Approximately 600 years before Jesus was born, a young man named Daniel was taken captive by the Babylonians, along with some of his friends. They were part of the Jewish aristocracy of Jerusalem, and most likely watched their parents die in the destruction that fell upon their city. After marching over 800 miles to Babylon, they were forcibly made eunuchs in the court of the infamous King Nebuchadnezzar. Not only was he known for his military prowess, but he was also admired for his intellect and the desire to expand his retinue of wise men.
Seeing promise in these young Jewish men, King Nebuchadnezzar tried his best to woo them and influence them to adopt his type of pagan thinking. He immediately changed their Hebrew names, which glorified the God of Heaven, to Babylonian names, which honored numerous pagan gods. Most likely these young men had previously been educated in the schools of the prophets, which taught them a life of service and dedication to the one true God. Now, in Babylon, they were taught the subjects of mathematics, architecture, astronomy, medicine, and philosophy, which were intermingled with the practice of astrology and divination.
Despite the change of names and school curriculum, these young men remained faithful to the God of Israel. Now, they encountered a more subtle temptation, an invitation to eat and drink from the king’s personal delicacies. This was a privilege many others coveted, and now it was offered to these young men. Would they allow themselves to be influenced?
Well, let us take Daniel’s own testimony in Daniel 1. In verse six, he states that “the king appointed them a daily provision of the king’s meat; and of the wine which he drank.” Yet, later in verse 8, Daniel states that he “purposed in his heart that he would not define himself with the portion of the king’s meat, nor with the wine which he drank,” requesting only pulse (translated from a Hebrew word meaning food derived from plants) for 10 days.
Daniel knew the consequences of eating the king’s food would be disastrous. Not only was it unclean according to Leviticus 11, but the Babylonians did not drain the blood from the meat, as commanded by God in Leviticus 17:14. They always offered their food to their gods prior to eating, and then they would eat rich foods and meats and drink wine until excess, often resulting in feasts of gluttony and drunkenness. In The Review and Herald April 2, 1889, Ellen G. White states that Daniel abstained from this type of diet in order to resist the temptations that would be flung his way: “He knew that in order to come off a victor, he must have clear mental perceptions, that he might discern between right and wrong.” He clearly recognized that what he ate directly impacted his witness for God.
His friends also joined him in his decision to eat only plant-based foods, and God honored them ten days later by making their improved health and intellect so obvious to the royal court that King Nebuchadnezzar declared them “ten times better than all the magicians and astrologers in all his realm” (Daniel 1:20). For the rest of his life, Daniel maintained a simple diet, and God used him as a powerful political and spiritual advisor to multiple kings in the Babylonian and Persian empires.
We may not have political positions, but we do have a sphere of influence. Whether we intend to or not, we influence our family members, friends, co-workers, and others with whom we interact. In a day of increasing moral depravity, we need to safe guard ourselves and be in the best physical, mental, and spiritual health possible. As we can see from the life of Daniel, this starts with what we eat and drink.
Call to Action
As we look back on Daniel’s faithfulness in a society that tempted him from every side, let us resolve in our hearts to rid our lives of any dietary choices that are prohibited by God. As in the days of Daniel, society likes to tell us what is best for us, but we must trust that God knows what is best for us. He revealed His original diet to us in Genesis 1:29: “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.”
God longs for us to be sound in mind, body, and soul, so that we can be in the best frame possible to proclaim the everlasting gospel to the world, as commanded in Matthew 28:19-20 and Revelation 14:6-7. If you are sick, or fatigued, or lacking self-control in what you eat and drink, the good news is that Jesus already won the victory over appetite! He could have gratified self but instead called out to God and used Scripture to resist His fleshy desires (Matthew 4:1-4). When we are tempted to indulge in what is not good for us, all we must do is ask Him for strength, and God will grant us the very same source of strength that was available to Daniel in Babylon, and Jesus in the wilderness.
All scripture taken from the King James Version