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Rules From The Heart

Andy Yung



In Leviticus 11-15, God separated the clean and unclean animals, things and people. Anyone who touched anything unclean was considered unclean and needed cleansing.

Chapter 11 – Clean and Unclean Foods

Chapter 12 – Purification after childbirth

Chapter 13 – Laws on skin diseases

Chapter 14 – Cleansing bodies and dwelling places

Chapter 15 – Laws about bodily discharge


Why these rules?


I am the Lord your God; consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am holy. Do not make yourselves unclean by any creature that moves along the ground. I am the Lord, who brought you up out of Egypt to be your God; therefore be holy, because I am holy. (Leviticus 11:44-45 NIV)


God loves us.


Remember that the Israelites were a newly created nation when they left Egypt. There were only about 70 in Jacob’s family when they first arrived in Egypt. After some time, they became slaves to the Egyptians. Their whole life was learned from Egypt, and what did they know about cleanliness, hygiene or illnesses, as slaves? The Egyptians were afraid of them as they multiplied very quickly over the 400 years, and they would not have educated the Israelites. God had to teach them. Comparing their state with our young children who know little, how would we as parents teach them? We would give them precise instructions. God loves His people by teaching them these rules.


The Pharisees and some of the teachers of the law who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus and saw some of his disciples eating food with hands that were defiled, that is, unwashed. (The Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they give their hands a ceremonial washing, holding to the tradition of the elders. When they come from the marketplace they do not eat unless they wash. And they observe many other traditions, such as the washing of cups, pitchers and kettles.) So the Pharisees and teachers of the law asked Jesus, “Why don't your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders instead of eating their food with defiled hands? (Mark 7:1-5)


Again Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen to me, everyone, and understand this. Nothing outside a person can defile them by going into them. Rather, it is what comes out of a person that defiles them.” (Mark 7:14-15)


“Are you so dull?” he asked. “Don't you see that nothing that enters a person from the outside can defile them? For it doesn't go into their heart but into their stomach, and then out of the body.” (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods clean.) He went on: “What comes out of a person is what defiles them. For it is from within, out of a person's heart, that evil thoughts come – sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person.” (Mark 7:18-23)


Jesus loves us. Do we see the fatherly love Jesus has for us? I have three daughters. The eldest is now 14 and the other two are eight and nine. There is a gradual differentiation in what my wife and I expect from our children in both the outward obedience and inward obedience from their hearts. We have a growing expectation on my eldest compared to the younger ones. We have become more watchful of her as we see her heart develop and require more spiritual milk. That is similar to what I experienced when I first studied the Bible and learnt about my sins too. Repentance was less of a heart issue; it was straightforward and simple. But as I grow older as a disciple of Christ, my heart needs to grow too. Repentance is no longer as straightforward. When I was a young Christian, I had a discipler who watched over me and regularly ask me about my sins, commitment to church, and all the other things that are elementary to Christians. As an older Christian now, it becomes harder for anyone to keep a tab on me regarding the elementary things; I need to watch my own heart, like what Jesus warned the Pharisees.


“Don't you see that nothing that enters a person from the outside can defile them? For it doesn't go into their heart but into their stomach, and then out of the body.” (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods clean.) He went on: “What comes out of a person is what defiles them. For it is from within, out of a person's heart, that evil thoughts come – sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person.” (Mark 7:18b-23)


See how God’s love for us is like how we love our children? First, God provided the laws on holiness to take care of the ‘outside’, then Jesus taught us to grow from the ‘inside’. Jesus’ instructions for us to stay away from sins springs from his desire for us to grow. But some of these rules may not sound logical to us. For example, why are certain animals considered unclean and should we follow these rules? When I was a child, I had to obey my parents and their wishes, not mine. I wouldn’t have known then what’s logical or not. But don’t we realise the discipline from our parents were necessary for us to grow up to respect authorities and the order of social relations as we became adults? In the same way, Jesus abolished the Old Covenant and we no longer need to follow them. What matters to God is how we learn to understand obedience from our hearts.


How do we watch over one another? We watch over their hearts rather than their outward obedience. We watch over their desire to be right with God and to be with the church rather than ticking off church attendance, hanging out with disciples or timely financial giving. Our desires follow where our hearts belong. There is a danger of expecting outward obedience from people. It gives people a false sense of security in their outward actions and it doesn’t help them to watch over their own hearts. It prevents people from searching out the undesirable things that have wormed into their hearts. After a while, when they do not sense spiritual growth in themselves, church will become just an activity to them and discipling would seem ineffective to them. Are we like the Pharisees, watching out only for outward obedience from our people?


I am the Lord your God; consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am holy. Do not make yourselves unclean by any creature that moves along the ground. I am the Lord, who brought you up out of Egypt to be your God; therefore be holy, because I am holy. (Leviticus 11:44-45 NIV)


If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and are overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them. Of them the proverbs are true: “A dog returns to its vomit,” and, “A sow that is washed returns to her wallowing in the mud.” (2 Peter 2:20-22 NIV)


When God brought the Israelites out of Egypt, God wanted them to leave their old ways and follow God’s way because God is holy, and wants them to be holy. God loved and protected the Israelites. It is like how we want our children to be safe. Jesus rescued us out of slavery to sins and wants us to continue living a life of holiness, abstaining from sins. Go back to the cross again, so we can remember why Jesus did what he did. Remember Jesus said to God as he hung on the cross, “Forgive them for they do not know what they are doing”. We are like little children to Jesus. He loves us deeply.


Let’s pray, Jesus loves me, and died on the cross for me so that I may continue to live a life of holiness. I need to leave my sinful ways because I love Jesus who brought me out of slavery to my sins.



Andy Yung

Andy is the head of compliance for an international bank and is happily married, with three daughters. He became a disciple of Christ three decades ago, and studies God's Word passionately. He desires to be constantly led by the Spirit.