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The Clean and Unclean
Chapter 10 Leviticus 11
Moses, a Naturalist . . . Plan of these distinctions in Meats . . . A system of wholesome Dietetics (science of nutrition) . . . Separation from the rest of mankind . . . Training in the awareness of moral distinctions . . . A picture of Sin.
This chapter brings us to the third remarkable division of Leviticus. We have had the offerings and the priests . . . the remedy provided for sin . . . we now examine sin itself. We have been shown the cure; the next step is to open to us the disease . . . YES . . . SIN is a DISEASE that can kill . . . so we must be encouraged to apply the benefit of relief. This is NOT the human method. Man would have considered the disease first. But God's ways are not as our ways (Isa.55:8). To make known to man the dreadfulness of his spiritual condition, would make us hopeless . . . IF He had not already provided the Way of salvation already (John 14:6; Acts 4:12). So, our wise God established the Physician (Mat.9:12), BEFORE He gave us a full view of the disease for which the Physician is needed.
The feast is first made ready, then measures are taken to bring in the guests (Mat.22). Christ Jesus went through ALL the great facts of His mediatorial work, BEFORE the Spirit was sent to convince of sin, righteousness and judgment (John 16:8). It is impossible for us to have a right understanding of sin (1 Cor.15:34; Jam.4:16), except in the LIGHT that streams from Calvary.
Great surprise has been expressed by some scholars, at the deep association with the animal kingdom shown in this chapter. The greatest men of modern science not been able to make any solid advances upon the classifications and distinctions in the nature, habits and qualities of animals, given by Almighty God long before simple human science in these departments was ever born. The fact is, all these Mosaic foundations have on them distinct traces of the Hand and Mind of God, that it becomes folly to refer them as being the cleverness of man.
People act more against the commands of plain reason and common sense, in referring the profound science of the Pentateuch (first five books of the Hebrew Bible (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy), to the mere skill and attainments of Moses, than a TRUE Christian does in tracing them to the Divine Wisdom which made the world, and fashioned the people in it. People simply discredit the witnesses which God has given of Himself. IF they would just admit that these regulations are DIVINE in their source, the surprise would cease . . . the miracle would be explained . . . for HE who created the beasts, birds, fishes, reptiles and insects which inhabit the Earth, knew exactly how to classify them, and to suggest concerning their nature. WHERE, except from God, did Moses get such wisdom?
This division of active nature into clean and unclean, as all the rest of these Mosaic foundations is to be taken naturally. It had direct and natural reasons, but those were not the chief. Some of the forbidden creatures are really NOT unclean or unfit for food, but were almost as good as some that were permitted to be used. This is not generally true, but the simple fact that an animal is prohibited in these laws as unclean, does not necessarily mean that it is in its nature unfit to be eaten, or of a distasteful character. All that God has made is good, and represents His divine wisdom and thought. The ban is ceremonial. It is an arrangement to some extent personal, possibly meant to meet national and religious purposes. The goal is to instill in the mind an idea of moral distinctions; while the exclusion is conformed as near as may be needed to the nature and habits of the creatures prohibited.
There is a mingling in these laws of several goals or ideas, each of which deserves attention.
(1). I find this Chapter to be a system of wholesome nutrition. All the animals here pronounced clean, are the most valuable, nutritious and wholesome of creatures for human food. It does not mean that none of those forbidden are good for food; but it is certain that all the animals here called "clean" are the best. Man’s common sense have decided that the grain-eating animals, which divide the hoof and chew the cud, are generally the most healthful and enjoyable for the table. The pig or hog which are in this list, is only half clean, is not near as good for food, as sheep, cows, deer and animals in that class. All doctors tell us this, and facts and experience demonstrate their accuracy. Swine's flesh is especially unwholesome in warm climates, putting at risk its consumers to all sorts of cutaneous (skin), scorbutic (scurvy) and leprous diseases. It is said of the Jews, who religiously abstain from swine's flesh, that in time of epidemic plague or pestilence, they never suffer to the same extent with their swine-eating neighbors. This is just the case of only one class of animals.
An examination throughout will show, that the nutriment afforded by the flesh of animals banned in this old ceremonial Law, is less in quantity, inferior in quality, and more favorable to the production of a disease with glandular swellings, probably a form of tuberculosis, than any included in the list of permitted meats. So it was a great mercy in God, in those days of inexperience and exposure, as to set His laws as to protect His people against the use of what would have been harmful. This is only a related meaning of the presentation; showing that the Hand of God is concerned for the good of those who obey Him. This law is no longer binding upon us, as a religious choice, for Christ has entirely superseded it . . . but it may still serve as a guide to our lives, and is worthy of careful consideration in connection with dietetics and hygiene.
(2). A second, and somewhat more direct aim of these arrangements, looked to the keeping of the Hebrews entirely separate from all other people. They were to be the light and truth-bearing nation among the families of man. They were elected to perpetuate a knowledge of the TRUE God; and by their unusual training, to prepare the way for Christ and Christianity. To fulfil this mission, they needed to be fenced in and barricaded against the indirect roads of idolatry. And it was partly, to affect this segregation of the Jewish people, that this system of religious diets was instituted. Nothing more effective could have been used to keep these people separate from other people. It causes the difference between them to always be present to the mind, because it touches so many points of social and every-day contact; and it is far more powerful in its results, as a rule of distinction, than any difference in doctrine, worship or morals, which men could entertain.
No nation, in which a distinction of meats was rigidly enforced as a part of a religious system, has ever changed its religion. It was utterly impossible for the Jews to observe the setting of this Chapter and to be at all familiar in their association with surrounding nations. Animals of the ox kind were sacred to the Egyptians, and were never slaughtered for food; while they made free use of others here pronounced unclean. The Phoenicians or Canaanites ate swine's flesh, and even dogs, as well as other animals which the Jews were forbidden to touch. The Arabs ate the camel as common food, the hare, the jerboa, all of which are specified or included in the Mosaic prohibitions. So, this Chapter was really a wall of exclusion to the Jews, separating them and all other people, which has withstood all the changes of more than three thousand years.
(3). A still farther and more direct intent of these religious diets was, to train the understanding to the perception of moral distinctions . . . to engrave upon the mind an idea of Holiness. Without a doubt, this was one of the leading objects of the entire Ceremonial Law. People are sometimes tempted to regard these ancient rites as trivial and foolish; but it is because they do not consider the relationship they withstand to what we now think so much better and more rational. There are islands in the sea which would not exist, except for the coral reefs upon which they rest; and too, there would be NO Christianity without these ceremonial regulations, which by small beginnings, laid in the human mind the foundations upon which all our Christian convictions have been shaped. Geologists tell us, that the physical world is composed of various layers, one on the other, from a deep granite base up to the fertile land which furnishes us food while we live, and graves when we are dead. It is much the same in the moral and religious world. Religion has been brought forth by degrees. Just as there have been many geologic eras, so there have been various religious dispensations, each one furnishing the basis for the following one. Each of these successive dispensations furnished a different layer upon which the following one was built. The last could not exist without the first. Each one is a part of the grand total. And if it had not been for these Jewish ceremonies, our moral and religious ideas would possibly be worse and more confused than those of Turks or wicked Hindus. The broad sunlight cannot be let in upon the tender eyes of infancy all at once. It must at first be veiled and shaded until the powers of vision strengthen and develop. It must be let in by degrees, or the baby shall never be able to see at all. And too, it has been in the history of God's dealings with man as a race. It was only by the slow and regular, and progressive stages of types, ordinances, and veiled prophecies, and outward miracles, that the world has come by that spiritual enlightenment and moral understanding which now distinguish the Christian nations.
If we connect Chapter 11 with the Laws concerning offerings and priests, we can easily see how the entirety would operate in creating and establishing the idea of purity and holiness. By separating all active nature into clean and unclean, some are considered as better and purer than others. Only the pure kind could be taken for sacrifices. And even of this better kind, only the purest and most spotless animals were to be carefully chosen. The sacrificial victim would thus appear very widely separated from the common herd and very clean and good. A thoroughly cleansed and consecrated officer (priest) was then to take it in charge, and wash both it and himself before it could come upon the altar. And when the presentation was to be made to the LORD in the Most Holy Place, only the pure blood, in a golden and consecrated bowl, could be brought, and even then, with great fear and trembling (1 Cor.2:3) So, from the clean beast, and the cleaner priest, and still further cleansing of both, and the Most Holy Place which could be approached only by so Holy a person with such Holy caution, the worshipper was taught the idea of Holiness, the intense purity of God, and the need of Holiness in order to come into God’s favor. Each additional specific was so ordered as to reflect purity and sanctity on all the rest, to bring out in shining prominence in the greatness of Holiness. Had we not had these ancient services, the world would NOT know what Holiness is.
If we were to ask a Christian: What is holiness?. . . it would be impossible for him to give a clear opinion, without going back to frequent incidents in these ceremonial regulations, by which the idea of Holiness was created and formed. Holiness is a mental quality that has no place in the thoughts of man, except as derived from the outward separations, washings, and consecrations of this ritual.
It is certain that the Hebrew word translated holy, was used to express the idea of purity and sacredness as presented in the Tabernacle service. Holy is a ground of physical purity and cleanness. So Holy was used to mean separation, consecration of higher qualities than the common assembly . . . Holy is the state of devotion to hallowed purposes, and in the end, moral purity. The Greek word for holy, when received into the New Testament, took a meaning which was from the Hebrews, and not from the Greeks. Even our Saxon word holy, in Christian language, drops for the most part its old meaning of entireness, and takes mainly the Jewish idea of cleanness and sanctity.
I do not know of any word, in any language, ancient or modern, to convey the Scriptural start of holiness, that did not come from the Jews and the old ceremonial system. The religious world today has derived its idea of moral purity from the Mosaic rites. It was part of their great office to teach mankind moral distinctions, and to open the human understanding and conscience to the idea of sanctity.
(4). Connected with this, then, was the still further intent of these laws to give a picture of sin. We here have the Finger of God, pointing out on the great map of living Creation, the natural and material symbols of depravity (evil, corruption, immorality). The various kinds of unclean animals are just living symbols, that set forth the uncleanness of man. Have you heard people speak of the beastliness of vice? VICE is the opposite of VIRTUE; beastliness is an absence of the human capacity for virtue. So . . . the beastliness of vice means outside the limits of vice.
It is a suitable comparison; but it is exactly what God Himself has made clear in these Laws. The combined characteristics of the creatures here declared unclean, give us a specific exhibition of what SIN is. They give us a living mirror in which the sinner may look at himself.
(a). First, man is unclean, filthy, disagreeable, deadly. There may be some good qualities, just as there were in many of the unclean creatures; but on the whole, man is unclean. Impurity rests upon him. He is unfit for Holy association with God, nor is he able to come acceptably before God. As Eliphaz, the Temanite said, "abominable and filthy is man" (Job 15:16). "They are altogether become filthy" (Ps.53:3), says the Psalmist. And whoever the sinner may be, I say to you . . . he or she is in the Eye of God, and shall NOT escape punishment.
(b). In the next place, the sinner is brutish. Man’s character is typified by the vile and deadly way of living. He was originally made but a little lower than the angels (Heb.2:7); but he sinned by listening to a brute reptile, and was changed into its likeness. What is a brute? A brute is a thing without reason or conscience, which lives by mere instinct and desire, following no law but its own cruel, beast-like motivations. What are the effects of sin upon him in whom it reigns? It dethrones intelligence and makes the mind a slave of impulse, nullifies any wisdom, stifles and overrides the conscience, and makes the man the servant of lust, living only for selfish gratification, and following only the commands of his baser (sin) nature. Sin removes everything good in man, enslaving his spirit to the flesh, matches his intellect to his desires, and binds down the whole moral constitution. Whatever the sinner has in him more than an unclean brute, is led captive by what he has in common with the brute.
What is a slave of sin? It is one whose eyes have been sidetracked from Heaven, and whose attention is directed to what is earthy! Sin brings man DOWN from expecting the lofty things of God and eternity, setting his affections on things below, instead of things above. It removes the angelic look of innocence, and makes him drop his eyes in betrayal of the vile feelings that play in his hidden heart.
A brute is a creature destined to perish. Its spirit goeth downward (Ecc.3:21). Its end is death (Pro.14:12; 16:25; Rom.6:21). O’ how sad, is the sinner in his guilt! What hope has he for another world? (Job 27:8). "The fool and the brutish person perish" (Ps.49:10) says the Psalmist. Continued SIN leads to eternal death in Hell. Sin in the end puts out every light of the sinner's existence. It smothers all GOOD in his life. SIN can sink a person forever. His end is symbolized by that of "the brute which perisheth" (2 Pet.2:12; Jude 10).
SIN is the ugliness and spitefulness of the camel; the burrowing, crafty disposition of the rabbit and the fox; the filthy sensuality of the hog; the stupid stubbornness of the ass; the insatiable appetite of the dog, wolf, jackall and hyena; the savage fierceness and blood thirstiness of the tiger, panther and lion; the sluggishness of the sloth; the prowling shyness and cruelty of the cat; and the treachery and mischievousness of multitudes of unclean creatures that roam in darkness. When we allow SIN to be crowned in our soul, it is like an eagle clutching innocence in his talons, and tearing out its heart with his bloody beak. SIN is like a vulture, seeking what is abominable, and greedily eating unwholesome rottenness. SIN is like the owl taking advantage of darkness to surprise its prey, hooting about the abodes of quietness, and shrinking away to hide from light. SIN is like a slimy fish that creeps among in the mud, and the poisonous snake waiting in the grass, and the scaly thing crawling on the land and in the sea. SIN is abominable, and God hates it!
There are SO many who make light of sin, and never think of the devastating result. There is nothing in the world so abhorrent, dangerous, despicable, destructive, hateful and vile that SIN does not surpass it. SIN is most hideous . . . being an uncleanness which cannot be explained . . . a filthiness so intense in God’s Eyes that He simply CANNOT look upon it, because of His awesome Holiness and pureness.
The plain and awful truth is, that SIN is just as abundant as it is horrifying. The unclean creatures are just as numerous and abounding as they are inappropriate. The air is full of them; the Earth is alive with them; the ocean teems with countless kinds of them. They are in the mountains and the valleys. They are everywhere be it spring, summer, fall or winter! And, just as these unclean things abound, so too does sin abound. All of living nature, remind and warn us of sin and uncleanness!
Looking down on an open field, vultures compete over their appalling lifeless food, as a hawk hovers, ready to grab his prey beneath him. This should remind us of the sordid appetites and dispositions which work in fallen man, and against which we should always be on guard. Thousands of harmful insects buzz in the air as we breathe, which should represent as to how carefully we can be affected and encircled with sin and its vileness, that endangers our hopes and peace. And even to us in this modern age, the great lesson still comes flashing upon us vivid and strong from this law, that at home or abroad, asleep or awake, on land and on sea, in the heights above and in the depths beneath, everywhere and in every condition on this Earth, SIN can encompass us, swarm around us, cleave to us and work its evil in us.
Unbelievers highly object to this account of man's moral condition. They would say that this picture is way off base! But it is the picture which God Himself gives in the symbols of His ancient ritual, and has announced in plain words in His Gospel. All these suggestions upon the living world of outward nature, have their counterpart in the moral world today.
We may think it absurd that humanity should be so chaotic and corrupted, or that uncleanness abounds so much; but that does not change the facts. God knew what was in man and what kind of creatures, and how many of them He declared unclean. He knew exactly what kind of a picture all these living symbols put together would make. And with all, He solemnly said, Let it be so. "The heart of man is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?" (Jer.17:9). Iniquity is indeed a "mystery" (2 Thes.2:7), much more than we can ever understand. Sin is like an ocean that we are not able to measure, and a deep darkness which no light of this world can make as day. Consider the histories of war, oppression, persecution and killing of men, that have stained the records of every age; and see if there is any in the bloody doings of birds or beasts of prey to exceed it. If we were to check the records of greed, lewdness, lust, insatiable wickedness in man, we would see where the accounts are far above what we see in the nature or habits of the vilest of brute creatures. If we review the base deceits, blasphemy, disrespect, disturbing passions, fierce hostilities, malicious meanness, carnal pollutions, all these things are what has been seen in mankind. But the worst part is, what we see and hear and read about, as bad as it is, is not the whole of human uncleanness.
Mat.15:18-19 But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man. 19 For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies: (KJV) Not even a tiny part of the evil that is in the world is ever made clear to the outward observer. History is made up of feuds, hatred, huge crimes, rebellions, wars, wrongs and sin of all kinds . . . for there is a world upon which historians cannot look . . . that being the world where man is exactly what he is . . . a world far wider and deeper than the world where all history is acted out BEFORE it becomes history . . . meaning the hidden world of the heart. The on-going adulteries, the satanic thoughts of blood and death, the envies and jealousies, the horrible hostilities, the murders and uncleanness . . . all these exist while the sinner never suspected to be observed . . . BUT . . . GOD IS WATCHING! (Pro.21:2; Jer.17:10; Mk.7:6; 1 John 3:20).
A TRUE Christian is sickened at the everyday reports of actual, wide-open and uncontrolled wickedness and vicious crime. What would we think if we saw things as God sees them? And what about all the things we do not see, that go on with all the people who do their best to cover up or hide their atrocities? WHAT will these souls think when the day comes for the all-knowing LORD to lay open every work and every secret thing, the histories of man would look like records of Hell and vile sins of devils!
Ecc. 12:14 For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil. (KJV)
Mak 4:22 For there is nothing hid, which shall not be manifested; neither was any thing kept secret, but that it should come abroad. (KJV)
Luke 8:17 For nothing is secret, that shall not be made manifest; neither any thing hid, that shall not be known and come abroad. (KJV)
1 Cor. 3:13 Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is. (KJV)
There are clean things and there are unclean things! There are good people and there are bad people! There have always been some virtuous ones among the base, and God in all ages, has been gathering to Himself a people for His Name, who shall shine as stars forever. This Law served the Jew as a remembrance of goodness and holiness, as well as sin and uncleanness. Going forth to His flocks grazing in quiet green pastures (Ps.23:2), those gentle creatures would be to Him as the clean and Holy ones whom the LORD keeps as "the people of his pasture and the sheep of his hand" (Ps.95:7). But, of all the chosen ones who walk in the grace of God, among the thick showered blessings of an approving God . . . there were more vile than clean. Even with all the good that is in the world, there is a dreadful depravity on all mankind in general, and upon those who are not Christians in particular. What does God in His Scriptures say? "Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips; their mouth is full of cursing and bitterness; their feet are swift to shed blood; destruction and misery are in their ways" (Rom.3:13-16). We have not escaped this uncleanness which is over all the Earth. "If any man say that he hath no sin he deceiveth himself" (1 John 1:8). ALL of us are members of a fallen and corrupt race. ALL of us are guilty! (Rom.3:9-10, 23). ALL God's dealings with us are to teach us that we ALL are guilty in His sight. But along with the disclosure of our disease comes the display of an abundant remedy. Sin abounds, but the grace of God abounds much more. Our uncleanness is extreme; but God’s mercy holds out to us the means of complete and glorious deliverance. A fountain HAS been opened; and all we have to do is to wash and be clean. The great God calls to us from the heavens, saying, "I am the LORD your God, ye shall therefore sanctify yourselves, and ye shall be holy; for I am holy" (Lev.11:44-45; 1 Pet.1:16).
There cannot be any doubt as to what that sanctification or washing is. ALL immoral passions must be avoided as unclean. Covetous lusts must be cast far away. Carnal loves of darkness and filth must be forsaken. Hatred and malicious feelings that work so forcefully in fallen man, must be abandoned. The animal tendency must be stopped as we keep eyes in an uplifted look which fastens on the skies. All vicious selfishness must be cast away as vile and that multitude of unclean thoughts which infest the soul must be thrown out with disgust, and the tiny touch of anything defiling must be shrunk away from with horror . . . it is in such a way that we that we then can compass the Altar of Calvary, leaning on the Head and trusting in the precious Blood of the Lamb, until the Eternal king shall say: Mat 25:46 And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal. (KJV)
Sinner, will you accept of these conditions, and fly to the Refuge thus set before you? The Saviour again knocks at the door of your heart (Rev.3:20). Will you be made clean? A blessing awaits all who give the right answer! A judgment of doom awaits the wrong answer. BEWARE of the answer you give.
Moses clearly brings the GOSPEL in the Book of Leviticus!
He brings us a crystal-clear picture of Jesus!
The Gospel most certainly is in Leviticus.
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