Dietary Change (Genesis 9)
- Order of Service: Matins
- Hymns: LSB #633, 431, 781, 774
And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. The fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth and upon every bird of the heavens, upon everything that creeps on the ground and all the fish of the sea. Into your hand they are delivered. Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything. But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood.” (Genesis 9:1-4)
After the Flood, God allowed man to change his diet. Before the Flood, man was only allowed to eat fruits and vegetables. After the Flood, man learned the great pleasure of eating meat. Some disagree that eating meat is better than eating vegetables. They say vegetables are healthier. Meat is tastier. End of discussion.
But eating meat isn't without its challenges. The animals run in fear and dread. As with the curse of the ground, man has to work for his meat. Also, God forbade the eating of blood. This change in diet seems insignificant, but it is a very meaningful change for Noah and all his descendants.
However, God places restrictions on eating meat. First, man has to work for his food. “The fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth.” Man had to learn to hunt. Hunting skills were developed because the animals don't just lay down and let you kill them. You have to track them. Because they fear and dread you.
You are the reason they have fallen into corruption. Man sinned and all creation was corrupted. Even after God cleaned up the world through the flood, man's corruption and wickedness are still around. But with man's new realm of dominion, God instilled the fear of man among all the animals.
Second, man cannot eat blood. “You shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood.” God has consecrated blood and declares it holy. Sacrificial blood was thrown against the sides of the altar. God required the high priest to bring the blood of the sin offering into the Most Holy Place on the Day of Atonement. Blood is a most holy offering to God.
So the disciples raised their eyebrows when Jesus offered them His blood in the cup of the Lord's Supper. “Drink of it, all of you, for this is My blood of the covenant.” The most sacreligious statement Jesus could ever make. Completely against God's Word: “You shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood.” How can the Messiah go against the very Word of God He was sent to reveal to the world?
But the life-force of the blood is the most important part of any sacrifice. Especially the sacrifice of Christ. His blood shed for you, flowing from His pierced side, is the most important part of Jesus' death on the cross. The restriction against eating blood had always been in reverence to Jesus' shed blood. A foreshadowing of the great blessing we receive every time we partake of His cup.
This reverence is the basis behind the famous woodcut by Albrecht Durer. He illustrated Jesus' crucifixion with angels collecting His blood from His wounds into chalices. Jesus' holy blood gives you life. It washes you in Baptism so that you become God's child. You enter into His covenant through His blood. God brought Israel into His covenant at Sinai as Moses sprinkled the blood of the burnt offerings upon the Israelites. Jesus' holy blood, not the blood of beasts, covers your sins. Only His blood can truly and eternally grant you redemption and reconciliation with your heavenly Father.
This reverence to Jesus' blood is seen especially as we look at the distinction between foods. Not what you give up for Lent. But God's holy Law about what is clean and unclean. Jesus' blood makes everything clean. Therefore no distinction between foods is necessary.
Case in point. God gave man free reign to eat every creature after the Flood. He made no distinction between clean and unclean animals. Therefore Noah was the first to be able to enjoy, as I hope to in a couple of hours, a juicy bacon cheeseburger with a fried egg on top. One sandwich takes care of four of the five major food groups: beef, pork, chicken and cheese. Put French fries on the side and you have the perfect meal.
But man's free reign was short-lived. At Mount Sinai, God separated Israel from all other nations. God separated the clean animals from the unclean animals. Israel could eat the clean animals. They couldn't eat the unclean animals. The clean animals were acceptable for sacrifices. God provided for His priests through these sacrifices.
But the distinction didn't last forever. God removed the distinction in Christ. Jesus' blood makes all animals clean. Jesus Himself says, “It is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person. … What comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person.”
But the distinction was hard for a good Jewish man to let go. St. Peter received a vision from God. A sheet descended from Heaven. On this sheet was every sort of ritually unclean animal. “Rise, Peter; kill and eat.” Peter was appalled. “I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean.” Three times he says this. Three times God says, “What God has made clean, do not call common.” As always, some people need a few times in order to learn their lesson.
And this lesson has been learned. Jesus has promised you a great feast. A wedding feast. “A feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined.” Food full of marrow. Of blood! The blood of the Lamb. Shed for you. His body is the main course. His blood is the drink.
The feast is yours. So you can sing, “At the Lamb's high feast we sing.” You came through the Flood. Your seat is at the table. A table filled with meat. “My flesh is meat indeed,” Jesus says. And with this meat, God most holy feeds you. His holy child. You rejoice in His great bounty. You “taste and see that the LORD is good.”
The Flood changed the entire world. One of the most distinct changes was a dietary change. From vegetarian to omnivore. Man has greatly praised God for His abundant grace and favor as He provides a bountiful feast. A feast of body and blood prepared for you by His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.