Learning to Love Leviticus: Fishers of Men
Suggested Reading: Leviticus 11:9-12
“This is what you may eat from all that is in the water: You may eat everything in the water that has fins and scales, whether in the seas or streams.” Leviticus 11:9 HCSB
The next category of animals God addresses animals in the water. The first thing that comes to mind when I think of animals in the water is fish.
There are many references to fish in the Bible, but what sticks out to me most is in Matthew 4, when Jesus first called the disciples to follow Him and said, “I will make you fishers of men.” (Matthew 4:19 ESV).
Like the disciples, we are also called to be “fishers of men”. We are all called to go and make disciples and proclaim the good news about Jesus. We are called to be lights that shine for the whole earth to see and spread God’s love to all.
“Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you.” Matthew 28:19-20 HCSB, emphasis mine
When God specifies clean and unclean water animals He lists specific features, just like the land animals. He says that the clean water animals must have fins and scales.
Fish with fins and scales “are equipped with a digestive system that prevents the absorption of poisons and toxins into their flesh from the waters they call home”. Animals that do not have both of these features “absorb all the toxins in the water they live” (http://www.gatheringofchrist.org/no-scales-no-fins-no-good).
It seems like God may have been trying to save the Israelites from an inevitable stomach ache. But might there be some hidden truth behind these specifics once again? Might God be highlighting that the best fish are the ones that are not absorbing the toxins of the world they live in?
Once again I am drawn to the parable of the seeds in Luke 8.
“A sower went out to sow his seed. As he was sowing…seed fell among thorns; the thorns sprang up with it and choked it…The seed that fell among thorns, these are the ones who, when they have heard, go on their way and are choked with worries, riches, and pleasures of life, and produce no mature fruit.” Luke 8:5, 7, 14 HCSB, emphasis mine
When we, or others, become engulfed by the toxic worries of our world, our spiritual lives get choked out. The Gospel has no room to grow, no room to renew or refresh. We are fixed on the here and now when we should be fixed on the eternal.
We’d rather the truth be an accessory that accents our current life, rather than a foundation that transforms the way we live. But God wants so much more for us than that.
“Do not allow this world to mold you in its own image. Instead, be transformed from the inside out by renewing your mind.” Romans 12:2 VOICE
“So do not consume yourselves with questions: What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear? Outsiders make themselves frantic over such questions; they don’t realize that your heavenly Father knows exactly what you need.” Matthew 6:31-32 VOICE
“I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” John 10:10 ESV, emphasis mine
Not only are we called to be like the fish with fins and scales, deflecting the worldly “worries, riches, and pleasures”, but we are also called to "fish" for those people; to disciple and train others that are focused on the eternal life so that truth of the Gospel will burn rapidly and not be extinguished.
“He instructed our ancestors to teach his laws to their children, so that the next generation might learn them and in turn should tell their children.” Psalm 78:5-6 GNT
Yes, we are to spread the Gospel to all nations. Hear me when I say that no one is ever excluded from receiving God’s truth and love. But when we encounter the toxic fish, we ought to proceed with caution.
Even Paul wrote to Timothy, instructing him to guard the Gospel (2 Timothy 1:14) and entrust it to reliable people that will spread it to others (2 Timothy 2:2). Paul understood the value of what Jesus taught about the seeds. He knew that if we only sowed into the rocks, we’d end up with a choked out Gospel.
“And now beware! Be sure that you feed and shepherd God’s flock—his church, purchased with his blood—for the Holy Spirit is holding you responsible as overseers. I know full well that after I leave you, false teachers, like vicious wolves, will appear among you, not sparing the flock. Some of you yourselves will distort the truth in order to draw a following.” Acts 20:28-30 TLB
The freedom found in Christ is available to all who will receive it. We are to ask anyone and everyone to join in our freedom march while keeping our eyes peeled for the ones who are trustworthy to carry it on after we’ve gone.
It’s amazing to me that while God was unpacking the Israelites dietary restrictions He was also leaving behind little gems of truth for us today. Gems that are of the utmost value to our own spiritual lives and the spiritual lives of others.
Do you feel like you are a fish with fins and scales, allowing the Gospel to sink in and keeping the toxins out? Or do you tend to get choked up by the toxic worries of the world?
What strategies can you put in place to keep more toxins out of your system?
Do you fulfill your calling as a “fisher of men”? What is one way you could fulfill that calling even more?
Have you ever encountered someone who "gobbled up" the Gospel when you shared it? How about someone who rejected or distorted it? How did you respond?