One of the prisoners who’s receiving Bible studies in prison through our Prison Ministry asked the following questions:
“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?”
Would appreciate any light you can shed on this.
Prison Ministry Director
The Short Answer
This is a great question and something I’ve been meaning to write about for a long time. We’ll clarify a few points quickly and then delve more deeply into each one.
- The health laws a Christian should live by today are not limited to the list of clean and unclean meats 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. Instead the health laws refer back to the Creation and the Flood in the Book of Genesis and were given for all mankind, not just the Jews.
- The Bible confirms that these health laws are especially relevant to our end-time generation. We take God’s Word for it, but we also have ample confirmation in the news and the worldwide vegan trend. If we’re not careful what we eat in today’s world we put ourselves at great risk of illness, disease and even death. The Book of Daniel teaches us that God’s health laws are to be strictly applied by the end-time generation.
- 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). Further, in the Book of Daniel the Bible contrasts the far superior physical, intellectual and spiritual results of a plant-based diet versus an animal-based diet.
- There is a direct correlation between our diet and the quality of our spiritual life and our relationship with God. When God gave the health laws He said: “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, the sin that exiled Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden, builds the spiritual muscle that this generation needs in order to stand firm and refuse to take the mark of the beast.
- The New Testament does not do away with God’s health laws. These 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.
Let’s now explore these points in greater detail. NOTE: You can read the blog post below or listen to our podcast: https://citybiblegroup.com/031-diet-spirituality/
Man’s Food 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 to 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).
When Adam and Eve sinned and were expelled from the garden, God put a curse on the ground: Cursed is the ground for your sake; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you, and 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 3:17-19). This is when bread and vegetables are introduced into the diet of men, 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).
As we can see, 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.
God’s Diet Especially Relevant for the End-time Generation
There are three Bible verses that indicate the special validity of God’s health laws for the last generation that we are:
- 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 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” (Daniel 12:9).
- “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).
And what are these words that are shut up until the time of the end? It is 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 and it’s being widely studied in conjunction with its “companion” book, the Book of Revelation. These two Bible books are especially relevant for the end-time generation that we are.
The Book of Daniel has among others the recurring themes of food, fasting and faithfulness. Let’s go to Daniel Chapter 1 and discover some of the things that 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. (Admonition means counsel, advice, warning or forewarning).
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.
Now God had brought Daniel into favour and tender love with the prince of the eunuchs. And 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.
Then said Daniel to Melzar, whom the prince of the eunuchs had set over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, 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 Melzar 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)
Daniel and his friends refuse the King’s food
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 which 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.
- The purported delicacies of the world are actually detrimental to our health
- 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. 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 (aside from the fish) 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. He 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 see more 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: consequently they obeyed the king and disobeyed God.
- By refusing to compromise on their diet Daniel’s friends had enough spiritual power and strength of character to remain faithful to their God and refused to bow down to the image.
- 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:
“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).
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 obey God and refuse to take the mark of the beast, even if it means certain death, while trusting that the Lord will deliver us just like He delivered the Hebrew young men.