Sonship is a matter that must be put into practice every day. Sons do not have to deal with rules, with what is and is not allowed. Sons will always wonder how they can be as much joy to the Father’s heart as possible. That’s why they will be careful with what they eat. Food builds up our bodies, adds building stones. 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 1:33If his offering is a burnt offering from the herd, he shall offer it, a male without defect; he shall offer it at the doorway of the tent of meeting, that he may be accepted before the LORD.), but here it is food for us. We also have to be steadfast, immovable continuing in the work of the Lord (1Cor 15:5858Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not [in] vain in the Lord.). As He has continued steadily, we then continue steadily.
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 2:2323and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting [Himself] to Him who judges righteously;). 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 2:2424and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.).
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 screaming for the water currents: “As the deer pants for the water brooks, So my soul pants for You, O God (Psa 42:1a1For the choir director. A Maskil of the sons of Korah.
As the deer pants for the water brooks,
So my soul pants for You, O God.
). 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 2:1818Now the three sons of Zeruiah were there, Joab and Abishai and Asahel; and Asahel [was as] swift-footed as one of the gazelles which is in the field.; 1Chr 12:88From the Gadites there came over to David in the stronghold in the wilderness, mighty men of valor, men trained for war, who could handle shield and spear, and whose faces were like the faces of lions, and [they were] as swift as the gazelles on the mountains.). 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 2:1010not pilfering, but showing all good faith so that they will adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in every respect.).
There are things that disfigure sons of God (verse 11“You are the sons of the LORD your God; you shall not cut yourselves nor shave your forehead for the sake of the dead.), 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 4:1414As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming;), but that we are steadfast in faith. Teaching and practice belong together.
All animals where not both characteristics are 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 23:33therefore all that they tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds; for they say [things] and do not do [them].). 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?