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God’s Word for You

Acts 10:11-12 Pigs in a blanket

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Monday, March 2, 2020

11 He saw heaven being opened, and an object like a huge sail being let down to earth by its four corners. 12 In it were all kinds of four-footed animals, reptiles of the earth, and birds of the sky.

The animals Luke describes here are those creatures that were counted as being unclean under the Law of Moses. According to Moses’ taxonomy of creatures, these animals fell into five categories:

1, Flying creatures. In general, birds that eat carrion (vultures, hawks, eagles, owls, etc.) were considered unclean. Songbirds such as doves and sparrows,  and game birds like quail were clean (Numbers 11:31). Scripture says nothing about birds with webbed feet that swim (ducks and geese) but Jewish tradition held that those birds were counted as unclean (perhaps because of Leviticus 11:12).

2, Swimming creatures. Fish with scales and fins were clean; all other sea creatures were unclean (Leviticus 11:9).

3, Domestic land animals. Only those animals that had a cloven hoof and chewed a cud were clean (Leviticus 11:3). This included sheep, goats, cattle, deer of all kinds, and giraffes. Specially mentioned as unclean were the camel, hyrax, rabbit, and pig (Leviticus 11:4-7).

4, Wild Animals. If any wild animal met the split hoof and cud requirement, it was clean. These were deer, antelopes, the ibex, and so on (Deuteronomy 14:5). Everything else was unclean (Leviticus 11:26-27).

5, Crawling animals. All crawling animals were unclean (Leviticus 11:29-30) except a few insects with wings that walk on all fours: the locust, the katydid, the cricket, and the grasshopper (Leviticus 11:22).

Remember that the Apostle Peter lived 1400 years after Moses gave the regulations about clean and unclean animals. To eat an unclean animal would have seemed as foreign to Peter’s mind as grabbing a wild dog by the ears. There had never been a reason for him to consider it before, but now? Why would God give him a vision like this now, when Peter was waiting for his supper to be served, minding his own business on the roof of a seaside villa in Joppa? If he had turned his eyes away to the city outskirts, he would surely have seen the lush groves of orange trees that gave Joppa one of its most famous exports, or below him on the shore, the lighters and little boats making their way back and forth from the cargo ships anchored in the harbor. What was it about this place and this time that brought on this strange vision?

Peter would soon learn that the difference was in the man who was sending word for him even now. To work among Gentiles, the apostles and evangelists were going to have to be able to live like Gentiles, relate to Gentiles, and even eat like Gentiles. The door to evangelism among the Gentiles was about to be flung wide open.

This is why the vision of the animals (I can’t help but think of it as the vision of the “pigs in a blanket”) is a proclamation of the gospel. It can’t have been easy for Peter to see this, to grasp it, or to take it all in and apply it to his life. It was going to be a huge change. But through this change, it would mean a marvelous change for the way that the church would grow in the world. It would lead to questions about the entry point into the church. Should Gentiles be forced to enter the Christian church by way of Judaism (i.e., by being circumcised)? Should Gentiles be required to submit to part of the law of Moses? All of it? Just a few points? Should they be educated in the Old Testament Scriptures?

Together, Luke and Paul leave us a remarkably complete record of this debate and some of the discussions surrounding it. Keep this in mind as we move forward in Acts and as you come across the books of Galatians and James in the New Testament. God is constantly gathering his church, just as he once gathered you and me. Be on the lookout for those still to be gathered, still to be touched by the gospel of the forgiveness of sins. The Holy Spirit may need you to be the one to share the good news.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim Smith

About Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.


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