Chewing the Cud
Israel was commanded by Yahweh to eat animals which had split hoofs and chewed the cud: "Every animal that has a split hoof and chews the cud among the animals, you may eat" (Deut 14:6). In this way Israel was told in parable form to learn from these animals so that they should not forget Yahweh their God. All the time they were supposed to focus on Him, like an animal that chews the cud. Chewing the cud means bringing up, regurgitating, the food which had been eaten at the previous grazing, and chewing it properly. In like manner, Israel was reminded to remember their God every hour of every day.
To eat an animal with a split hoof told Israel to stand firm and not to slip or be swept away. "For you shall worship no other god, for Yahweh, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous god"(Ex34;14). That is, they were not to copy any other type of worship but were to stand firm in their worship of the only true God. They were to be a house founded on solid ground. The split hoof animal descends steadily on sloping ground, and never falls when either ascending or descending; there is no skidding on its journey to its destination. In like manner Israel was urged to be steady when journeying in the wilderness to the promised land.
Fish with fins and scales
"These you may eat of all that are in the waters: whatever has fins and scales may you eat". Why fish with fins and scales? These fish are never found in dirty, polluted water, but only in clean water and the fish themselves are clean, very clean. When the water is dirty, the fish swims away to where there is clean water. Its scales help the fish to be protected from danger, and fins help it to move fast, the fins being like a paddle. These fish detect danger and know where it can balance in heavy water currents. Thus Israel was to learn that in their goings they would meet other nations where they should not pollute themselves. They had to sense danger and move away. They were urged to lead a clean life.
Lessons for spiritual Israelites
Since "every scripture is inspired of God and is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness so that the man of God may be complete, completely empowered for every good work" (2Timothy 3:16-17), then "every scripture", every phrase, is inspired of God, every word is God breathed. Natural Israel were told to obey the word of God and eat only the prescribed animals and fish. So we spiritual Israelites who are in the spiritual wilderness, heading towards the promised land, should chew the cud, that is we have to examine ourselves through daily Bible readings. We need to seriously focus our attention on the promises that our heavenly Father has laid bare for us, that the righteous will inherit the earth. We can only try to attain perfection by thoroughly `chewing' the word of God every hour and every day.
And since our perfection is marred with imperfections like illness, unemployment, financial crisis, lack of shelter, bereavement of wife, husband or child, or poverty, we must close our eyes and start praying. Maybe our request is not granted, or maybe the ecclesia itself has problems which are not solved by prayer. And the situation is aggravated by the so-called "Prosperity Evangelists" who promise money, employment homes and happiness so beguiling when we are in great need.
It is then that we have to remember the split hoofs and chewing the cud, the fins and the scales, for we must stand firm in the faith and avoid uncleanness. We should not follow bad companions, and we should not go where the current is hard for a spiritual person to swim. We should not look at things which cause us to sin easily, neither should we go where we can stumble. Always we should do our best to sense danger and avoid bad assemblies or associations. Be clean. Let us feed on the word of God and that of Jesus Christ and stand firm (2Cor 6:14-17).
Bro Philip Chilambwe (Kitwe, Zambia)