Before I went to the Holy Land, the kosher laws of Leviticus seemed mere words on a page. For example, Exodus 34:26 says not to boil a goat in its mother’s milk. When have you last applied that?
The verse has been misunderstood to mean people shouldn’t eat meat and milk during the same meal. Yet, even if that meaning was true, the truth isn’t timeless. Abraham himself had no qualms in serving both together—even to God (take a peek at Gen. 18:8)!
Although all of the Bible’s commands for dietary laws aren’t represented in modern Israel, the fact that any are observed serves as a powerful illustration of what God first intended the diet code to accomplish.
Even in the Garden of Eden, with the first dietary law given to eat from any tree except one (Gen. 2:16-17), God’s command centered around one question.
Would they obey?
But food also had another purpose.
What Kosher Laws Taught God’s People
When we read Leviticus 11, we notice the repeated words “unclean to
you.” These dietary commands represented a microcosm of the life of a Hebrew.
- Unclean animals represented pagan nations.
- Clean animals represented the Hebrew nation
- The sacrificial animals represented the priests.
Food illustrated and facilitated this separation. It taught God’s people to make
a distinction between what is clean and unclean—or holy and unholy.
God used acquired taste to assist in godly living. For example, if I don’t like Italian food, I probably won’t go to an Italian restaurant, and thus Italian culture won’t influence me.
This was the whole point.
Food served as a means to keep God’s people protected from godless influences.
What Removing Kosher Laws Has Provided
Ironically, just as the kosher laws kept God’s people apart from the nations, so Jesus’ statement that all foods are now clean represented taking the good news to the nations.
- In Joppa, the Lord commanded Peter in a vision to eat unclean animals in order to learn that very lesson (Acts 10:9-15, 34-35).
- Peter immediately went to share the gospel with Cornelius in Caesarea.
Even though Jesus put bacon back on the menu, eating still remains an important indicator of holiness—even for Christians.
- When we eat the Lord’s Supper as a memorial to Christ, it implies our fellowship with God and other believers (1 Cor. 11:17-34).
- Believers are told to be self-controlled, a part of holiness that extends also to eating (Titus 1:8, 12-13).
- The Scriptures tell believers not even to eat with those under church discipline (1 Cor. 5:11).
Paul summarized it well when he wrote:
Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. —1 Cor. 10:31
What the Kosher Laws Can Teach Us Today
Seeing the kosher laws applied—and even misapplied—while staying in Israel reminded me that a kosher walk with God isn’t about food per se.
It never was.
God cares less about rules than He does about holiness. Holiness means we live like the Lord would live, distinct from the way the world lives—and yet sharing with them God’s love.
We live this way not because we’re better than others, but because we worship a better God.