Holiness, clean and unclean animals, tithing and not forsaking the Levite . . .

The Lord expected holiness from His people – He told the Israelites not to cut themselves or shave the front of their head for dead people (14:1). He also forbid them to boil a young goat in its mother’s milk (14:21). Those restrictions may sound strange to us, but, in fact, the cutting of the head and boiling of a young goat in the fashion described were practices connected with idolatry. Simply put, God did not want His people to imitate the practices of unbelievers. Even today, Christians are not to imitate the ways of the world (Romans 12:2). Holiness requires such.

Holiness required submission to the Lord and self-control – What a blessing it was for Israel to be the Lord’s people. They were “holy,” “chosen,” and “a special treasure” to Him (14:2). When God prescribed the holiness which He expected of His chosen people, that included dietary restrictions. He identified some animals as “clean” and categorized others as “unclean” (14:3-21). It was acceptable for Israel to eat “clean” animals; not so with the “unclean” ones. God did not tell the Israelites to follow their conscience, to do what they felt was right, or to eat whatever they had eaten in the past. No, He spoke in specific terms: “This is acceptable; this is not.” And what was expected of the Israelites? To conform to God’s standard. They needed to learn that the way of holiness is not simply in being different from others, but in submitting to God’s instructions.

Tithing required – For those Israelites who planted crops, God’s message was, “You shall truly tithe all the increase of your grain that the field produces year by year” (14:22). The giving of one- tenth of their produce was to be done each year, and it was to be done on “all the increase” of their harvest. While such language sounds simple enough to understand and implement, we recall that in the days of Malachi, the Jews were stealing from Jehovah. How? By failing to give Him the required tithes (Malachi 3:8).

Special arrangement for Levites and others – Israel was reminded not to forsake His servants, the Levites (14:27; 12:19). God also called on Israel to do something special with their tithes every third year. God told them, “At the end of every third year you shall bring out the tithe of your produce of that year and storeitup within your gates” (14:28). That stored-up food was to be made available to Levites, foreigners in the land, the fatherless, and widows (14:29). The call for such action reminded Israel of God’s lovingkindness and His desire for His people to be generous and serve others.

— Roger D. Campbell