Biblical Interpretation from Someone with no Training in Biblical Interpretation
Frequently when people look at the Law of God they see it as a list of stuff not to do. But, by doing so, people can miss out because the Law offers a candid look into the very heart of our God. The Laws of dietary restrictions exemplify this on both fronts (list of rules/ heart of God). Come and check out what the Holy Spirit showed me using the laws of clean and unclean foods.
Before we start though, let’s note that Jesus actually repealed the laws regarding what foods were and weren’t clean. History records in Mark 7:18-19,
“Are you so dull?” he asked. “Don’t you see that nothing that enters a man from the outside can make him ‘unclean’? For it doesn’t go into his heart but into his stomach, and then out of his body.” (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods “clean.”)
But, Paul tells us in 2 Timothy 3:16-17, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” This means that there must be more to the Law than just laws. Anyway, the food laws are still in the Bible; therefore, even though they’re repealed, they must offer something for the reader even today (because Paul said so). As it turns out, they’re a great gateway for Christians to enter into the Law and start rooting around for the heart of God (as we’re clearly not just memorizing an action we should [or shouldn’t] follow, then maybe we should find God’s heart behind the law).
What the food laws tells us about God’s heart is that there are no halfsies where the Lord is concerned. Here, let’s check out an example. The Law states:
The Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Say to the Israelites: ‘Of all the animals that live on land, these are the ones you may eat: You may eat any animal that has a split hoof completely divided and that chews the cud’” (Leviticus 11:1-3).
So the law is pretty solid about what is ok to eat; but what about if only half of the requirements are fulfilled? The Lord continues,
There are some that only chew the cud or only have a split hoof, but you must not eat them. The camel, though it chews the cud, does not have a split hoof; it is ceremonially unclean for you. The coney, though it chews the cud, does not have a split hoof; it is unclean for you. The rabbit, though it chews the cud, does not have a split hoof; it is unclean for you. And the pig, though it has a split hoof completely divided, does not chew the cud; it is unclean for you. You must not eat their meat or touch their carcasses; they are unclean for you (Leviticus 11:4-8).
The Lord gives several examples to help explain what is and isn’t ok for the people to eat; explaining that only what he exactly prescribed is ok. What is the lesson for this for Christians? God doesn’t act in half measures. We can see this present in salvation as well: either you’re in or you’re out. Jesus explained it like this:
When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left (Matthew 25:31-33).
Note that there are only two sides for salvation; there’s salvation or there isn’t. There’s no grey area in between or a “maybe” pile. There’s heaven-bound and hell-bound and that’s it. The same goes for miracles, the Lord either heals or he doesn’t. We can see this in action one of the times Jesus healed a blind person. Scripture records,
They came to Bethsaida, and some people brought a blind man and begged Jesus to touch him. He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village. When he had spit on the man’s eyes and put his hands on him, Jesus asked, “Do you see anything?”
He looked up and said, “I see people; they look like trees walking around” (Mark 8:22-24).
For some (unexplained) reason, this healing didn’t fully take and the man was left with imperfect vision (unless we really do look like trees). Did Jesus leave him in this state? Of course not! The story continues, “Once more Jesus put his hands on the man’s eyes. Then his eyes were opened, his sigh was restored, and he saw everything clearly” (Mark 8:25). When Jesus acted on the man’s behalf, he made sure that he finished the job before moving on. Surely the Lord does the same with us. Otherwise why would an almost-failure be in the Bible? Clearly there is a lesson to be learned about the Lord’s resolution in carrying out his will.
There is a catch to this though; the Lord expects you to follow suit. Christ Jesus decreed to the Laodicean church (and to us as well),
I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot, I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm – neither hot nor cold – I am about to spit you out of my mouth (Revelation 3:15-16).
We’re told by the Lord to pick a side and commit to it. You can see this mindset come through in some of the other Laws pronounced by God as well. We read,
Keep my decrees.
Do not mate different kinds of animals.
Do not plant your field with two kinds of seed.
Do not wear clothing woven of two kinds of material (Leviticus 19:19).
Again we see the Lord saying, “Pick a side and commit.” He’s not one for hedging bets. Jesus even took it up a notch for those who choose the path of righteousness, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). Holy crap, that doesn’t even seem possible! But Jesus stands by this “Yes” or “No” policy, literally; because he also said, “Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one” (Matthew 5:37). God is surprisingly hardcore about having no gray area.
But this is all good. Because of the Lord’s insistence on committing to one side, once you’re in, you’re in. So you can take heart when the Bible tells us,
…That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. As the Scripture says, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame” (Romans 10:9-11).
This means that even if you screw up, God will stay true to his word; for it is written in Numbers 23:19,
God is not a man that he should lie,
Nor a son of man, that he should change his mind.
Does he speak and then not act?
Does he promise and not fulfill?
And God himself said in Malachi 3:6, “I the Lord do not change. So you, O descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed.” And Paul waxed poetic as he wrote 2 Timothy 2:11-13,
Here is a trustworthy saying:
If we died with him,
We will also live with him;
If we endure,
We will also reign with him.
If we disown him;
He will also disown us;
If we are faithless,
He will remain faithful,
For he cannot disown himself.
This means no purgatory (as that would be a gray-zone), no sin-balance system (as it would show a lack of commitment from the Lord), and no having to guess your eternal future (as said future is written in black and white in the Bible). You can take it to the bank when God says through his word, “For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile – the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved’” (Romans 10:12-13).
The Lord, though, does allow for some exceptions from us. We can learn about this through the laws on eating bugs:
All flying insects that walk on all fours are to be detestable to you. There are, however, some winged creatures that walk on all fours that you may eat: those that have jointed legs for hopping on the ground. Of these you may eat any kind of locusts, katydid, cricket or grasshopper. But all other winged creature that have four legs you are to detest (Leviticus 11:20-23).
Although insects are to be avoided, the Lord makes several exceptions for things in the cricket family. God realizes that we are human and not perfect like him. After all, even the Bible notes, “There is not a righteous man on earth who does what is right and never sins” (Ecclesiastes 7:20). So the Lord looks past our iniquities, knowing that quite honestly it is nearly impossible to control ourselves. Even Paul wrote, “We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do” (Romans 7:14-15). And to that end, God always forgives us: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). And thank the Lord he does! If God allowed no exceptions, and had no understanding of the human condition, we would never be able to reach out and touch him. Remember that God cannot accept anything impure. It is even mentioned in the notes about what waits for believers:
I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it. Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life (Revelation 21:22-27).
Nothing impure can enter God’s realm, but he made an exception for us through the death of Christ Jesus. This is why Jesus tells the churches,
I counsel you to buy from me gold refined the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes so you can see (Revelation 3:18).
Notice that we’re supposed to get these things from Christ, who supplies all of our needs (even spiritual ones). What’s really interesting from this passage are the white clothes, because later in Revelation 19:8 it explains more about their symbolism:
“Fine linen, bright and clean,
Was given her to wear.”
(Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.)
It is interesting because Jesus tells us to buy the white clothes from him, even though white clothes are righteous acts. Why won’t our acts do? Because according to Isaiah 64:6,
All of us have become like one who is unclean,
And all of our righteous acts are like filthy rags;
We all shrivel up like a leaf,
And like the wind our sins sweep us away.
Our own acts aren’t enough to save us (because as we’ve already noted, nobody is perfect) and are like filthy rags in the eyes of God. However, we are allowed to wear Christ’s purity in heaven before the Lord – an exception to the rule designed by the Lord (just as he designed the grasshopper family as an edible exception to other bugs).
Since God accepts Jesus, he accepts us who are clothed in Christ. He does so entirely, just the way we are; because God doesn’t think in halves. This is why Moses could proclaim with great confidence, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:6). Or why Jesus was able to resolutely promise his continuing commitment to his followers in Matthew 28:19-20,
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.
Andy why Paul could write without reservation, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:1-2). So praise the Lord, who doesn’t do things by halves, but takes you whole through the grace of his Son, Jesus Christ!
Rock on God!