During my childhood and even into early adulthood, I learned to follow a somewhat rigid set of lifestyle expectations. When I went to college, I found an even stricter set of rules – no movies, no dancing, no playing cards, no (non-essential) working on Sundays, dress up for church (skirts, ties, etc.), no smoking or drinking, no tattoos or colored hair, and so on. Every rule came with lengthy explanations about how the rule was to be followed, but not necessarily a lot of explanation as to why.
Today’s passage has some similarities to that long list of do’s and don’ts that I grew accustomed to growing up. Lots of details, but not a lot of reasons. Even commentaries debate the reason and even the meaning of some of the rules spelled out for the nation of Israel. Thankfully, we do not need to continue following every letter of the law and can now enjoy bacon without a guilty conscience. However, just as I did growing up, I still look for the “why” to help in determining relevance and my response.
Some principles seem to surface:
4 You shall walk after the Lord your God and fear him and keep his commandments and obey his voice, and you shall serve him and hold fast to him. 5 But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has taught rebellion against the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt and redeemed you out of the house of slavery, to make you leave the way in which the Lord your God commanded you to walk. So you shall purge the evil from your midst.Deuteronomy 13:4-5 ESV
- Love and obey God, hate sin.
20 All clean winged things you may eat. 21 “You shall not eat anything that has died naturally. You may give it to the sojourner who is within your towns, that he may eat it, or you may sell it to a foreigner. For you are a people holy to the Lord your God.Deuteronomy 14:21 ESV
- Take care of your body, steward creation.
- God calls his followers to live differently, to look differently than those around them.
You shall tithe all the yield of your seed that comes from the field year by year. . . that you may learn to fear the Lord your God always.Deuteronomy 14:22-23 ESV
- Give back to God.
- Fear God above fear of want.
The list could continue:
- Respect life
- Value purity
- Remember God’s past working on your behalf
- Protect your faith and pass it on
I am thankful that we no longer need to hold ourselves to these eating and purification standards, but they still give me pause to understand what God values. His rules are not hasty and meaningless, and seeing past guidelines show us the deep love He had for the nation of Israel, and that He holds for us today.
Lord God, thank you for your guidance throughout history even in matters as varied as diet and government. Your wisdom and love flow through these chapters even if we do not understand every line and detail today. Many of the principles are clear and timeless. Thank you for communicating and desiring a meaningful relationship and for caring about each element of our lives. In Jesus name, amen.