For I am the LORD who brought you up out of the land of Egypt to be your God. You shall therefore be holy, for I am holy.
As a gentile, most of what I read in Leviticus 11 reads strangely to me. All the laws about what is clean or unclean to eat must have been overwhelming at first when Moses began explaining them to the people of Israel. The detail is excruciating. But the standard is not arbitrary. It ain’t all about about types of fish or tasty animals! The reason that Israel was asked to follow dietary laws was rooted in the character and holiness of God. By doing so, they were worshiping God. They were committing to being uniquely holy because God is uniquely holy.
When God is the standard for holiness, anything He asks of us to be like Him is not arbitrary. It finds a clear focus in Him. The goal of the dietary law was not health or nutrition. It was relationship with God. Everything in the law was meant to draw the people into a deeper relationship with Yahweh. The call is to “be holy, for I am holy”.
The New Testament picks up on the standard behind the levitical code. It calls Christians to that same clear standard. So the principle behind the law compels me to build my relationship with the Lord in a proper way. There are clear appeals to the wording in this verse in the New Testament (1 Peter 1:14-16; 1 Thessalonians 4:7). If God is the standard, than what He calls us to do is important. The New Testament makes it clear that the call to holiness is not external obedience only, but internal change. Peter calls us to follow new passions, and Paul explains that holiness shows itself in the avoidance of immorality. But the internal and the external components of the call to live to God’s standard of holiness are important to understand. They constitute a compelling and challenging call.