Keto. Paleo. Atkins. Vegan. Carnivore. Mediterranean. The sheer number of popular diets can be bewildering. We love food and, at the same time, we worry about what we eat. That makes diets a lucrative business. According to CNBC, in 2021 the diet industry was worth an estimated $71 billion.
In Leviticus, God gave His people specific laws about food. Israel did not have to turn to diet books to discern what was acceptable to eat or not. It is important to note that Israel did not separate religion from the rest of their life. They understood that obedience to God involved not just worshiping at the sanctuary, but also everyday decisions of what to eat, what to wear, and how to treat people. Following dietary laws would have reminded Israelites a couple of times each day that they were God’s people. Observing these laws would help instill an attitude of obedience to God.
It is important to remember that in places Leviticus was primarily a procedural manual. It does not always explain the rationale for various laws. Several explanations have been offered to explain the logic of the food laws: (1) Hygiene—unclean animals were often unhealthy and more prone to disease; (2) Morality—some animals acted in ways that served as examples of behavior to avoid or emulate; and (3) Holiness—Israel was to be separate from the nations around them.
This last option finds the most biblical support. After presenting the food laws, God says, “Be holy, because I am holy” (v. 45). These laws would prevent God’s people from having close table fellowship with their Canaanite neighbors and maintain their distinctive Israelite identity. These laws became especially important during exile.
>> Does your belief in God influence what you eat, what you wear, or how you spend your free time? While the New Testament makes clear that all foods have been declared clean (Mark 7:19), we are also called to stand out from the world because of our commitment to Christ (John 13:35).
God, may our devotion to You be reflected in every choice that we make, from what we eat to how we spend our time. If others notice and ask questions, may our words and example lead them to You!