Rotunda painting. Salt Lack City, Utah.
Saturday, 10 September 2022
But Peter said, “Not so, Lord! For I have never eaten anything common or unclean.” Acts 10:14
Note: You can listen to today’s commentary courtesy of our friends at “Bible in Ten” podcast. (Click Here to listen)
You can also read this commentary, with music, courtesy of our friends at “Discern the Bible” on YouTube. (Click Here to listen), or at Rumble (Click Here to listen).
In the previous verse, the voice from heaven said, “Rise, Peter; kill and eat.” This was concerning the vision he was seeing of the animals, wild beasts, creeping things, and birds of the air. With that remembered, it next says, “But Peter said.”
This is in response to the voice from heaven. One would think, “I just heard a voice from heaven, and it is instructing me to do something. I will be obedient.” Such will not be the case. The idea was so repugnant to an observant Jew that Peter cannot process what he is being told to do. And so, in response, he says, “Not so, Lord!”
Whether Peter feels this is a test of his faithfulness to the law, or whether he simply cannot participate in something so contrary to what he has always known and held as sacred, he balks. In this, he uses the common word kurios. It can mean anything from “Sir” to “Lord” and even implying the Lord God. As the voice is from heaven, he must mentally assume he is addressing the Lord God. And this is more likely based on his next words, which say, “For I have never eaten anything common or unclean.”
The words “common or unclean” are rightly explained by Albert Barnes –
“That is common – This word properly denotes ‘what pertains to all,’ but among the Jews, who were bound by special laws, and who were prohibited from many things that were freely indulged in by other nations, the word ‘common’ came to be opposed to the word ‘sacred,’ and to denote what was in common use among the pagans, hence, that which was ‘profane,’ or ‘polluted.’ Here it means the same as ‘profane,’ or ‘forbidden.’
Unclean – Ceremonially unclean; that is, what is forbidden by the ceremonial law of Moses.”
In his response to the voice, Peter is paraphrasing words that he would have heard in the synagogue over the years. In Ezekiel 4, a part of a discourse between the Lord and Ezekiel says the following –
“Also take for yourself wheat, barley, beans, lentils, millet, and spelt; put them into one vessel, and make bread of them for yourself. During the number of days that you lie on your side, three hundred and ninety days, you shall eat it. 10 And your food which you eat shall be by weight, twenty shekels a day; from time to time you shall eat it. 11 You shall also drink water by measure, one-sixth of a hin; from time to time you shall drink. 12 And you shall eat it as barley cakes; and bake it using fuel of human waste in their sight.”
13 Then the Lord said, “So shall the children of Israel eat their defiled bread among the Gentiles, where I will drive them.”
14 So I said, “Ah, Lord God! Indeed I have never defiled myself from my youth till now; I have never eaten what died of itself or was torn by beasts, nor has abominable flesh ever come into my mouth.”
15 Then He said to me, “See, I am giving you cow dung instead of human waste, and you shall prepare your bread over it.” Ezekiel 4:9-15
The Lord was instructing Ezekiel to do something that would make him ceremonially unclean under the Law of Moses. This is seen, for example, in Leviticus 5:2, 3 –
“Or if a person touches any unclean thing, whether it is the carcass of an unclean beast, or the carcass of unclean livestock, or the carcass of unclean creeping things, and he is unaware of it, he also shall be unclean and guilty. 3 Or if he touches human uncleanness—whatever uncleanness with which a man may be defiled, and he is unaware of it—when he realizes it, then he shall be guilty.”
Though ceremonially defiled, such a state of uncleanness simply required the appropriate sacrifices to restore him. Ezekiel thought it was repugnant to do this and he also balked at the Lord’s words. But Ezekiel was being used as a sign of what lay ahead for the people of Israel, and so, despite the clean foods he was instructed to eat, he was told to cook them in a manner that was ceremonially unclean. Because of Ezekiel’s concerns about being in a state of uncleanliness among the people, the Lord gave him the allowance of using cow dung.
The text of Ezekiel 4 makes it clear that the one speaking to him was the Lord (YHVH) God. Peter, certainly knowing the account in Ezekiel, would also know that the voice from heaven was also the Lord. As he knew at this point that Jesus is the incarnate Lord, the voice would be that of Jesus. In the case of Peter, the instruction would have been a direct violation of the Law of Moses. However, the Lord is going to convey to Peter that the Mosaic Code was no longer applicable to his life. Being in Christ meant something new was available to him.
Life application: Some years ago, a fad known as “the Ezekiel diet” came out. It can still be found on the internet and people have profited off it because it sounds biblical – “See, this is what was recorded for Ezekiel and so it must be good.” The same is true with the account in Daniel 1 concerning a diet that was decided upon there.
This is irresponsible, and it wholly ignores the context of what happens in Ezekiel. The Lord specifically tells Ezekiel why He was mandating the diet and what it meant –
“Moreover He said to me, ‘Son of man, surely I will cut off the supply of bread in Jerusalem; they shall eat bread by weight and with anxiety, and shall drink water by measure and with dread, 17 that they may lack bread and water, and be dismayed with one another, and waste away because of their iniquity.’” Ezekiel 4:16,17
This was not a diet that was intended to make people healthy. It was a diet that was the result of famine, lack, and affliction. It was a diet that would eventually cause the people to “waste away.”
Instead of getting caught up in fad things derived from a misuse of the Bible, live your life for the Lord, enjoy the blessings He has showered you with, and don’t allow people to sucker you into making them rich because of their twisting of Scripture. Have discernment. When people attempt to peddle things to you in the name of God or because of Scripture, they are the ones who will be home eating steak and potatoes while you are eating grass and tiny amounts of grain.
Lord God, give us discernment as we live out our lives before You. Help us not to get drawn into fads and novelty lifestyles that will enrich others but do nothing of value for us. May we be thankful for the blessings You have lavished upon us, and may we enjoy those blessings without feelings of guilt because they came from Your open hand of grace. Amen.