What lessons about diet can we learn from the Book of Daniel, meant to be revealed only at the end of time?
In today’s program we’ll be discussing the surprising relationship between diet and spirituality. I say surprising because many Christians haven’t fully considered the link between what they habitually eat and their spiritual walk. Yet the Bible from Genesis to Revelation is filled with God’s counsel on food and the consequences, for good or for evil, of our dietary choices.
I’ve been asked several times: Why do you teach that Christians today should abstain from the unclean foods described in the Old Testament? If we don’t have to keep the levitical law or the law of Moses, why do we have to abstain from unclean foods? Weren’t all of these laws nailed to the cross at Calvary?
These questions are incredibly important for Christians today. We’ll make a few general points quickly and then delve more deeply into the Biblical evidence for each one. Let’s get started!
A God-given Diet
No. 1: Not just for the Jews
The health laws a Christian should live by today are not limited to the list of clean and unclean animals given by God to Moses and his brother Aaron in Leviticus 11 and Moses in turn gave it to the children of Israel in Deuteronomy 14. The health laws refer back to the prescribed diet that God gave man at Creation. This God-prescribed diet was given for all mankind, not just the Jews.
No. 2: The New Testament does not do away with God’s health laws.
God’s food laws were not nailed to the cross because these laws are universal for all mankind. They were given before the Jews or Hebrews existed as a people and are therefore not limited to ancient Israel. Christians were expected to eat only clean foods, those authorized by God in the Holy Scriptures. But this wasn’t the only restriction. In addition to eating only clean meats or clean flesh, they were forbidden to eat the flesh with the blood or to eat the fat of the meat. This is why the Jewish people eat kosher meat – this is meat from which the blood is removed. The meat fat also was to be removed and not eaten. Leviticus 3:17 says: “It shall be a perpetual statute for your generations throughout all your dwellings, that ye eat neither fat nor blood”.
No. 3: The food laws are stricter for our generation
The Bible in the Book of Daniel not only confirms that these health laws are especially relevant to our end-time generation, it makes the health laws even stricter for us. We take God’s Word for it, but we also have ample confirmation in the news, current scientific research and the worldwide vegan trend. In today’s world, if we’re not careful what we eat we put ourselves at great risk of illness, disease and even death.
No. 4: There are direct physical and mental consequences of what we eat
The Bible provides examples of the radically different health results achieved by eating a biblically healthy diet (the Jews) and a biblically unhealthy diet (the Egyptians who ate many unclean foods and thus suffered many “plagues” or diseases as we read in Exodus 15:26). But the Book of Daniel, the companion book to the Book of Revelation, goes further and contrasts the superior physical and intellectual results of a plant-based diet versus an animal-based diet.
No. 5: There are direct spiritual consequences of what we eat
There is a direct correlation between our diet and the quality of our spiritual life and our relationship with God. First of all, in the Garden of Eden man’s first sin was eating that which God had forbidden man to eat. If there’s any doubt in your mind that what we eat has spiritual consequences I hope this is enough evidence for you. Six thousand years later we’re still paying the consequences of Adam and Eve’s food sin.
God gave the health laws to the children of Israel after they came out of their Egyptian bondage. Although let’s note here that these laws were already known, because when God instructs Noah about the animals that he was to bring into the ark God distinguished between the clean and unclean animals. Then He told the children of Israel: “Be ye holy because I a holy”.
A no-compromise, clean diet contributes to faithfulness and obedience to God (Daniel and the three Hebrew young men). A compromising, unclean diet leads to spiritual adultery and backsliding (the rest of the Jews in the 70-year Babylonian exile). Resisting temptation in the area of food, where Adam and Eve fell, builds the spiritual muscle that this last generation needs in order to stand firm and refuse to take the mark of the beast.
But the New Testament provides some even more amazing insights into the power that food has over our spirit. If we’re to become God’s end-time army and finish this race that is set before us, we need to get really smart about what we’re putting our bodies as food.
Let’s now continue to explore each of these points in greater detail.
Man’s Diet as Prescribed by God in the Book of Genesis
The Book of Genesis describes very clearly the diet that God intended for Adam and Eve to eat in the Garden of Eden. In fact, this green diet was not only for mankind, but also for the beasts of the field, the fowls of the air, and the creeping things:
“And God said, ‘See, I have given you every herb that yields seed which is on the face of all the earth, and every tree whose fruit yields seed; to you it shall be for food. Also, to every beast of the earth, to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, in which there is life, I have given every green herb for food’; and it was so. Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good…” (Genesis 1:29-31).
Before their sin Adam and Eve didn’t have to toil for their food. But when they sinned and were expelled from the garden, God put a curse on the ground and told Adam: “…you shall eat the herb of the field. In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken” (Genesis 3:18-19). This is when bread and vegetables are introduced into the diet of men, both of which need to be cultivated and harvested by human labor.
In Genesis 7:2 we discover that well before the days of Moses in preparation for the flood that was to destroy the world, Noah was asked to distinguish between clean and unclean animals. “Then the Lord said to Noah, ‘Come into the ark, you and all your household, because I have seen that you are righteous before Me in this generation. You shall take with you seven each of every clean animal, a male and his female; two each of animals that are unclean, a male and his female; also seven each of birds of the air, male and female, to keep the species alive on the face of all the earth’” (Genesis 7:1-2).
Let’s understand two things that are happening here:
First of all, God’s prescribed diet for His people was given before the Jews or Hebrews existed as a people and are therefore universal, they are not limited to ancient Israel.
Second, in this process of saving specimens from the animal kingdom God was giving men permission to eat flesh, because the flood was going to wipe out all vegetation that was on the earth. But sin is never without consequence. As a result of all of the wickedness of the anti-diluvian generations man’s lifespan would now be shortened because of the introduction of flesh into their diet. Before the flood from Adam to Noah the average life span was 912 years. After the flood from Noah’s children up to Abraham the average life span fell to 312 years. These men lived 2000 years before Christ, in a world that was still relatively clean and unpolluted. All animal flesh including birds and fish has a debilitating effect on our bodies, especially flesh with the blood and fat.
The New Testament Confirms God’s Diet for the Gentiles
I hope that by now you’re convinced of the power of diet on the body, mind and spirit. If any of you were wondering whether the Gentiles were dispensed from the requirements of God’s diet, the answer is No. The Gentiles were expected to eat clean meats only and without the fat as stated in the Jerusalem Decree proclaimed by the disciples for the Gentiles. We read in Acts 15:28-29: “For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things: that you abstain from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well”. Therefore any meat we eat must be from a clean animal and kosher, with the blood removed.
God’s Creation Diet Is Especially Relevant for the End-time Generation
In order to study the relevance of God’s prescribed diet for our generation we’re going to the Book of Daniel. The Book of Daniel has among others the recurring themes of food, fasting and faithfulness. There are three Bible verses that indicate the special relevance of God’s health laws for this last generation that we are:
- “Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come” (1 Corinthians 10:11). Admonition means counsel, advice, warning or forewarning. This means that whatever stories we find in the Book of Daniel – but also throughout the Bible – were given especially for us. Why? Because we’re going to face the biggest challenge to our faith that humanity has ever faced. We’ll say more on that later.
- The second scripture says: “But you, Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book until the time of the end; many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase” (Daniel 12:4).
- And finally we read in Daniel 12:9: “And he said, “Go your way, Daniel, for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end. Many shall be purified, made white, and refined, but the wicked shall do wickedly; and none of the wicked shall understand, but the wise shall understand”.
What are these words that are shut up until the time of the end? It’s the Book of Daniel, a book which, as the Bible states above, was destined to remain in relative obscurity until the time of the end. Only in the last 200 years or so the dust has been shaken off of the Book of Daniel. Today it’s widely studied in conjunction with its “companion” book, the Book of Revelation. These two Bible books have special relevance for us.
Let’s go to Daniel Chapter 1 and read some of these stories of what happened to Daniel and his three Hebrew friends “as examples that were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come”.
Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. “And the king spake unto Ashpenaz the master of his eunuchs, that he should bring certain of the children of Israel, and of the king’s seed, and of the princes; Children in whom was no blemish, but well favoured, and skilful in all wisdom, and cunning in knowledge, and understanding science, and such as had ability in them to stand in the king’s palace, and whom they might teach the learning and the tongue of the Chaldeans.
And the king appointed them a daily provision of the king’s meat, and of the wine which he drank: so nourishing them three years, that at the end thereof they might stand before the king. Now among these were of the children of Judah, Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah… But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s meat, nor with the wine which he drank: therefore he requested of the prince of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself”…
“The prince of the eunuchs said unto Daniel, I fear my lord the king, who hath appointed your meat and your drink: for why should he see your faces worse liking than the children which are of your sort? then shall ye make me endanger my head to the king”.
Daniel responded: “Prove thy servants, I beseech thee, ten days; and let them give us pulse to eat, and water to drink. (NOTE: “Pulse” is “zeroa” in Hebrew, literally vegetables, with the nuance that these plants scatter or produce seed. This is a direct reference back to Genesis 1:29 that we read above. Daniel is requesting for himself and his friends the diet that God prescribed for mankind at creation).
Then let our countenances be looked upon before thee, and the countenance of the children that eat of the portion of the king’s meat: and as thou seest, deal with thy servants. So he consented to them in this matter, and proved them ten days. And at the end of ten days their countenances appeared fairer and fatter in flesh than all the children which did eat the portion of the king’s meat. Thus (they) took away the portion of their meat, and the wine that they should drink; and gave them pulse.
As for these four children, God gave them knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom: and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams.
Now at the end of the days that the king had said he should bring them in, then the prince of the eunuchs brought them in before Nebuchadnezzar. And the king communed with them; and among them all was found none like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah: therefore stood they before the king. And in all matters of wisdom and understanding, that the king enquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and astrologers that were in all his realm.
And Daniel continued even unto the first year of king Cyrus”. (Daniel Chapter 1)
What do we learn from this account in Daniel Chapter 1?
Daniel didn’t want to defile himself with the king’s food and drink (supposed delicacies)
He and his companions requested water and vegetables, specifically plants that produce seed as God prescribed in the Book of Genesis
Daniel suggested a 10-day test so that the chief of the eunuchs could compare and contrast the effect of the vegetable-based diet on the four Jews and the effect of the king’s diet on the rest of the young Jewish men in the Babylonian captivity
At the end of the ten-day test the countenances of Daniel and his three friends appeared fairer and fatter in flesh than all the Jewish children that did eat the portion of the king’s meat
These four young men had God’s favor: He gave them knowledge and skill in learning and understanding, and gave Daniel revelation knowledge through dreams and visions
When King Nebuchadnezzar examined them he found them far superior intellectually to all of the “wise men” of the Babylonian court
Daniel found enough favor to serve four consecutive kings: King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, his son King Belshazzar, King Darius the Mede and King Cyrus of Persia
What conclusions can we draw from this story? What does it mean for you and me?
- The consequences of our choice of diet are far-reaching, for better or for worse. It can affect our destiny as it did for Daniel.
- The purported delicacies of the world are actually detrimental to our health, especially the meats and the wine.
- God’s prescribed diet produces demonstrably superior results both physically and intellectually (and as we’ll see in a moment, also spiritually)
- When we eat the way God wants us to we find favor with Him
- When we find favor with God He gives us favor with men
We prosper if and when we follow God’s original health plan for us. This is true even without considering all of the toxic contamination and maltreatment of animal flesh and products, including those animals classified as “clean” and acceptable for human consumption. The consumption of animal flesh by human beings was never a part of God’s original diet for us. As we saw it emerged as a result of the world’s sinfulness: when all life was destroyed as a result of the flood the only food that Noah and his family had was animal flesh.
Direct Correlation Between Diet and Spiritual Condition
King Nebuchadnezzar’s Dream
As we continue our study of the Book of Daniel, we read in Chapter 2 about King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. The king woke up troubled from his dream, knowing it was significant, but couldn’t remember the dream. Is that any surprise to us? We learned in Daniel 1 that “the king appointed them a daily provision of the king’s meat, and of the wine which he drank”. So the king’s mind was enfeebled as a result of his diet and he couldn’t remember his dream.
Therefore Nebuchadnezzar summons all the wise men of his court (astrologers, magicians, diviners, etc.) and asks them to tell him both the dream and the interpretation of the dream. None of them can, and the king issues a decree to have all of the wise men killed for their incompetence. This death decree would include Daniel and his three friends who had not been consulted but also served in the king’s court.
Daniel asked the king that if he gave him time he could tell the king the interpretation of the dream. King Nebuchadnezzar agrees and Daniel goes to his three friends and together they pray the God of heaven to reveal to them the dream and the interpretation of the dream so that they would not perish with the rest of the Babylonian wise men. God answered their prayer and revealed to Daniel both the dream and its interpretation. The king acknowledged the wisdom of the God of Daniel and promoted Daniel and his friends: “Then the king made Daniel a great man, and gave him many great gifts, and made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon, and chief of the governors over all the wise men of Babylon. Then Daniel requested of the king, and he set Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (NOTE: the Babylonian names of Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah), over the affairs of the province of Babylon: but Daniel sat in the gate of the king” (Daniel 2:48-49).
In this account we find:
- That the Lord promptly answered the prayer of the four Hebrew young men so that they wouldn’t be slain with the rest of the Babylonian wise men.
- How much favor Daniel had with God, that He gave Daniel such deep prophetic revelation reaching thousands of years into the future. What God had communicated in dream to King Nebuchadnezzar He revealed to Daniel with the corresponding interpretation – what a great privilege!
- Daniel’s great favor with God caused him to find great favor with the king.
The Fiery Furnace
In Daniel Chapter 3 (like Chapter 2, Chapter 3 is full of resonances with the Book of Revelation) King Nebuchadnezzar seeks to cancel by his human action the prophetic fulfillment of the dream that Daniel interpreted for him. He made a huge image or statue of gold and commanded that everyone should bow before it and worship it, or else be cast into a fiery furnace. Daniel’s three friends refused to bow down and worship the image, and certain Chaldeans accused them before the king.
“Then Nebuchadnezzar in his rage and fury commanded to bring Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Then they brought these men before the king. Nebuchadnezzar spake and said unto them, Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, do not ye serve my gods, nor worship the golden image which I have set up? Now if ye be ready that at what time ye hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and dulcimer, and all kinds of musick, ye fall down and worship the image which I have made; well: but if ye worship not, ye shall be cast the same hour into the midst of a burning fiery furnace; and who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands?
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, answered and said to the king, O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.
Then was Nebuchadnezzar full of fury, and the form of his visage was changed against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego: therefore he spake, and commanded that they should heat the furnace one seven times more than it was wont to be heated. And he commanded the most mighty men that were in his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, and to cast them into the burning fiery furnace” (Daniel 3:13-20).
Now we read one of the most dramatic miracles in the entire Bible:
“And these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, fell down bound into the midst of the burning fiery furnace. Then Nebuchadnezzar the king was astonished, and rose up in haste, and spake, and said unto his counsellors, Did not we cast three men bound into the midst of the fire? They answered and said unto the king, True, O king. He answered and said, Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God. Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the mouth of the burning fiery furnace, and spake, and said, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, ye servants of the most high God, come forth, and come hither. Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, came forth of the midst of the fire.
And the princes, governors, and captains, and the king’s counsellors, being gathered together, saw these men, upon whose bodies the fire had no power, nor was an hair of their head singed, neither were their coats changed, nor the smell of fire had passed on them. Then Nebuchadnezzar spake, and said, Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who hath sent his angel, and delivered his servants that trusted in him, and have changed the king’s word, and yielded their bodies, that they might not serve nor worship any god, except their own God” (Daniel 3:23-28).
In this story we have clear evidence of the direct correlation between diet and our spiritual condition:
- Of all of the men of Judah who were carried captive to Babylon, only the Hebrew young men refused to bow down and worship the golden image. Everyone else was eating the king’s diet, a diet that enfeebles the mind with wine and diminishes life expectancy: consequently they obeyed the king and disobeyed God.
- Daniel’s friends on the other hand by refusing to compromise on their diet had enough spiritual power and strength of character to remain faithful to their God and refused to bow down to the image Nebuchadnezzar had built.
- In response to their faithfulness the Lord Jesus Christ went into the fiery furnace with them and miraculously delivered them from the hand of the wicked.
- This deliverance was evidence for the Babylonians of the God of Israel’s superior power and faithfulness.
Ellen White had this observation regarding the connection between our bodies and our character which reveals our spirit:
“The body is a most important medium through which the mind and the soul are developed for the up-building of character. Hence it is that the adversary of souls directs his temptations to the enfeebling and degrading of the physical powers. His success here often means the surrender of the whole being to evil. The tendencies of the physical nature, unless under the dominion of a higher power, will surely work ruin and death. The body is to be brought into subjection to the higher powers of the being. The passions are to be controlled by the will, which is itself to be under the control of God” (E.G. White – Call to Stand Apart, p. 56-4)
The Book of Revelation warns us of a beast (the United States of America) that says “to them that dwell on the earth, that they should make an image to the beast, which had the wound by a sword, and did live. And he had power to give life unto the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed. And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name” (Revelation 13:14-17). What Nebuchadnezzar did will be repeated in our time: an image will be built for false worship. Those who remain faithful to God and do not obey the beast will be killed.
This is the spiritual challenge that lies ahead of us and getting closer: we will need to have the moral fiber to be able to go through this time of trouble and obey God, refusing to take the mark of the beast, even if it means certain death. And we’ll simply trust that as we are faithful in our diet the Lord Jesus will be faithful to deliver us just like He delivered the Hebrew young men.
The Full Armor of God
In the Book of Daniel we see the progression in the effects that our diet has upon us: it affects our body and complexion, it affects our minds, and it affects our spiritual ability to make right choices.
Christians of the end-time like you and me will be faced with the greatest spiritual challenge man has ever faced. We need to make it through the time of trouble that Jesus prophesied: “great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be” (Matthew 24:21). We’ll have the hardest race to finish. In the same fashion that an Olympic athlete knows that he or she can’t just eat anything they want, the Christian soldier also cannot eat whatever he or she wants. In Ephesians 6 God gave us the full armor of God. Look how interesting this is: the first element of the armor is the belt of truth that we put around our waist, in other words, around our belly.
And what is truth? Truth is the Word of God. That means that we need to live not by bread alone but that we must live by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God. That also means we can’t eat just anything we want, but that we need to live by His counsels on diet and the foods that He has prescribed for us. Make no mistake about this: if we’re not temperate about food and don’t build our characters with the right food, we’re not going to make it into the kingdom. The temptations will be too great. If our minds and characters are not steeled through a temperate, God-given diet we will not be able to choose good over evil. Only God’s diet can give us the mind of Christ, that mind that can discern good from evil and in every circumstance chose good even unto death.