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You shall not eat anything that dies of itself; you may give it to the alien who is within your gates, that he may eat it, or you may sell it to a foreigner; for you are a holy people to the Lord your God. (Deuteronomy 14:21)

I’ll admit right off the bat that this sounds like God told His people they were not to eat “road kill” but should feel free to give it or, even better, sell it to foreigners and aliens. However, that is not really what is meant here. The Hebrew word נבלה n’velah is understood to mean a clean animal that was not slaughtered in the proper manner. So then, the animal in question is not considered to be unclean or an abomination as other animals but, because it was not slaughtered according to God’s standards, it is unfit to be food for a holy people.

Looking beyond the surface of the text, this particular command speaks to the issue of being willing to go above and beyond what others are permitted to do. In other words, just how close do we wish to draw near to a holy God? If we truly want to approach Him, decisions have to be made. Within the nation of Israel, and especially as it relates to the Sanctuary, there is a principle that distinguishes those who are set apart from those who are set apart. In other words, the priests were set apart from the Levites and, in turn, the Levites were set apart from the rest of the tribes. Those tribes, comprising the nation, were set apart from the rest of the nations.

If you understand the concept, now consider that the tribes could only go so far into the Sanctuary; the Levites could go further but more was expected of them in terms of holiness. The priests could go further still but, even more was expected of the priests. In short, the closer we get to His Presence, there is more of us that has to die. In our faith walk we will continually come upon circumstances and issues that might be technically permitted but not necessarily profitable if we desire to be a holy people. Perhaps that is what Paul meant when he said: “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful; all things are lawful for me, but not all things edify” (1 Corinthians 10:23).

Obviously, when he said that “all things are lawful,” he did not believe he could do whatever he wanted. I am convinced that, at least in part, he was addressing the point we are making today: holiness requires us to rise above and go beyond what is technically “lawful.” The masses may be permitted to do certain things that are not considered unclean, but as a holy people, we must be distinguished from even that. As it is written, You shall therefore consecrate yourselves, and be holy; for I am holy” (Leviticus 11:44).

Blessings and Shalom,  




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