In the preceding passages, Moses has addressed Israel’s set-apartness in worship. In chapter 14, he gives attention to Israel’s set-apartness as it relates to more everyday aspects of life. These Laws were given to a people entering a pagan land. Many of the requirements set forth were intended to keep Israel distinct.
God’s call for holiness is for a peculiar people. That is, Israel was not to look like the rest of the world. When somebody dies, Israel was not to mimic what appears to be the ancient practice of cutting and shaving heads.
Likewise, Israel had to make distinctive food choices. Although we are tempted to point to possible health benefits of this diet, no reason of this sort was provided as to why some food was allowed and other food was denied. More than health, it seems likely that God used food as an object lesson, where every meal was a reminder of the covenant relationship.
Again, the key to the passage is Israel’s different-ness above any other reason that might exits for specific prohibitions. We can only assume that there wasn’t a tremendous temptation to boil young goats in its mother’s milk (21), outside of some pagan ritual.
The final section on tithing helps us understand that Moses taught that God was calling them to a whole-life orientation. Everything they have, first, belongs to God.
Believers today are not under the same Old Testament Law. The New Testament teaches that all food is clean (Acts 10:12–15). However, Jesus takes it a step further by saying “It is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person” (Matthew 15:11). Likewise, the New Testament does not reiterate a “tithe” in the Old Testament sense. Instead, it teaches that “whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:6–7).
What has remained unchanged is the distinctiveness of God’s peculiar people. As in the Old Testament, New Testament believers are called “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9). In every generation, believers should never be confused with non-believers.
Those who don’t follow Christ are often kind and generous—being a good person isn’t our standard. Our standard is the holiness and righteousness of God. It is agreeing with God about what is “right.” It’s about saying “yes” in advance to whatever God calls or forbids us to do. Don’t boil a young goat in it’s mother’s milk—that’s pretty easy to follow. What gets difficult is saying “no” to compromising situations that may risk friends, promotions, or your integrity. It means looking different from the rest of the world because obedience to Christ is more important than anything else.
By: Tyler Short — Connections Ministry Associate