1 - 2 Prohibited Mourning Practices
1 “You are the sons of the LORD your God; you shall not cut yourselves nor shave your forehead for the sake of the dead. 2 For you are a holy people to the LORD your God, and the LORD has chosen you to be a people for His own possession out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.
In verse 1 the members of God’s people are addressed separately in their privileged position: “You are sons of the LORD your God.” This does not mean that they are also all born again. There is a big difference between the sonship of Israel and that of the members of the church. Anyone born as an Israelite belongs to this people and is addressed as such. A person can only belong to the church through conversion and being born again. When applying the sonship of Israel to the sonship of the members of the church, it is important to remember this.
The characteristics of the sons are seen in Deuteronomy 12-16. Sons are connected to the place where God dwells. In such sons, nothing that disfigures may be present, but they shall be to the Father’s delight. The land is for the sons, the sons are for Him. What characterizes the Son, may also characterize the sons. That’s why instructions about eating clean food follow.
Israel is spoken of three times in connection with sonship, which belongs to them (Rom 9:4):
1. First, when the people are still in Egypt (Exo 4:22-23). In Exodus 4 God speaks of Israel as “My son”. This shows His purpose for the people as a whole. Although the people are in bondage, God has destined them to sonship.
2. The second time is in the wilderness, where God raises His sons, forms them to be sons in His “school of hard knocks” (Deu 8:5). There it is in a comparative sense. He chastises His sons so that they may remove from their lives what is not pleasing to Him, that they may be pleasing and joyful to Him.
3. The third time, here in Deuteronomy 14, sonship is connected to the land. God wants them to be a holy people before Him, for He has chosen them to be His own people.
Likewise we are sons before God; He has chosen us for Himself (Eph 1:5). The Lord Jesus is the Son and we may become like Him. Therefore
1. He has taken us out of Egypt, that is to say redeemed us from the world;
2. He disciplines us in the wilderness or in the circumstances of everyday life;
3. He has placed us in the land, which is for us the heavenly places.
Such a privileged position is not compatible with pagan practices of mourning. This also means that the way in which sons deal with death is completely different from the way in which the world deals with it (cf. 1Thes 4:13). The heathens around them flaw their bodies by cutting or tattooing them (Lev 19:28; Jer 16:6). Such mourning habits are associated with idolatry. These are signs of devotion to unclean beings that are worshiped by the heathen.
Adopting such practices disfigures the ‘sons’ and dishonors God. For He has sanctified them, separated them from all the nations of the world, and destined them for Himself to be His own people.
3 Eating Nothing That Is Detestable
3 “You shall not eat any detestable thing.
The external defacement is the result of eating the wrong food. That is why the command now follows not to eat any detestable thing. Because sons are there for God, He wants them to eat the right food, food that further shapes their character as sons in the picture of the Son. Nothing in them should remind of the nations.
4 - 8 Terrestrial Animals as Food
4 These are the animals which you may eat: the ox, the sheep, the goat, 5 the deer, the gazelle, the roebuck, the wild goat, the ibex, the antelope and the mountain sheep. 6 Any animal that divides the hoof and has the hoof split in two [and] chews the cud, among the animals, that you may eat. 7 Nevertheless, you are not to eat of these among those which chew the cud, or among those that divide the hoof in two: the camel and the rabbit and the shaphan, for though they chew the cud, they do not divide the hoof; they are unclean for you. 8 The pig, because it divides the hoof but [does] not [chew] the cud, it is unclean for you. You shall not eat any of their flesh nor touch their carcasses.
Sonship is a matter that must be put into practice every day. Sons are not ruled by rules, with what is and what is not allowed. Sons will always ask themselves how they can be a joy to the Father’s heart as much as possible. That’s why they will be careful with what they eat. Food builds up our bodies, it adds building blocks. Our bodies are formed by what we feed ourselves with. Healthy food has a healthy effect on our body.
What applies to our bodies also applies to our minds. With what we feed ourselves spiritually, what we read, what we look at, forms our spiritual life. We will adopt in our character the characteristics of the food we eat. It is therefore important to distinguish between clean and unclean food.
In Leviticus 11 only the unclean animals are mentioned by name and the message is addressed to Moses and Aaron. In Deuteronomy priests are rarely mentioned. It is a book that is addressed to a people of sons. Then the clean animals are named to give the sons their characteristics. The clean animals are often a type of the Lord Jesus. Sons feed on Him. He gives form and shape to their lives. The Lord Jesus becomes visible in them.
The first mentioned animal, “the ox”, is a picture of the steadiness and strength in serving. The ox perseveres. We see this in the life of the Lord Jesus. It is also the largest animal that can be offered as a burnt offering (Lev 1:3), but here it is food for us. We also have to be steadfast, immovable continuing in the work of the Lord (1Cor 15:58). As He steadily continued, so do we steadily continue.
In “the sheep” we see other characteristics. A sheep speaks of passing through suffering patiently and longsuffering. In 1 Peter 2 these characteristics are given to us as an example (1Pet 2:23). If we feed ourselves with Him in this way, those features will more and more adorn us.
“The goat” is the animal of the sin offering. It shows how much the Lord Jesus has satisfied God’s righteousness toward sin. To feed us with Him as the sin offering will work to maintain God’s righteous standards in our actions. It will restrain us from sin. We will live separately from sin for righteousness (1Pet 2:24).
After three domesticated land animals – which are a type of the Lord Jesus and can be sacrificed – seven animals are mentioned that live in the wild. They are clean animals. They may not be sacrificed, but they may be eaten. They have characteristics that remind us of the Lord Jesus.
In “the deer” we see the panting for the water brooks: “As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for You, O God (Psa 42:1a). If we feed ourselves with Him, it will cause a thirst for God in our souls. Nothing but fellowship with God can satisfy our deepest desires. To be with God gives the soul the true refreshment. The Lord Jesus experienced this and we can experience it.
“The gazelle” is characterized by the graceful and supple pace with which the animal rushes over the mountains (2Sam 2:18; 1Chr 12:8). Is there anything of that graceful pace to be seen with us? It is always there with the Lord Jesus, even when He walks through the streets of Jerusalem with the cross on His back. Through our conduct we can “adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in every respect” (Tit 2:10).
There are things that disfigure sons of God (verse 1), but here we have the things that will adorn us. All these animals have the hoof split in two and chew the cud. Both characteristics must be present. Chewing the cud is not only reading from the Bible, but also thinking about it, studying God’s Word. Split hooves give the walking stability, that we are not “tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine” (Eph 4:14), but that we are steadfast in faith. Teaching and practice belong together.
All animals where both characteristics are not found, are not suitable as food for ‘sons’. If only one of the characteristics is present, it is, so to speak, one-sided food. If only the emphasis is placed on the doctrine, it is not good. That leads to legalism. With the Pharisees there is a separation between ‘saying’ and ‘doing’ (Mt 23:3). The sound doctrine must lead to a sound practice. If the emphasis is only on practice, it is not good either. How can there be good practice without proper teaching?
9 - 10 Aquatic Animals as Food
9 “These you may eat of all that are in water: anything that has fins and scales you may eat, 10 but anything that does not have fins and scales you shall not eat; it is unclean for you.
With the second group of animals, the animals in the water, it is about the element in which they are. The water surrounds them from all sides. It then comes down to the fact that there is good protection. The scales are an armor, a separation between the animal and the environment in which it is in. There must also be fins for propulsion, to go the straight course to God’s thoughts.
Lot is someone who had scales. He did not take part in evil. Nevertheless, he had no fins. He could not resist evil or escape. Joseph is the opposite of that. He lived in a corrupt environment. When the temptation came, he managed to flee from evil.
11 - 20 Winged Animals as Food
11 “You may eat any clean bird. 12 But these are the ones which you shall not eat: the eagle and the vulture and the buzzard, 13 and the red kite, the falcon, and the kite in their kinds, 14 and every raven in its kind, 15 and the ostrich, the owl, the sea gull, and the hawk in their kinds, 16 the little owl, the great owl, the white owl, 17 the pelican, the carrion vulture, the cormorant, 18 the stork, and the heron in their kinds, and the hoopoe and the bat. 19 And all the teeming life with wings are unclean to you; they shall not be eaten. 20 You may eat any clean bird.
Birds speak of the spirit world. The clean birds speak of what is of God. The list begins with them and ends with them. Clean birds often point to the Lord Jesus as Man from heaven, His origin. The unclean birds speak of what is demonic, what is from the devil (Rev 18:2; Isa 13:21; 34:10-11; Jer 50:39).
We are called to deal only with things that have a good spiritual influence. The command to test the spirits (1Jn 4:1) is given to each son. The capacity to do so is given to him. The babies in the faith can recognize the antichrists because they have the “anointing from the Holy One” (1Jn 2:20). Every believer can recognize the voice of the stranger because he knows the voice of the good Shepherd (Jn 10:27).
Only the unclean birds are mentioned here. Some are birds of prey, others are nocturnal, and others are carrion birds. The devil is always out for the destruction of the sons. If he cannot deprive them of their sonship, he will try to deprive sonship of its character by offering mixed forms of being Christian.
21 How to Deal with a Dead Animal
21 “You shall not eat anything which dies [of itself]. You may give it to the alien who is in your town, so that he may eat it, or you may sell it to a foreigner, for you are a holy people to the LORD your God. You shall not boil a young goat in its mother’s milk.
A carcass may be given or sold to the stranger, but a son of God may not eat it. The meat of a dead animal can be fine meat and he can give it to another to please him, but the standards of sons are higher. A carcass is something that has died of its own accord. There is no effort needed: no aforethought or preparation. It is not about a slaughtered animal. A son deals with the animal, he chooses it. He takes active steps to bring about slaughter and death.
If, for instance, it is fashionable in the world for women to wear long hair –in itself, that is in accordance with the Bible. Nonetheless, fashion is not a prevailing standard for those who share in sonship. The essence of what we do lies in the heart. It is about the motive from which something is being done. Are we doing it because the people in the world think it is better, or because God deems it so? The benchmark should be to how great a degree I can be a delight to the Father.
The instruction not to boil a young goat in its mother’s milk occurs two more times in exactly the same terms (Exo 23:19; 34:26). Milk is for life for that goat. What is for the life of the goat, may not be used in connection with his death. It is unnatural.
God cares about nature. He does not want to see unnatural things happening. He wants sons to maintain what He has set in creation, in nature, such as marriage, family and work. We read about this especially in those letters that show us the highest Christian standpoint: the letter to the Ephesians and the letter to the Colossians. In nature we can, if we still have an eye for it, receive objectively teaching of God’s intentions (1Cor 11:14). This is also part of the formation of the characteristics of God in His sons.
22 - 27 Eating of the Tithes
22 “You shall surely tithe all the produce from what you sow, which comes out of the field every year. 23 You shall eat in the presence of the LORD your God, at the place where He chooses to establish His name, the tithe of your grain, your new wine, your oil, and the firstborn of your herd and your flock, so that you may learn to fear the LORD your God always. 24 If the distance is so great for you that you are not able to bring [the tithe], since the place where the LORD your God chooses to set His name is too far away from you when the LORD your God blesses you, 25 then you shall exchange [it] for money, and bind the money in your hand and go to the place which the LORD your God chooses. 26 You may spend the money for whatever your heart desires: for oxen, or sheep, or wine, or strong drink, or whatever your heart desires; and there you shall eat in the presence of the LORD your God and rejoice, you and your household. 27 Also you shall not neglect the Levite who is in your town, for he has no portion or inheritance among you.
This is about the fruits of the land presented as blessings for the people in Deuteronomy 6-11 and them eating in the presence of God. Now there are given indications how the fruit of the land can be enjoyed in a way that it is a pleasure for God. God rejoices when His sons enjoy the blessings He has given.
The tithing of the fruit determines for the people that the land is the LORD’s. When they come before Him with the tithes, they acknowledge His goodness and grace, and that He is their source of joy.
There are three different tithes. The first tithes are for the Levites (Lev 27:30-33; Num 18:24-26). The Levites are the servants of the priests. Each servant may contribute to the believers becoming better priests, better versed in bringing worthy offerings. The Levites’ service promotes the effective functioning of the priestly service. Each service that the Levites do must be supported and therefore the people give tithes. If the people are aware of their wealth, it is an enormous encouragement for the Levite. The Levite service is weak among a people who have no appreciation or awareness of God’s blessings.
Deuteronomy is about a people who can collect the riches of the land. They give a second tithe. This tithe is already mentioned briefly in this book (Deu 12:11,17-19). Here, it is done in more detail. These tithes are taken to the place where the LORD dwells and eaten before Him there.
Such tithes can be found in the meeting. When we are occupied all week with the blessing of the Lord, we can all come with our tithes to the meeting to present them before to the Lord. The two going to Emmaus have enjoyed the blessing of the Lord in their house and they bring the tithes of it, as it were, to the place where the believers are together (Lk 24:32-36).
For some it is difficult to go to Jerusalem with the tithes. For them there is a solution. They may sell the goods, take the money with them and convert the money back into goods on the spot. This can be applied to believers who are not yet spiritually advanced enough to take all the different sacrifices with them to the place where the Lord is. They may not have had time to deal with the versatility of the Lord Jesus’ work because of overly busy earthly things. They may come up with the price of those products, which in turn in that place is converted into sacrifices.
They come to the meeting with only the awareness of the price the Lord Jesus paid for their salvation. This is how they come to the meeting. When other brothers express themselves, they are involved in worship and the sacrifices are, as it were, revived again.
28 - 29 The Tithe of the Third Year
28 “At the end of every third year you shall bring out all the tithe of your produce in that year, and shall deposit [it] in your town. 29 The Levite, because he has no portion or inheritance among you, and the alien, the orphan and the widow who are in your town, shall come and eat and be satisfied, in order that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hand which you do.
The third ten percent will be in the third year. In order to be able to bring them, one has to live in the land for two years. These tithes should not be given to the Levites and should not be taken to Jerusalem. The Israelite keeps it at home and he invites people knows who have need of it.
This can be applied to any place outside of our meetings where we enjoy the blessings with each other. We can hand out to those who are needy, those who are not so blessed, whatever the cause, or those who hand out a lot themselves. We should not only invite to our homes who are as rich as we are. We may keep bible studies with those who know little or nothing of the spiritual blessings. The spiritually poor will always be present. What we pass on is not given away, but shared.