Leviticus 11, A Diet for Spiritual Schizophrenics


Leviticus 11 is a prime example of why I refer to Leviticus as the Bible's weirdest book. According to Leviticus 11, you can eat candied crickets but steer clear of restaurants that serve rock badger and barn owl. 

Leviticus 11 is a long list of clean and unclean foods. It seems arbitrary and hard to follow. What's the point?

The answer comes in verses 44 and 45.

For I am the Lord your God. Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am holy. You shall not defile yourselves with any swarming thing that crawls on the ground. For I am the Lord who brought you up out of the land of Egypt to be your God. You shall therefore be holy, for I am holy."

Leviticus 11:44-45

Leviticus 11, a Diet for Spiritual Schizophrenics

Schizophrenia is a serious mental disorder in which someone loses grip on reality.

There is a sense in which we can become spiritual schizophrenics. How often do we see Sunday as full of God but lose sight of Him the rest of the week? Wouldn't it be a better grip on reality if we were constantly mindful of God in the world He created?

While God has Israel in the wilderness, He's going to be pretty hard to forget. A person could wake up each morning, look toward the Tabernacle and see the manifest presence of God as a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night (Exo 13:21, Num 14;14).

But once they enter into the promised land and begin to spread out, they may lose this sense of reality that God is present. So what does God do to make sure that they have to be mindful of Him every day? He puts them on a diet.

The reason for the diet is that it makes them ever mindful of God. Notice the first sentence of verse 44. "For I am the Lord your God." It's not about beef or pork. It's about Him.

Your Friend with Food Allergies

If you live with someone who has dietary restrictions or food allergies, you know that it impacts the whole family. 

A few years ago, we realized that our daughter was lactose intolerant. That was a big adjustment for our family because we love milk and cheese.

Most recently, she was diagnosed with a gluten allergy. We learned that lactose intolerance and gluten allergies often go hand in hand. This gluten thing has radically changed our diet. Whatever we eat, we are mindful of her.

Leviticus is not an arbitrary, symbolic, ritualistic food list. Leviticus 11 is like taking your son's friend who has food allergies on your family vacation. You adjust the menu and accommodate his dietary needs. You're mindful of him at every meal.

Holiness From the Tabernacle to Your Table

The first ten chapters of Leviticus are about how one is to behave at the altar. It is about how the priest prepares. It is about how to bring an offering and be mindful of God.

Leviticus 11 means that you now have to be as mindful of God at your kitchen table as you are at the Tabernacle altar. 

The Word of God is not something you should only hear on Sunday. Perhaps it needs to become a part of your breakfast routine as well. A church auditorium should not be the only place people pray. Your kitchen table should also be a place where your family brings thanks, praise, and petitions God for needs. 

Discerning Decisions

When you have a dualistic sense of reality, it's tough to make consistent decisions. Spiritual schizophrenics will hold moral values on Sunday that they don't hold for the rest of the week.

It is theologically significant that the creator instructs His images that some things he created are good for you and some things He created that are not. In Leviticus 11, God labels the difference between those things as clean and unclean. 

The idea of clean and unclean helps spiritual schizophrenics be as mindful of choices away from the Tabernacle as choices at the Tabernacle. The Levitical law was specific. If you want to bring something to the altar, it must be this kind of lamb, or bull, or flour of this quality. 

But what about the table in your home? What about dinner tomorrow night? 

Are you going to be as worshipful and considerate of God on a Monday afternoon as you are on Sunday morning? 

Most readers of this post would be appalled if their pastor used a movie clip in his sermon that contained profanity, violence, and nudity. We would certainly think it inappropriate for church.

So what were you watching last night? If it is unclean at church, what is it in your home? If it's unclean on the screens at your church, then it's unclean on the screen on your phone, your computer, or television.

Something unholy doesn't become holy because it changes time and location.

Paul applied the principle of Leviticus 11 to his argument in 1 Corinthians 10. As he draws his conclusion, he says:

"All things are lawful," but not all things are helpful. "All things are lawful," but not all things build up. Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor."

"So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." 1 Cor. 10:31

1 Cor. 10:23-24, 31 (ESV)

The Leviticus 11 diet of clean and unclean teaches otherwise spiritual schizophrenics the lessons of discernment.

Just because you are forgiven of everything doesn't mean you should do everything.

Something may not be wrong, but that doesn't make it good.

And for rugged individualists like us (which is the attitude that often contributes to our spiritual schizophrenia), we need to be mindful of God in that what's good for me now may not be best for me later. 

If I could summarize how the principles of Leviticus 11 make their way into the New Testament under the blood of Christ and the freedom he brings us, it would be this. When God gave them a diet that prevented people from eating pig, He was far less concerned about them eating pork than He was that they are ever mindful to love God and love people. 

The diet helps spiritual schizophrenics understand their identity.

We are one thing at church and another the rest of the week. The Bible calls this spiritual schizophrenia hypocrisy. And FYI, our Savior, the Son of God, hates hypocrisy.

The second sentence of verse 44 is Leviticus in one sentence. "Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am holy."

Holiness, in its most basic sense, means that something is set apart for God.

Holiness is transformative. 

When God met with Moses at a bush on the backside of the desert, he told Moses to take off his shoes because this was holy ground. A space that was otherwise just worthless dirt became the most distinct place on the earth because God was there. 

Holiness makes the common uncommon. The same thing that happened at the burning bush will happen each time they set up the Tabernacle. Dirt will become holy ground. When the walls of the Tabernacle went up, the soil that yesterday looked like everything else becomes like nothing else.

Holiness is possessive. 

When something was declared holy, it belonged to God. You may be able to borrow some tables from your church's fellowship hall, but no one could borrow the lamp-stand in the Tabernacle to light their garden party. 

And so, in reading Leviticus 11, we learn something of God. He takes otherwise common things he created like rock badgers, cows, catfish, pigs, and crickets and distinguishes them from another. His Word defines them.

And so, after reading 43 verses of what seems like an odd grocery list, think of how profound this is that God looks at a group of people and says, "I'm your God. You be holy because I am holy."

God declared a group of former idolators, prone to be spiritual schizophrenics, holy. They were his.

Leviticus 11 says that we cannot think of ourselves apart from Him. His Word has transformed us. And our daily decisions should be reflective of this whether we are at the Tabernacle or at the dinner table. 

This diet is important for spiritual schizophrenics because it teaches them something of God, something of the world that they live in, and something of themselves. 

The most significant thing that Leviticus 11 is that it expands the borders of holiness from the Tabernacle to the dinner table, from the Sabbath day to every day. 

It would have been one thing for the story to end in Leviticus 10 with the death of two priests in a tragic worship fail. If it had, people could walk away and think, wow, priests need to be holy. But Leviticus 11 says, so do you. 

If the Bible's weirdest book ends at Leviticus 10, people could have said that the priests need to be very mindful of God in the sacrifice. But Leviticus 11 comes along and says and you ned to be just as mindful of God at lunch today.

The New Testament Borders of Holiness

As someone who deeply appreciates bacon, it's easy to read Leviticus 11 and thank God that's not us. We don't want God messing with our diet. But with the resurrection of Christ and the gift of the Holy Spirit, we must realize that the borders of holiness have now gone far deeper than the dinner table. 

Notice how the borders of holiness expand in 1 Corinthians 6.

Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, "The two will become one flesh." But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

1 Cor. 6:15-20 (ESV)

Dr. Fred Affman, my Old Testament professor at Tennessee Temple University, explained the borders of holiness in the Christian life in this way. Because of the Holy Spirit in us, "Every place where the Christian steps is sacred."

The Bible does not call for us to reinstitute the Levitical dietary laws, but it does call for us to realize the expanded depths of the borders of holiness that God's Spirit has applied to us. 

We need to stop being spiritual schizophrenics and get a grip on reality. God is ever-present. His Spirit is within us. We are the borders of holiness.

As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, "You shall be holy, for I am holy." And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one's deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.

1 Peter 1:14–19 (ESV)

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