“Any one also of the people of Israel, or of the strangers who sojourn among them, who takes in hunting any beast or bird that may be eaten shall pour out its blood and cover it with earth” (Leviticus 17:13).
Many years ago I took a course on meat preparation and was introduced to “Kosher” meats. That is the term used of meats approved for eating by Orthodox Judaism. At that time at least the processing of Kosher meat not only meant to select only “clean” animals as sources of food, but also the complete removal of all blood from the carcass. As I recall the lessons, Orthodox Jews only ate beef or mutton that had been de-veined. Simply bleeding the carcass out was not sufficient – the veins themselves had to be removed. Since the hind quarters of a cow (steer) could not be feasibly de-veined, those who required Kosher meat could only eat the front quarters (shoulders). Think of all the wasted T-bone steaks!
The Old Testament does not give details as to how a carcass must be prepared other than that it be free of blood. The Kosher process resulted from centuries of study and debate as to what should or must be done. This places it clearly within the “Traditions of the Elders” (Matthew 15:2) which Jesus refused to sanction as authoritative. Nevertheless it illustrates the difficulty and attention to detail which obedience to God’s commands may require.
On one visit to Nepal I visited with other Americans who were there teaching and preaching. One brother shared a story about a group who could not meet to worship on Sunday because of conflicts with work and school schedules. In Nepal, Sunday is not a regular day of worship for the religious majority. The group was concerned about their ability to partake of the Lord’s Supper correctly under these circumstances. The American told them “Don’t be legalistic. Meet whenever you can and take Communion.”
The American then asked me how I would have responded to their question. My reply was, “I would first insure there was no possibility of meeting on Sunday.” Throughout Asia and many other parts of the world Christians must deal with this same problem. Muslims keep Friday as their “holy day.” Other religions observe various days. In much of the world Sunday is a day of work and school, just as it was in New Testament times.
And, just as did New Testament Christians, churches throughout these nations meet early in the morning or late in the evening – outside normal working hours – or otherwise find ways to conform to God’s requirements. My response as told above was to make the point that there is a great difference between necessity and convenience. Just because we cannot meet in a plush, air-conditioned building in the middle of an otherwise uncommitted day does not mean that we cannot or must not obey God’s commands. Only after I have established that the clearly acceptable application of a command is impossible do I begin to consider possible alternatives.
Unfortunately there are those who consider this approach legalistic. I guess my response to them is that there is nothing wrong (and much right) with doing what the law states. Imposing our own views as above God’s laws is true legalism. Partaking of the Lord’s Supper every Sunday, and only on Sunday, is not human opinion – it has Biblical authority (Acts 20:7).
What has this to do with the blood of wild animals? In forbidding the eating of blood God did not limit Israel’s compliance to the sacrificing of domestic livestock within their camps or homes. Taking a lamb to the priest for him to slaughter and sprinkle its blood upon the altar was relatively convenient and practical. But avoiding the blood of a wild animal killed while hunting was much more difficult. Regardless, God required it.
When we find complaints or excuses preventing someone from simple obedience let us remember this principle. Convenient is not the same as necessary. Let us commit to doing what God commands, even when extra effort is required.