Bible Study with Jairus – Deuteronomy 14

A Picture of Growing Sanctification

Have you ever wished you had a greater capacity to take in God’s love and pour out God’s grace? Have you prayed with the psalmist that God would enlarge your heart? (Psalm 119:32) The more we dedicate ourselves to God, the more he can expand our capacity. The greater our capacity to display God’s glory, the more God’s glory will be revealed to the world until the earth is filled with his glory (Habakkuk 2:14).

In Deuteronomy 14, God’s holy people were instructed to eat clean food and live holy lives. In the same way, we as New Testament believers must walk in a manner worthy of our calling (Ephesians 4:1). We must walk with God according to the measure of our faith, not beyond our own measure. However, our capacity for faith can continue to expand through our continuous dedication to God.

Holy people live holy lives and eat holy food.

The first topic addressed in this chapter is the topic of cutting. Deuteronomy 14:1 says, “You are the sons of the Lord your God. You shall not cut yourselves or make any baldness on your foreheads for the dead.”[1] Cutting oneself or shaving one’s forehead was practiced by idolaters in Canaan. God did not want his people to participate in this idolatrous practice. Instead, he wanted them to remember they are chosen by God: “a people holy to the Lord your God, and the Lord has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.” (Deuteronomy 14:2). But what practical spiritual meaning does this have for Christians today?

When we as Christians do sinful, unclean things, it’s as if we are cutting our souls. We harm ourselves and hinder our spiritual growth. Sometimes, our sins even cause physical pain.

In my job translating subtitles, I have watched many movies and TV dramas. When I was a young Christian, I wasn’t bothered by foul language or the sensual images that I saw while translating these movies. But as I grew spiritually and God’s calling on my life became more clear, I began to feel conviction. God was raising the bar for my sanctification. I started to feel uncomfortable when I heard foul language on the movies. But because this was my job and it provided good income, I didn’t know what to do. I asked God for wisdom and guidance.

One day, I had a prophetic dream. I saw myself scrubbing green feces off my clothes, scraping them into the toilet. But the stains were very difficult to remove. I also saw a filthy pool up ahead. In the pool, a man was swimming while looking at his iPad or his phone. The pool was very dirty and disgusting.

In my dream, I heard the Holy Spirit speaking. Foul language contaminates our souls and is difficult to remove, just like the green feces on my clothes. Many people are completely immersed in the filth but can’t feel anything. This powerful image shocked me. I decided not to work on these tasks anymore. Although I suffered financial losses, I treasured a clean soul even more than my income.

We can try our best to pursue the gift of prophecy, but if our souls are contaminated by filthy pictures or words, we are harming ourselves, just like Deuteronomy 14 discusses. We are slicing and cutting our hearts and souls. Just like repetitive cutting causes scars and callouses, repetitively seeing filthy pictures and words can scar our imagination. We can become calloused to the point that we no longer clearly hear the words of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, if we want to pursue the gift of prophecy and hear the voice of God more clearly, we must keep our souls holy and undefiled.

How does the concept of “not shaving your forehead” relate to the Christian experience? Paul says that a woman’s hair is her glory (1 Corinthians 11:15). When a person shaved his or her forehead, they were unable to manifest the glory of God. Today, we can learn that we should manifest God’s glory everywhere we go. We must not fall short of the glory of God.

How can we do this? 1 Corinthians 10:31 says, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” What we ingest can bring glory to God. Deuteronomy 14:3-20 distinguishes clean animals that can be eaten and unclean animals that cannot be eaten. As Christians, we’re aware that we not only ingest physical food, but we also ingest a steady diet of media and information. What we eat will eventually be integrated into our bodies or our souls. What are we feeding our souls? Are we binge-watching Netflix, or binge-reading the word of the Lord? Are we living by the word of the Lord, rather than by bread alone? (Matthew 4:4). Are we meditating on the Lord’s word and prayer, like chewing the cud? Are we chewing on the Lord’s words in order to grow in sanctification? When we eat clean foods, we will naturally manifest God’s glory more.

The Israelites were not allowed to eat anything that had died naturally, but sojourners or foreigners could do so (Deuteronomy 14:21). How do we understand this? This is not difficult to understand. The more sanctified we are, the less comfortable we feel with eating unclean foods and doing unclean things. According to the New Testament, we must walk worthy of our calling.

Growing in our capacity

The second half of verse 21 says, “You shall not boil a young goat in its mother’s milk.” This verse is very puzzling. I’ll share my thoughts on this passage. The mother’s milk is used to feed the young goat. Using the milk to boil the goat violates a very basic and nurturing principle of life.

If you break the eggshell that protects the growing chick, you will kill it. When a chick hatches, it will peck through the eggshell by itself. In the same way, it’s cruel to use mother’s milk to boil a baby goat. You would be killing a young life with the food that should have been used to feed it.

In addition, boiling a young goat in its mother’s milk may have been practiced by the seven Canaanite nations while they were worshipping idols. Furthermore, this passage may be teaching a principle about spiritual immaturity. If an immature person stops drinking spiritual milk (1 Peter 2:2) and uses it incorrectly, they may die.

As Christians we must be true to ourselves and not pretend that we have reached a level of spiritual maturity that isn’t true. God permits us to serve God according to the measure of faith we have (Romans 12:3). Don’t be too eager to accomplish something that lies outside the capacity that you currently have (Philippians 3:16). Don’t pretend or lie. If we go beyond our capacity, we may burn ourselves out.

Ananias and his wife in Acts 5 pretended to be more dedicated to God than they actually were. God severely disciplined them. This is an extreme case, but it demonstrates that pretending does not please God. Peter told them that they didn’t have to give all the money from the property,  but they should not pretend they did.

In the same way, many Christians don’t want to tithe. If this is the case, they should pray and ask God for his help in this area. However, some Christians who have no desire to tithe still want to pretend that they love the Lord. This is wrong. It is hard to say that you love the Lord when you don’t tithe. The Lord Jesus clearly said, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:21). God does not want our tithe or money; he wants our hearts.

Many Christians say, “I don’t want to donate money. But I can provide free goods or services for the church, or actively preach the gospel.”

Is this considered a tithe or offering? God commands us to actively preach the gospel and serve the church, so this is still not a replacement for tithing. God wants you to tithe to help you overcome your love of money.

If you’re struggling with tithing, tell God honestly, “I really can’t overcome the love of money. I can’t do it now. God, please expand my capacity slowly.”  This pleases God. God will help expand your measure gradually. As God expands your capacity to give, you will begin to tithe willingly, from the heart.

In Choo Nam’s book, Heaven is So Real, Choo Nam shares her thoughts on tithing. She says God told her that if Christians don’t tithe, they will be disciplined for their disobedience.[2] I believe that this testimony is true. But even if it is not, we should still tithe according to the principles given in the Bible.

I know how hard it is to do this! Many Christians may not be capable of tithing. But if we really love God, our values will change and this practice will become easier. We will overcome the love of money until we love God even more than we love money.

Tithing is just the beginning.

Deuteronomy 14:22-29 also teaches additional principles about giving to support the Levites including tithes. Tithing is only one step towards sanctification. God wants us to give above and beyond tithing.

How much should a New Testament Christian give? Watchman Nee said that in the New Testament we should give 100%, not 10%. Because Jesus bought us with His blood, we all belong to Him. We belong to God 100%. After we give everything to God, we then appropriate some of His abundance to use in our daily lives. He also said we should “…follow the word in 2 Corinthians 9:7, which says that each person should give according to the order of God. He may donate a half, a third, a tenth, or a twentieth of his income.” [3]

If you understand this spiritual principle, you can understand the mistakes made by the Israelites, especially the Pharisees. They believed that once they tithed, their money was theirs to use as they wished. Since they had already tithed, they saw no need to financially support their parents. The Lord Jesus said, “But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and every herb, and neglect justice and the love of God. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.” (Luke 11:42). The Pharisees thought that tithing was enough. They completely misunderstood God’s purposes in the area of tithing.

God’s work is constantly expanding in capacity. In the Old Testament, the Levites were set apart for the priesthood. In the New Testament, every Christian is a priest. Unbelievers are not set apart to God as priests. In the Old Testament, there was a difference between clean animals and unclean animals. But in the New Testament, God revealed to Peter that all foods were clean. The Gentiles were not accepted in the past, but they are accepted today.

Cleansing and sanctification is a process. Something that used to be unclean becomes clean. Someone who used to be rejected becomes accepted. God’s work is constantly expanding. We should never settle for the capacity, measure, or level of giving we currently have. We should always be open to more.

It is wrong to think that tithing is enough, or that the Levites are the only priests of God. The Levites were priests at first. Then all Israelites were priests to the Gentiles. Now, all Christians are priests. Non-believers who are currently not priests may be saved tomorrow and become priests of God as well.

God wants us to continually grow in sanctification so that more people, Jew and Gentile alike, will join God’s holy priesthood through Jesus Christ. It is never acceptable to say, “I already gave yesterday, so I don’t need to give today.” You can’t say, “My spirit is saved and I am delivered from hell. I don’t need God’s continued sanctification, renewal, and change. I don’t need to offer my body as a living sacrifice.” It’s also wrong to say, “Since I’ve already given 10% to God, I can use the remaining 90% on myself.”

Instead, we must allow the life and glory of God to continue to expand our hearts. Giving 10% is only a foretaste. We need to dedicate ourselves 100% to God. Whether material tithing or spiritual dedication, there is a process of gradual and continual expansion.

If you say, “I can’t overcome the love of money today. I still can’t tithe,” look for light and inspiration in God’s word. Don’t simply read the text of the Bible. Instead, look for light and inspiration in its pages. God’s truth can illuminate the dark places in your heart and fill you with God’s light. The light of God’s word can impact you and shock you, leading to a breakthrough. If you say, “I still can’t overcome the love of money,” pray and ask God to expand your capacity. God will certainly help you.

Growing in sanctification

How many Chinese are Christians? Is it one-tenth? This 10% who are believers represent the Levites. We are the first to be sanctified. We want to reflect God’s glory so that more people can see His light and come to know Him. We must experience renewal and change in order to manifest God’s glory more and more. We must experience more sanctification so that more Chinese people can be sanctified.

Tithing is just one example of sanctification. If we are unable to surrender to God in these practical ways, God will not occupy a very big space in our hearts. It will be difficult for God to manifest Himself through us. We will hinder God’s work of sanctification, both in our own hearts and in the hearts of others around us.

It is important for us to obey God externally, but it is even more important for us to obey God on the inside. If we are willing to surrender to God in tithing, this proves that our love for God surpasses our love for money. Our giving not only supplies funds for the work of God, but it also shows that we are free from the love of money. This allows God’s presence and glory to shine through us.

Expectations for Chinese Christians

If we want to change China today, we must start with ourselves as Chinese Christians. We can start by obeying God, allowing God to change us, tithing, dedicating ourselves to God, and growing in sanctification. You and I cannot do this on our own, but we can pray to God and ask for His help. Only when we ingest God’s word can real change happen. We must take in God’s word, chew on it, and allow it to change us and others around us.

When we live in the Holy of Holies, we can bring others into the very presence of God. If we live in the outer courtyard, we can only bring others into the outer courtyard. The degree to which we experience sanctification and closeness to God determines the degree to which we can bring others close to God. We must increase our dedication, expand our capacity, become more holy, and manifest God’s glory.

I shared this message in a Chinese Bible meeting, but the same principles apply to every Christian. If Christians in the United States continue to sanctify themselves and dedicate themselves to the Lord more and more, it will bring about social changes.

[1] All Scripture quotations are taken from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.

[2] Choo Thomas, Heaven is So Real! (Lake Mary, FL: Charisma House, 2003), 213.

[3] Watchman Nee, Watchman Nee’s Testimony (Anaheim, CA, 1991), 29.