************ Sermon on Leviticus 9:9-12; 19:19 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on September 2, 2018
Leviticus 11:9-12; 19:1-19
Leviticus 11:9-12; 19:19
"Why Does the Old Testament Condemn Mixed Cloths and Shellfish?"
Difficult Passages #14
This past week I had a dinner of shrimp and vegetables. I have also been known to enjoy eating lobster, crab, scallops, and oysters. In light of what our Bible reading says about shellfish, am I committing a sin?
This past week I wore a pair of pants that is 65% polyester and 35% rayon. In light of what our Bible reading says about mixed cloths, am I committing a sin?
Why does the Old Testament condemn both of these? And what is the point we New Testament Christians are to learn from this?
I The Lord is Holy
A The key word in the book of Leviticus is the word "holy." From beginning to end, this book keeps telling us God is holy. "I, the LORD your God, am holy" (Lev 19:2). Our Bible readings don't make sense apart from God's holiness.
God is holy. That Biblical word "holy" means "apartness" or "separateness." That which is holy is set apart from common things and common uses. It is different; it is "other." God is the "holy other." He is absolutely distinct and different from anything else in creation. This is the Bible's message in more than one place:
(Ex 15:11) Who among the gods is like you, O LORD? Who is like you-- majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders?
(1Sam 2:2) There is no one holy like the LORD; there is no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God.
God's "apartness" and "separateness" is seen in His purity. There is no moral blemish, no defect, no stain of wickedness within Him. He is morally excellent and ethically perfect. As the Holy One, God hates all sin and evil. This too is the Bible's message in more than one place:
(Job 34:10) So listen to me, you men of understanding. Far be it from God to do evil, from the Almighty to do wrong.
(Hab 1:13) Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrong.
B This holy God identifies Himself in Leviticus as "Yahweh." "Yahweh" means "I AM." This means that He is the one and only God. That He is and was and ever shall be. That He is the Author and Sustainer of life. That He is the Beginning and the End, the Alpha and the Omega.
The amazing message of the Bible is that this holy God, Yahweh, covenants with His people to save them. The great and mighty and awesome and holy God is a covenanting and saving God. We see this in Egypt and at the Red Sea. We see this with Gideon and the Midianites -- remember, with 300 soldiers Gideon defeated an army that was beyond counting. We see this with Jericho -- her great walls came tumbling down at a shout. We see this with Sihon and Og -- these kings of the Amorites struck fear into the hearts of Israel yet they were defeated. We see this when David faced Goliath -- imagine a young lad beating a heavily armed giant with a sling and a stone. Over and over again Yahweh saved His people.
What God did in the Old Testament He also does in the New. God saves us from sin and death through the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ Jesus. He is the saving God of the covenant; He is Yahweh.
C It is not enough to say that God is holy. We also have to say that God acts holy. In other words, God is also holy in His actions. We wouldn't expect less from God. God can only act consistent with Who He is. God does righteous acts because He is holy.
In the Hebrew language the concept of acting holy is rooted in a word that means "straight." We use the same metaphor today. When a criminal reforms his life, he "goes straight." When a person lives an obedient life, he walks the "straight and narrow." Conversely, if someone is a thief or a liar he is "crooked." The LORD God is straight. He is righteous. He is holy in all that He does.
II God's OT People Are to be Holy
A Yahweh, the covenant and saving God is holy. Now, He wants those He saves to be just like Him. He wanted Israel to be holy. So He said, "Be holy because I, the LORD your God, am holy" (Lev 19:2).
This means that, like God, the people of Israel were to be separate, apart. They were to be different, separate, from the world. God did not want His children to mix with the world. God's people were not to intermarry, to worship other gods, or to interweave their lives with the practices and values of the people of Canaan.
B It is in this context that we are to consider what God says about shellfish. This is to be seen as a "separation" command. It was the heathen that ate shellfish, not Israel. Now, shellfish are unclean because they are bottom feeders and bottom dwellers -- meaning they ingest things like mercury and disease and germs. To eat shellfish, then, means to eat what is unclean. Israel's daily life was to reflect God's principle of separation -- in this case, separation from the heathen nations.
C What about mixed cloth? Why the prohibition against this?
Leviticus 19 forbids the children of Israel wearing clothing woven of two different types of fabric, no matter what the material. More specifically, they could not wear clothing woven from wool and linen. Woolen thread would have been made from the hair of a sheep or goat. Linen was made from fibers of the flax plant (cf Josh 2:6). They could not wear a garment woven with both wool and linen.
But now get this: the command was not absolute. There was one person in Israel who was allowed -- even commanded -- to wear mixed fabric. Do you know who it was? It was the high priest. The ephod of the high priest was made of linen and dyed woolen thread (Ex 28:6–8; 39:4–5).
The ephod of the high priest was the only garment that could be woven of linen and wool. No one else was allowed to have such a garment. This fact is the key to understanding the prohibition. The prohibition maintained distance between the people and the high priest (and therefore God, whom the high priest represented). It reminded the people of how holy different God truly is.
Again, Israel's daily life was to reflect God's principle of separation.
III God's NT People are to be Holy
A So, do these commands about wardrobe and diet apply to us today? Do I break the Law when I eat shrimp and lobster or wear pants with mixed fibers?
The New Testament makes clear that my clothes and my menu are not sinful. Jesus declared all foods "clean" (Mk 7:1ff). And, God taught this lesson again when He sent Peter to the home of Cornelius, an "unclean" Gentile. To drive home the point, God gave Peter a vision of a large sheet let down from heaven and filled with unclean animals, reptiles, and birds; Peter was commanded to kill and eat (Acts 10:9ff). Paul declared that special days and diets must not be considered either the means or the measure of a person's spirituality (Rom 14:1-15:13). Paul said it is wrong to judge other Christians on the basis of what they eat (Col 2:16-23). And, Paul wrote Timothy that "everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving" (1 Tim 4:4).
In the New Covenant of grace, the Bible is far more concerned with how much we eat rather than with what we eat. As Christians, we are not to let our appetites control us; rather, we are to control them.
B You may find God's commands about shellfish and mixed cloth a bit trivial. But they are not that different from what many of us over 50 or 60 have grown up with. I remember when we first got a TV. My parents decreed that the only show we could watch on Sunday was Walt Disney. Was it trivial? Was it hairsplitting? Perhaps. But my parents wanted to keep Sunday holy. It was more than that though -- they also wanted to teach five kids that we were separate, different from the world.
We see the principle of separation throughout the New Testament. I especially think of what Paul wrote to the church at Rome:
(Rom 12:1-2) Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God--this is your spiritual act of worship. (2) Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will.Hear that? Do not conform to the world. Be separate. Be different. Be holy.
I want to challenge parents today to teach their children that they are holy, that they are separate, that they are different from the world.
The Apostle Paul has holiness as separation in mind when he speaks against intermarriage:
(2 Cor 6:14-17) Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? (15) What harmony is there between Christ and Belial ? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? (16) What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? 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." (17) "Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you."Parents, remind your children and youth -- over and over again -- that they are to date and marry only in the Lord because they are holy and separate. Anything else is less than pleasing in God's sight.
Did you know, the church has holiness as separation in mind when she baptizes little children. For this mark of the covenant visibly separates the holy children of believers from the children of unbelievers.
The Church Order of the United Reformed Churches has holiness as separation in mind when elders are told to promote God-centered schooling (Article 14, The Duties of Elders). Christian children are holy, they are different, and they are to be taught as being different. Those are not just hot, panting bodies on the playground or in the classroom. They are holy children of God.
The fact that we know Yahweh, the holy God, must make a difference in every aspect of our lives.
(1 Cor 6:20) you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.Our goal is to please God in all that we do and all that we are.
(1 Cor 10:31) So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.
IV Why Have Things Changed?
A How come God's Old Testament people have one set of rules and God's New Testament people have another set of rules?
More than one person uses this as an excuse to reject the Christian faith. They claim that we Christians are inconsistent, that we cherry-pick what laws we observe. They ask, for instance, why we keep the laws against homosexual behavior but not the laws about diet and clothing?
B To answer this charge I would like to ask you to open the grey Psalter Hymnal to Article 25 of the Belgic Confession of Faith (PH p.842):
Article 25: The Fulfillment of the LawDid you hear that? The laws were temporary and were ended on the cross of Christ (Col 2:14).
that the ceremonies and symbols of the law have ended
with the coming of Christ,
and that all foreshadowings have come to an end,
so that the use of them ought to be abolished
Yet the truth and substance of these things
remain for us in Jesus Christ,
in whom they have been fulfilled.
we continue to use the witnesses
drawn from the law and prophets
to confirm us in the gospel
and to regulate our lives with full integrity
for the glory of God,
according to his will.
To further explain this, Reformed theologians have identified three kinds of laws in the Old Testament: civil laws that apply only to the nation and kings of Israel; ceremonial laws that apply only to the Jewish religion; and moral laws -- like the Ten Commandments -- that apply to all people of all times and all places. Shellfish and mixed fibers belong to the ceremonial law fulfilled by and ended in Christ.
Let me end by telling you the biggest reason for the difference between Old Testament and New Testament believers.
Our holiness does not come from keeping the Law. Our holiness does not come from following rules about diet and clothing. Our holiness does not come from anything we do or say or think. By the time of Jesus, this was the approach of the Pharisees and the average Jewish worshiper even though the Old Testament makes clear that Abraham was justified by grace through faith.
We must never forget that we sinners are only holy in and through and because of Christ. We don't work for salvation. It is the gift of God in Christ. You are pure, spotless, without blemish only because of Christ. You are one of God's holy and different people only because of Christ.
You can e-mail our pastor at: Pastor, Trinity United Reformed Church
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