A Ritualistic Nation?

Posted: Thursday, April 12, 2012 in Deuteronomy, Old Testament

Deuteronomy 14 “You have been set apart as holy to the Lord your God, and he has chosen you from all the nations of the earth to be his own special treasure… You must not eat any detestable animals that are ceremonially unclean… You may eat any animal that has completely split hooves and chews the cud, but if the animal doesn’t have both, it may not be eaten… Of all the marine animals, you may eat whatever has both fins and scales. You may not, however, eat marine animals that do not have both fins and scales. They are ceremonially unclean for you. You may eat any bird that is ceremonially clean… All winged insects that walk along the ground are ceremonially unclean for you and may not be eaten… You must not eat anything that has died a natural death… You must not cook a young goat in its mother’s milk. You must set aside a tithe of your crops—one-tenth of all the crops you harvest each year. Bring this tithe to the designated place of worship—the place the Lord your God chooses for his name to be honored—and eat it there in his presence… And do not neglect the Levites in your town, for they will receive no allotment of land among you… Then the Lord your God will bless you in all your work.”

A bizarre set of rituals were called for with respect to mourning and eating habits of the Israelites and one wonders what the logic behind it was or if there was any?

The chapter starts off with a mention of mourning rituals that the Israelites were not to follow. Cutting the body and shaving the front of one’s head was a common mourning ritual in the ancient Near East and was referred to in Isaiah 3:24; Isaiah 15:2; Isaiah 22:12; Jeremiah 16:6; Jeremiah 41:5; Ezekiel 7:18; Amos 8:10; Micah 1:16. These were pagan rituals the Israelites were instructed not to follow as they were a people set apart for the Lord.

Mourning the loss of loved ones is something that we as Christians are certainly not restricted from doing but for believers in Jesus Christ who pass away from this life, we are called to be different in our mourning because we mourn the physical distance but celebrate the joy they have in being in Christ’s presence for eternity.

The Israelites were commanded to be separate from the world because they were a holy people just as we are through Christ (1 Peter 2:9). They were chosen by God to be His own special people just as we also are (1 Peter 2:9). They were a special treasure to God just as we Christians are Jesus’ inheritance (Ephesians 1:18). If God regarded Israel as special from among the nations, they had to conduct themselves as special among the nations and that is true of God’s expectation of every Christian today.

With respect to food, it can be generally summarized that the foods that were restricted for their consumption were either predators (unclean because they ate both the flesh and blood of animals), scavengers (because they were carriers of disease and were regularly in contact with dead bodies), or potentially poisonous or dangerous foods. Eliminating these from Israel’s diet certainly had a healthy effect and kept them strong.

The last topic covered was with respect to tithes. Tithing was key because it was vital for the Israelites to be true and thankful to God. The tithes were to be taken from the increase that they earned, was to be partially enjoyed as a ceremonial meal before God, and was done to honour and reverence God by putting Him first in their lives. To me personally, this is true even today when I am called to give the first fruits of the increase God has blessed me with back to God for the same reasons and rather than justifying how much, I am happy to give more than I need to in grateful appreciation of all that God has done for me.

Something I enjoyed noting here regarding tithing was how God showed His concern for those who had to travel long distances and tithe by making a way for them to exchange their tithes for cash and permitting them to use it to make the journey to the temple. Also, God provided well for the Levites who were the priests of Israel without any land allotment and were committed to only serving God with no other means of making a living other than the offerings presented at the temple. God sure showed that He operated with common-sense but unfortunately some of these laws were twisted by the priests of Israel to their benefit and that made the law a burden rather than a joy to follow in the time to come.

When we start to consider God’s word and ways in perspective, we see the beauty of God’s mind at work and we are able to praise Him for all that He has accomplished. In our narrow-minded way of thinking, we tend to look at God with a very critical eye and are happy to criticize Him rather than celebrate His goodness and I pray that you and I will fall in love with Jesus Christ, God’s only son, who came to bridge the gap we created through our sinful ways.

In His Loving Service,


  1. Debbie says:

    Great look at this part of scripture, Vineet! Thank you! I love how it does come down to trusting Him, knowing Him more and more and so understanding that there were good God reasons for all that He asked them to do and follow. God bless you and yours as you follow Him!

  2. Ann says:

    Thank you, Vineet

    A friend once told me the Bible is only for Christians…reading your post reminded me that we cannot trust Him unless we follow Him, and we cannot follow Him unless we trust Him….

    May we continue to be open to trusting His ways (even when they don’t add in up in our books)


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