There are only two more parts to the Apostle’s directions for new believers in Yeshua, which we have been studying:
“Therefore I judge that we should not trouble those from among the Gentiles who are turning to God, but that we write to them to abstain from things polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from things strangled, and from blood” (Acts 15:19-20).
As we are removed from the context of these instructions by almost two-thousand years, we’ll find a lot of disagreement about what is meant by “things strangled” and “blood.”
Most historians testify that in the first centuries after the Apostles, these instructions were understood to mean that believers should only eat kosher-slaughtered food. For that reason, we’ll go into much greater detail about how to eat clean food in a later blog post!
We have also seen that the main purpose for these rules was so that Torah-observant believers could eat meals together at the same table with untrained, new believers who weren’t well educated in Torah.
Most of all, we have seen that the Apostles wanted to be sure that all traces of idolatry were removed from the citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven.
In ancient idol worship, gods were worshiped by bringing food and drink offerings to them. For that matter, the sons of Adam worshiped the Creator by bringing food and drink offerings, as we read in the story of Cain and Abel!
Something I never used to understand was that most offerings to God are actually a barbecue dinner, where those who bring the sacrifices cook the meat and then eat it together, or else it is given to the priests to eat.
“When his offering is a sacrifice of a peace offering, if he offers it of the herd, whether male or female, he shall offer it without blemish before YHVH…
“If his offering as a sacrifice of a peace offering to YHVH is of the flock, whether male or female, he shall offer it without blemish. If he offers a lamb as his offering, then he shall offer it before YHVH. And he shall lay his hand on the head of his offering, and kill it before the tabernacle of meeting; and Aaron’s sons shall sprinkle its blood all around on the altar.
“Then he shall offer from the sacrifice of the peace offering, as an offering made by fire to YHVH, its fat and the whole fat tail which he shall remove close to the backbone. And the fat that covers the entrails and all the fat that is on the entrails, the two kidneys and the fat that is on them by the flanks, and the fatty lobe attached to the liver above the kidneys, he shall remove; and the priest shall burn them on the altar as food, an offering made by fire to YHVH” (Leviticus 3:1, 6-11).
“This is the law of the grain offering: The sons of Aaron shall offer it on the altar before YHVH. He shall take from it his handful of the fine flour of the grain offering, with its oil, and all the frankincense which is on the grain offering, and shall burn it on the altar for a sweet aroma, as a memorial to YHVH. And the remainder of it Aaron and his sons shall eat; with unleavened bread it shall be eaten in a holy place; in the court of the tabernacle of meeting they shall eat it. It shall not be baked with leaven. I have given it as their portion of My offerings made by fire; it is most holy, like the sin offering and the trespass offering. All the males among the children of Aaron may eat it. It shall be a statute forever in your generations concerning the offerings made by fire to YHVH. Everyone who touches them must be holy” (Leviticus 6:14-18).
“All the males among the priests may eat it. It is most holy. But no sin offering from which any of the blood is brought into the tabernacle of meeting, to make atonement in the holy place, shall be eaten. It shall be burned in the fire” (Leviticus 6:29-30).
“This is the law of the sacrifice of peace offerings which he shall offer to YHVH: If he offers it for a thanksgiving, then he shall offer, with the sacrifice of thanksgiving, unleavened cakes mixed with oil, unleavened wafers anointed with oil, or cakes of blended flour mixed with oil. Besides the cakes, as his offering he shall offer leavened bread with the sacrifice of thanksgiving of his peace offering. And from it he shall offer one cake from each offering as a heave offering to YHVH. It shall belong to the priest who sprinkles the blood of the peace offering. The flesh of the sacrifice of his peace offering for thanksgiving shall be eaten the same day it is offered. He shall not leave any of it until morning” (Leviticus 7:11-15).
However, there is a big difference between the fellowship meals of YHVH and those of pagan idolatry: YHVH asks us to have respect for blood! Just as Satan seeks to destroy the Seed who would redeem mankind, he also seeks to desecrate the blood that is shed for our sins.
“Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. I have given you all things, even as the green herbs. But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood. Surely for your lifeblood I will demand a reckoning; from the hand of every beast I will require it, and from the hand of man. From the hand of every man’s brother I will require the life of man. Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man his blood shall be shed; for in the image of God He made man” (Genesis 9:3-6).
This command was given to all mankind, not just to those of Israel.
“And whatever man of the house of Israel, or of the strangers who dwell among you, who eats any blood, I will set My face against that person who eats blood, and will cut him off from among his people. For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul.’ Therefore I said to the children of Israel, ‘No one among you shall eat blood, nor shall any stranger who dwells among you eat blood.’
“Whatever man of the children of Israel, or of the strangers who dwell among you, who hunts and catches any animal or bird that may be eaten, he shall pour out its blood and cover it with dust; for it is the life of all flesh. Its blood sustains its life. Therefore I said to the children of Israel, ‘You shall not eat the blood of any flesh, for the life of all flesh is its blood. Whoever eats it shall be cut off’” (Leviticus 17:10-14).
As usual, false idolatrous worship tries to mimic the true worship of YHVH, but it changes small details.
“This shall be a perpetual statute throughout your generations in all your dwellings: you shall eat neither fat nor blood” (Leviticus 3:17).
“You shall not eat any fat, of ox or sheep or goat. And the fat of an animal that dies naturally, and the fat of what is torn by wild beasts, may be used in any other way; but you shall by no means eat it. For whoever eats the fat of the animal of which men offer an offering made by fire to YHVH, the person who eats it shall be cut off from his people. Moreover you shall not eat any blood in any of your dwellings, whether of bird or beast. Whoever eats any blood, that person shall be cut off from his people” (Leviticus 7:23-27).
“Whatever man of the house of Israel who kills an ox or lamb or goat in the camp, or who kills it outside the camp, and does not bring it to the door of the tabernacle of meeting to offer an offering to YHVH before the tabernacle of YHVH, the guilt of bloodshed shall be imputed to that man. He has shed blood; and that man shall be cut off from among his people, to the end that the children of Israel may bring their sacrifices which they offer in the open field, that they may bring them to YHVH at the door of the tabernacle of meeting, to the priest, and offer them as peace offerings to YHVH. And the priest shall sprinkle the blood on the altar of YHVH at the door of the tabernacle of meeting, and burn the fat for a sweet aroma to YHVH. They shall no more offer their sacrifices to demons, after whom they have played the harlot. This shall be a statute forever for them throughout their generations” (Leviticus 17:3-7).
“You shall not eat anything with the blood, nor shall you practice divination or soothsaying” (Leviticus 19:26).
In pagan idolatry, blood is sacred. Pagan rituals include pouring blood over worshipers and drinking blood. Worshipers hoped that the (demonic) spirits contained within the blood would fill them as well.
Many feasts were times to bloat oneself with food and wine, as well as with blood and immoral behavior.
For this reason, the Torah specifies how meat is to be butchered and eaten. Of foremost importance, the blood is to be drained very thoroughly, poured out onto the ground, and covered.
Blessings over Food
When we lift our hands in thanksgiving for our food, showing appreciation to our Creator who has provided all things for us, we are dedicating our bodies, our Temples, for His service.
On the other hand, when foods are offered to false gods, to Buddha or to Mohammed, or to ancestors or pagan idols or saints, we see that blessings are also offered over these foods.
Drink offerings of grain and wine have evolved into modern-day “toasts,” where we “bless” people by lifting a glass into the air.
If we were to bless someone in the name of YHVH the Creator, this would be fine. However, you will rarely hear His name being used as food and drink is blessed.
A good example of this would be Halal foods. In Islam, as an animal is slaughtered for food, it is ritually blessed and offered up to their god Allah. For meat to be “Halal,” the animal must be alive, intact and its heart beating. The slaughtering must be done in the presence of a Muslim, and a declaration, a Shahada, must be said over the meat at the point of slaughter.
Shahada is an Arabic word meaning “a declaration.” The most commonly encountered shahada is the one said to become a Muslim: “There is no god but Allah and Mohammed is his prophet” – with which we profoundly disagree!
The shahada said at the point of slaughter is, “In the name of Allah, who is the greatest.” The Halal Food Authority says the shahada must be said over each animal.
Other types of blessings to idols can be seen in Eastern cultures. For instance, the statue of a Buddha might grace a Chinese restaurant, or death anniversaries in the Philippines might include preparing meals for deceased relatives.
When Yeshua fed the five thousand men with only five loaves of bread and two fish, it is interesting that He blessed it first.
“Then [Yeshua] commanded the multitudes to sit down on the grass. And He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, He blessed and broke and gave the loaves to the disciples; and the disciples gave to the multitudes” (Matthew 14:19-20).
Judaism teaches that we should bless the food we have eaten, both before and after. They get this from the verses in Deuteronomy which state:
“When you have eaten and are satisfied, then you shall bless YHVH your God for the good land He has given you” (Deuteronomy 8:10, NIV).
For instance, the following section from the Didache, from the late first century, was originally intended as a complete after-meal blessing for Gentile disciples of Yeshua:
We thank You, our holy Father, for Your holy name that You have caused to dwell in our hearts, and for the knowledge, faithfulness, and eternal life that You have made known to us through Your servant Yeshua. Yours is the glory forever.
You, O YHVH of Legions, created all things for the sake of Your name; You gave nourishment and drink for human beings to enjoy, in order that they would give thanks to You. You also bestowed upon us spiritual nourishment and drink and eternal life through Your Servant. And for all things, we thank You, because You are powerful. Yours is the glory forever.
Remember, O YHVH, Your congregation, to rescue her from all evil and to make her complete in Your love. Gather the betrothed from the four winds to Your kingdom that You have prepared for her. For Yours is the power and the glory forever.
Technically speaking, we aren’t blessing the food. We are blessing YHVH our God who has given us the food.
So what do we do about the blessings over the food we eat? Does it matter if our food is certified “Halal” or if we are eating at a restaurant owned by a practicing Buddhist?
The first consideration is that we must never appear to be condoning idolatry!
“Therefore concerning the eating of things offered to idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is no other God but one. For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as there are many gods and many lords), yet for us there is one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we for Him; and one Master Yeshua the Messiah, through whom are all things, and through whom we live.
“However, there is not in everyone that knowledge; for some, with consciousness of the idol, until now eat it as a thing offered to an idol; and their conscience, being weak, is defiled. But food does not commend us to God; for neither if we eat are we the better, nor if we do not eat are we the worse.
“But beware lest somehow this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to those who are weak. For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, will not the conscience of him who is weak be emboldened to eat those things offered to idols? And because of your knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Messiah died? But when you thus sin against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Messiah. Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never again eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble” (1 Corinthians 8:4-13).
When we start as new believers with the basic teaching of not causing our brother to stumble, we are learning the very heart of Torah itself.
“And to love Him with all the heart, with all the understanding, with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is more than all the whole burnt offerings and sacrifices’ (Mark 12:33).
“For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself'” (Galatians 5:14).
Secondly, we must realize that God takes our food seriously!
“Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. I speak as to wise men; judge for yourselves what I say. The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we, though many, are one bread and one body; for we all partake of that one bread.
“Observe Israel after the flesh: Are not those who eat of the sacrifices partakers of the altar? What am I saying then? That an idol is anything, or what is offered to idols is anything? Rather, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice they sacrifice to demons and not to God, and I do not want you to have fellowship with demons. You cannot drink the cup of YHVH and the cup of demons; you cannot partake of YHVH’s table and of the table of demons. Or do we provoke YHVH to jealousy? Are we stronger than He?” (1 Corinthians 10:14-22).
The basic rule is this: If in doubt, don’t!
“All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful; all things are lawful for me, but not all things edify. Let no one seek his own, but each one the other’s well-being.
“Eat whatever is sold in the meat market, asking no questions for conscience’ sake; for ‘the earth is YHVH’s, and all its fullness’” (1 Corinthians 14:23-26).
If you’re purchasing meat at your local grocery store, and if you see no symbols telling you that it was sacrificed to idols, and if no one has told you it is, then you may feel free to purchase and eat this meat.
(Note: Unclean foods, such as pork or shellfish, would not be included in this, as they are not even defined as food in the Torah. We’ll learn more about this in a future post.)
“If any of those who do not believe invites you to dinner, and you desire to go, eat whatever is set before you, asking no question for conscience’ sake” (1 Corinthians 14:27).
Here the same rule applies. If you have no reason to think that the food is offered to idols, then thank your host and bless YHVH for the food you have received.
“But if anyone says to you, ‘This was offered to idols,’ do not eat it for the sake of the one who told you, and for conscience’ sake; for ‘the earth is YHVH’s, and all its fullness.’ ‘Conscience,’ I say, not your own, but that of the other. For why is my liberty judged by another man’s conscience? But if I partake with thanks, why am I evil spoken of for the food over which I give thanks?”
In this situation, you must not eat!
“The things which the Gentiles sacrifice they sacrifice to demons and not to God, and I do not want you to have fellowship with demons.”
You cannot bless YHVH and bless demons at the same time.
“Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Give no offense, either to the Jews or to the Greeks or to the church of God, just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved” (1 Corinthians 10:23-33).
We have much more to learn about the way we eat food – and even the manner in which we show respect to blood and keep our lives clean – so we’ll continue these discussions in future blog posts. For the moment, begin to realize that even the food we put into our mouths, into our Temples, is to be dedicated to the use of our Creator.
“Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).
 Genesis 4:1-5
 Psalm 74:2
 Zechariah 2:10
 Matthew 25:34
 “Our Master is coming!”
 First Fruits of Zion, We Thank You: Blessings of Thanks Before and After Meals (Marshfield, Missouri: Vine of David, 2011), pp. 4-6.
 Psalm 24:1
All Scripture in this blog post taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.