whatever you desire– oxen or sheep or wine or strong drink, whatever your appetite craves. And you shall eat there before the LORD your God and rejoice, you and your household. 27 And you shall not neglect the Levite who is within your towns, for he has no portion or inheritance with you.
28 “At the end of every three years you shall bring out all the tithe of your produce in the same year and lay it up within your towns. 29 And the Levite, because he has no portion or inheritance with you, and the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow, who are within your towns, shall come and eat and be filled, that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands that you do.
Deuteronomy 14 is almost entirely about regulations concerning food. The interpretive key to this chapter is the repeated refrain in verse 2 and 21, “For you are a people holy to Yahweh Elohim.” Here, amid Moses’ second sermon, the prophet is telling God’s people what holiness looks like. Here is what it looks like for the people of Israel to live as God’s treasured possession. (vs. 2)
Verse 1 recalls the command of Leviticus 19:28 to make no markings or cuts on your body or shave your head for the dead. This is a command against things that were part of the idol worship of other nations. It is not a command against any body markings or shaving of the head. We know this because the Nazarite vow (Numbers 6) mandated the shaving of the head out of devotion to the Lord and the people of Israel were told to put God’s words on their hands and bind them on their foreheads (Deuteronomy 6, 11). The issue is not the shaving of heads or maybe not even body markings, but why one is shaving or marking. Is it for God or for an idol? Is it out of devotion to God or a desire to be like the world?
Verses 3-21 is all about what animals are clean and unclean, which may be eaten, and which may not be eaten. Realize that in Acts 10 the Lord makes it clear that these dietary laws are now in the past. So, why does God give His people laws about what can be eaten and then discard them after 1500 years? Why was David not allowed to eat a lobster, but I can enjoy one today?
Sure, there may be some heath concerns and hygiene involved, but that does not explain everything in the lists.
God is teaching His people in their very first steps as his people what it means to be holy, set apart for Him. God’s people do not just come along like animals and eat whatever they find. They do not eat the food sacrificed to idols or used in sorcery (like the kid boiled in its mother’s milk). God is telling his people to be different, to live eating a shepherd’s diet in a shepherd’s land (milk and honey) under the Great Shepherd. They are not to eat like all the other peoples. It recalls His command to Adam in the garden, “Eat all this, but not that.”
1 Corinthians 10:31 says, “Whatever you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”
God wants you to enjoy all that He blesses you with, but to do so under His authority and living by His rules so that you are not like all the people who serve the gods of this world. And then we are to give to God from the best of what we have. (vss. 22-27)