CLEAN AND UNCLEAN
By Jean Jantzen
“For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people. Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you. I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.” 2 Corinthians 6:16
Would we feed our family food we know is contaminated or unclean? Most people would not eat unclean meat knowingly, but some believe that eating unclean animals is not a sin, but only breaking health laws—no big deal! That view seems too simplistic! The words ‘clean’ and unclean’ occur 382 times in scripture, so it is noteworthy and should get our attention. Many people in the world eat unclean foods and live to be in their nineties. So a long life was not fully what God had in mind when giving His instructions about what meat we should eat. We know that what we put into our body (this temple) is important to God. Eating what was forbidden landed Adam and Eve outside the garden and led to their death. God’s instructions about food (Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14) are more about our attitude and approach to God.
We are what we eat; what we put into our bodies becomes part of our flesh. And we know our body does not belong to us, rather it belongs to God. (1 Corinthians 3:17)
From God’s vantage point our earthly ‘temples’ are vital tools—they are sacred—they make up the chaste, pure bride of Christ. He tells us to be holy as God is holy. How we approach God is of great consequence. He is particular about who (and in what frame of mind) comes near to Him. When Moses came near the burning bush he was told to remove his shoes as he was on holy ground. God is also particular about what sacrifices are acceptable to Him….they are to be without spot or blemish—anything less would be an abomination. We are to be a living sacrifice…that fact behooves us to be holy and clean and blameless before God. (Romans 12:1-3)
It is of weighty significance how we approach God because it shows our attitude. It must not be a casual, careless, half-hearted approach—like attending Church in torn greasy jeans, an old dirty sweatshirt, and filthy hair. That would show God that we do not love Him with all our heart, soul, and might, nor do we respect his holiness. It would show God that we do not acknowledge who He is; His majesty, His righteousness, His holiness. We should fear Almighty God always! Read what happened to Moses who forgot his fear of God on one occasion. (Numbers 20:1-14)
God expected the priests to be sanctified and clothed in a particular way before they could approach Him or sacrifice to Him. It was so important that Nadab and Abihu, who offered profane fire before the Lord, were found so offensive that they were killed instantly. Yes, God gave precise and meticulous instructions regarding service in His tabernacle. God determines the terms on which sinners may approach Him. Worship cannot be haphazard. We don’t want to worship in vain. We must approach Him in carefulness, thoughtfulness, holiness, so that one day we will be transformed into the bride of Christ, and a royal priesthood. (1Peter2:9)
We can then understand that the specific purpose God gave for avoiding unclean meats is all about holiness, obedience, and the right attitude. God wants us to be holy. Since we belong to Him and He purchased us with Christ’s blood, He does not want us to contaminate ourselves through any kind of physical or spiritual defilement (1 Corinthians 6:15-20). In God’s sight refraining from eating unclean animals is an identifying sign of the holiness of those God has set apart through a relationship with Him. It separated his called-out-ones from the unclean nations around them…it showed them they were different. They learned to distinguish between clean and unclean, holy and unholy.
Notice Paul’s summing up of this principle: “But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:22-23). So it is important to remember that God alone by His Word determines the terms on which sinners may approach Him in worship and be holy.
After we are told not to eat anything unclean, God says bluntly in Leviticus 11:43, 44, “You shall not make yourselves abominable with any creeping thing…neither shall you make yourselves unclean with them, that you should be defiled….sanctify yourselves, you shall be holy….” We become “abominable”, unclean and defiled, before God if we eat anything unclean. The word defiled means to make unfit for ceremonial use.
God tells us plainly what He thinks about eating unclean meats in Isaiah 65: 2-5(Living):
“All day long I opened my arms to a rebellious people. But they follow their own evil paths and their own crooked schemes. All day long they insult me to my face by worshiping idols in their sacred gardens. They burn incense on pagan altars. At night they go out among the graves, worshiping the dead. They eat the flesh of pigs and make stews with other forbidden foods. (see article about pork) Yet they say to each other, ‘Don’t come too close or you will defile me! I am holier than you!’ These people are a stench in my nostrils, an acrid smell that never goes away.”
So God had a great purpose for teaching us about clean and unclean. Firstly, it separates us out and sanctifies us. Secondly, it’s a test and identifies us by our obedience to this instruction, revealing our true attitude toward God. And thirdly, it does promote better health. So approach our heavenly Father with a humble mind, with fear and trembling, and an untainted body.