Parashat Shemini (Eight)
Vayikra (Leviticus) 9:1–11:47
Have you ever wondered why God gave Israel laws regarding food in the Bible? In this week’s portion, we read God’s instructions to Israel with regard to the animals that they can eat and cannot eat. I personally find it very compelling, but sadly, it is often a great cause of division among us in the Body of Messiah. But I want to suggest that this does not need to be an issue, if we truly understand why God gave these boundaries to His people. In the end, it’s not really about the food. And let’s remember, Yeshua is the only way to salvation; God’s laws are tools for us to live abundantly — they are not in themselves a way for us to earn our salvation.
With that being said, let’s see what our Scripture portion says on this issue:
For I am the LORD your God. Consecrate (or sanctify) yourselves and be holy; for I am holy. And you shall not defile yourselves with any of the swarming things that swarm on the earth. For I am the LORD, who brought you up from the land of Egypt, to be your God; thus you shall be holy for I am holy.
The greater meaning behind the dietary laws is the importance of being holy for the LORD! We are to sanctify and rededicate ourselves to Him. We do this by walking in His ways, which He not only instructed us to walk in, but also demonstrated to us in the person of Yeshua. He also gave us the Holy Spirit to guide us in our walk with Him.
It is very interesting that in the verses above, it is written that He is the LORD that brought Israel from out of Egypt. Why would God remind Israel about this act of redemption in connection to the dietary laws and holiness? We find the answer, actually, in the New Covenant, where a similar concept is found in 1 Peter 1:13–21:
Therefore, gird your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Yeshua the Messiah. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, “YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY.” And if you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each man’s work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay upon earth; knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Messiah. For He was foreknown before the foundation of the world, but has appeared in these last times for the sake of you who through Him are believers in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.
Redemption and holiness go hand in hand! This is God’s economy in His Kingdom.
Yeshua did not redeem us in order for us to say “I am redeemed”, but rather He made us new creations, and lit the fire in our hearts so that we will live a new life in accordance to His ways. His holiness enables us to be holy, which allows us to shine His light to the world!
So, this issue isn’t really about the food in itself. It’s all about God and His holiness. I encourage you to take time to pray about this, and seek His direction in your life.