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Jun 5

Why What We Eat Is Important | United Church of God

Imagine the opulence, the splendor of the court of ancient Babylon. Youre young, in your late teens or early 20s. You and three friends are captives, but your captors have selected you from among your people to serve at the court of theking.

Right now, though, youre hungry. The man in charge offers you all the rich, steaming dishes of the palace kitchen. But you realize you have limited choices if you want to obey what God says about what we should and shouldnt eat. The delicacies of the royal table are made with foods listed as uncleanunfit for human consumptionin the Holy Scriptures. And the royal steward believes youll starve if you dont eat the meals provided by the kings command. What do youdo?

If youre the young prophet Daniel of the Bible, you reject the palace foods, ask for vegetables and water, and trust God to give you the good health to succeed at court (read Daniel1).

Have you ever wondered what people ate in ancient times? Historical references in Bible commentaries reveal that the royal Babylonian table would have many dishes stewed in a combination of fats, spices and blood to give intensity and richness. They ate many different kinds of meats, both of the biblically clean (allowed to be eaten) and unclean varieties. Pork was very popular, as was shellfish. Both of those are listed as unclean for food in the Bible (read the free online Bible study aid What Does the Bible Teach About Clean and Unclean Meats? to knowmore).

Many animals were slaughtered, cooked and eaten as offerings to religious idols. Animals werent always well bled when they were killed, leaving blood in the bodywhich the Bible also forbids. Knowing Gods dietary laws, Daniel and his three friends realized they couldnt easily sort out what was clean or unclean on the kings table. Instead, they chose vegetables, which likely included grains and beans or lentils, all things that grew fromseed.

They also drank only water because beverages at the Babylonian court were primarily alcoholic ale and wine in large quantities. These may have been thickened or clarified with animal byproducts, potentially rendering them unfit for human consumption according to Gods way. What a menu! But what we can learn from Danielsexperience?

Daniel and his three friends Hananiah, Azariah and Mishael (renamed Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego by the Babylonians) learned that the foods available to them in the court of the king of Babylon were tainted. Perhaps they observed the kitchen staff at work, or quizzed the chief eunuch or royal steward about ingredients and preparation. Whatever the case, they knew what was in the foodand what toavoid.

We also need to learn whats in our food. This involves a bit of research like reading ingredient lists. A solid knowledge of the lists of clean and unclean meats (see Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14) helps us make proper judgments. Generally speaking, the fewer, less complicated-sounding ingredients there are, the easier it is to decipher the actual origins of afood.

Whole foods are easiest. An apple is an apple, a carrot is a carrot, and a beefsteak is, by grain, cut, and smell, relatively easy to distinguish from pork or horse meat (both of the latter are unclean by Gods standards). Yet even meats clean by kind can be tainted, as noted later. Again, we need to know what were putting into ourbodies.

Even if Daniel and his friends would have had clean foods available to them, they still may have avoided the palace foods. Ancient Babylonian recipes translated in the 1980s show a very rich and highly spiced cuisine. Beer was popular, as was wine. Meat dishes were fatty andheavy.

Such decadent fare would have been difficult to digest, and the quart to a gallon of beer a day consumed by the average person at court would have made the four young men sluggish atbest.

The only thing between us and our food isus. We are responsible for what does or doesnt go into our bodies. Knowing what makes you feel your best requires careful attention to your bodys reaction to certain foods. Some people even keep track of any particularly unpleasantreactions.

Knowledge of personal health helps us to better submit to Gods will for us. Health crises sometimes interfere, but striving to be fit and healthy servants of God makes us more productive. Our bodies are the physical vessels for Gods Spirit, and we have a responsibility to keep ourselves in good order (see 1 Corinthians 3:16-17 1 Corinthians 3:16-17 16 Know you not that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? 17 If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple you are.American King James Version).

Daniel requested of the chief eunuch that he and his comrades be given foods that wouldnt defile them, specifying vegetables and clean water. Vegetables included high-protein legumes. Rice, cultivated around Babylon at the time, combined with lentils or beans may have provided a completeprotein.

The kings steward feared the effects of this diet on the young mens health. Yet God blessed them and granted them favor with the steward, and he allowed them to test their diet. They remained fit, well-muscled and healthier-looking than the other young courtiers (Daniel 1:11-16 Daniel 1:11-16 11 Then said Daniel to Melzar, whom the prince of the eunuchs had set over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, 12 Prove your servants, I beseech you, ten days; and let them give us vegetables to eat, and water to drink. 13 Then let our countenances be looked on before you, and the countenance of the children that eat of the portion of the kings meat: and as you see, deal with your servants. 14 So he consented to them in this matter, and proved them ten days. 15 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 kings meat. 16 Thus Melzar took away the portion of their meat, and the wine that they should drink; and gave them vegetables.American King James Version).

As at that time, we today need to educate ourselves on health issues and ask God for clean, health-building food choices. God is the Master Provider, and if we sincerely want to improve our health, He will provide what we need. (As our Creator, He certainly knows whats best for our bodies.) But beyond asking, we have to take action and, like Daniel, choose to eat the goodfoods.

Another possible lesson from the four young Jewish men in Babylon is that a diet featuring vegetables can be a boon to our health. Some people have chosen, with success, to consume a predominantly vegetable diet while dealing with a period of illness or stress. While that choice is individual, it requires research and often the guidance of a professional. Its safe to conclude that a light, nutritious diet, focusing on the benefits of fresh produce, can be a tonic for a stressed body. (You should always inform your general practitioner of a serious change indiet.)

In contrast, the rich, alcohol-heavy, significantly unclean Babylonian diet was hard on the body. The toxins of unclean meats alone can be an immense stress on the body systems, but today we also have to be wary of toxins sprayed on or injected into foods, to say nothing of highly processed and genetically modifiedfoods.

None of this means we should adopt vegetarianism, as God intends that we eat meat if it meets biblical requirements (see 1 Timothy 4:1-5 1 Timothy 4:1-5 1 Now the Spirit speaks expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; 2 Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; 3 Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God has created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth. 4 For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving: 5 For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.American King James Version). Yet edible meat must be in addition to other needed food, including vegetables, to give us a more balanced and nutritious diet. However, there may be times when eating just vegetables is the best option available to us, as with Daniel and hisfriends.

In any event, analyze what you eat carefully for what improves or damages your well-being. Seek out healthy food sources and ask God to provide. Like Daniel, Hananiah, Azariah and Mishael, we have choices to make in a world that doesnt always have our good health at heart. By faith and obedience to His food laws, God can help us make the best of ourhealth.

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Why What We Eat Is Important | United Church of God

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