This blog post is a product of a lot of studying and thinking for a long period of time. Amy and I have talked extensively about it, she’s texted, emailed and phoned me back with random thoughts, Bible verses and other ideas as they’ve occurred. I’d like to write something more detailed eventually, but I think it’s important to write something now.
Caravaggio Sacrifice of Isaac
Ok, it started with the word Sacrifice. Defined as the act of offering to God something precious; or the item itself that is being offered; it is also the surrender of something for the sake of something else – something given up or lost. So something is only a sacrifice when it is meaningful, when there is hardship involved, and when we do it for a greater purpose. It is important to get that definition of sacrifice in your head, let it sink in. It’s not really a sacrifice unless what is being given up is something precious.
It is this misunderstanding of sacrifice that I did not fully comprehend and therefore I was able to have this disconnected view of scripture vs. what I personally was doing and what I believed. Growing up in the 70s and 80s I remember the legendary Time Magazine cover with the eggs-and-bacon frowning face, I memorized the food pyramid with the “fats and oils sparingly” near the top. I bought things because they were fat-free, I tried to drink skim milk (and decided that no milk was better than skim milk – gag!).
Not fully getting the depth of what a sacrifice actually is made it so hard for me when I would read from Exodus or Leviticus about all of the sacrifices required from the Israelites. Like this one from Exodus 29 “take from this ram the fat, the fat tail, the fat on the internal organs, the long lobe of the liver, both kidneys with the fat on them, and the right thigh…it is the ram for the ordination…burn it up…it must not be eaten, it is sacred.” Or this one from Leviticus 3 “from the fellowship offering you are to bring a food offering to the Lord: its fat, the entire fat tail cut off close to the backbone, the internal organs and all the fat that is connected to them, both kidneys with the fat on them near the loins, and the long lobe of the liver, which you will remove with the kidneys.”
I mean really, why is there such detail? And why specifically those parts? I remember reading those passages years ago and thinking God wanted all the gross stuff and he left all the normal bits for the Israelites, He’s such a benevolent Lord letting them keep the steaks and the chops while he took the fat and the liver. But if that were true, it wouldn’t be much of a sacrifice now would it?
It took me a long time to get it, and it wasn’t until I read about Dr. Price’s villagers in his book Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, and about how many of those cultures had sacred foods, that these thoughts began to take shape. I read about the Swiss villagers in the Loetschental Valley who filled a bowl with the deep orange-yellow butter made from the cream of the cows eating the fresh, green grass of spring. They would place a candle wick in this bowl of vitamin-rich butter, light the wick and place it in a sanctuary specially built just to honor God for giving them this precious food that gave life and health to their village. Native American Indians in northern British Columbia would hunt moose, and after killing one the very first thing they would do would be to open it up, and in the back of the moose just above the kidney would be two balls surrounded by fat. They would remove these and cut them up into as many pieces as there were people in their family and each person, child and adult, would eat his piece. These two fatty bits were the adrenal glands of the moose which we now know are the richest source of vitamin C in all animal or plant tissues. Natives living on islands near the Great Barrier Reef would purposefully attract sharks and then dive in after them armed with pointed sticks, to slip coconut fiber ropes over the sharks’ heads and pull them to shore because sharks livers were a vital part of the foods they needed to stay healthy.
Learning about all of these people all around the world who put forth so much effort just to have certain foods I began to understand something. All of these highly-valued foods were similar to the very items called for in the sacrifices of the Israelites that I was having such a hard time understanding.
Unger’s Bible Dictionary tells of a breed of sheep raised during Bible times in the Middle East bred to have a particularly luscious and fatty tail. This tail and its rich fat were forbidden to be eaten if the animal was part of a sacrifice offered to God. Also forbidden to be eaten was the fat from around the stomach, entrails and kidneys – all of the richest parts from which we would use nowadays to make high quality tallow. Unger’s goes on to explain that the fat was the richest part of the animal and stood for healthfulness and vigor.
In my past readings of scriptures about sacrificial laws I was approaching it with a modern worldview brainwashed by the government agencies dictating diet advice that condemned fat as bad, said organ meats were dangerous, and told us to eat lean meats instead. I should have trusted God instead of buying those lies. Isaiah 55 says “Listen, listen to me and eat what is good, and you will delight in the richest of fare….For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways declares the Lord. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
Because of Dr. Price’s writings, and because of the work of Sally Fallon Morell in Nourishing Traditions, I understand that organ meats are superfoods full of vitamins crucial to health; I know that the fats from grazing free-range animals are rich in vitamins that work as activators for the minerals and other nutrients we eat. I’ve learned these fat-soluble activators are essential to maintaining fertility, growth and health in all humans. And now I understand that God was truly asking for a sacrifice, something that would have been a real hardship to nomadic people whose very life depended on the animals they herded. God commanded them to give to Him the most valuable parts of the very best animals they owned. The Bible, especially the Old Testament, is filled with expressions using fat to represent something wonderful – “the fat of the earth”, “the fat of the wheat, of the oil, and the wine,” even “the fat of the mighty”.
Not only were the Israelites called to sacrifice these choicest of parts, but then they would burn the fat on the altar with fire. Just imagine the aromas that would release – the Bible calls it a “sweet savor unto the Lord”, but anyone who has smelled grilling hamburgers, steaks, or even better, pit barbecue, can attest to the mouthwatering scents that fill the air around those events. The sacrifices of precious fat and organ meats given over to God on the fire of the altar were the way man could show his complete surrender to God, to show his heart was pure and ready to be obedient. And when a different animal was slaughtered destined to become food rather than sacrificed, the fat, organ meats and choicest bits would be even more appreciated knowing that they were good enough to be given to the Lord.
There’s so much more to say, more directions to go with these thoughts – how did we end up on the road to thinking fat was bad? Why did we think we could improve on fat by making trans fats, fake fats and industrial fats? When we are poor stewards of God’s creatures feeding them foods they were not created to eat, making them live in ways they were not meant to live why are we shocked to learn their fat (and meat) no longer provides what we need? But I need to stop now. I’m very interested to hear your thoughts, to find out if this has sparked an “aha!” moment for you, too, like it did for me. Please leave a comment by clicking on the “leave a reply” link next to this article!
I’m linking this up with the Easter Sunday Social.
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