“In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah came Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon unto 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.” Daniel 1:1, 3, 4
As I read these verses in Daniel chapter 1, I noticed the statement, “children in whom was no blemish.” The statement made me think of the description of the people in 1 Peter 2:9, “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people.” In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, he depicts this church that Christ loves, “and gave Himself for it; that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word. That he might present it to Himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing, but that it should be holy and without blemish.” Ephesians 5:25-27
“The life of Daniel is an inspired illustration of what constitutes a sanctified character. It represents a lesson for all, and especially for the young. A strict compliance with the requirements of God is beneficial to the health of body and mind. In order to reach the highest standard of moral and intellectual attainments, it is necessary to seek wisdom and strength from God and to observe strict temperance in all the habits of life.” Sanctified Life, 23
Sanctification is obedience to the commandment of God. “True sanctification is harmony with God, oneness with Him in character. It is received through obedience to those principles that are the transcript of His character.” Testimonies, vol. 6, 350. It is God’s desired purpose to implant in humanity Christ’s nature, His character. This is the life and character we see in Daniel. Not only was he obedient to the moral law of God, the Ten Commandments, but he was obedient also to the laws of health. “In the experience of Daniel and his companions, we have an instance of the triumph of principle over temptation to indulge the appetite. It shows us that through religious principle young men may triumph over the lusts of the flesh and remain true to God’s requirements, even though it cost them a great sacrifice.” Sanctified Life, 23
When Daniel was instructed that he must eat the king’s provisions of meat and wine for three years, he purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the king’s dainties. Melzar, the eunuch in charge of Daniel, tried to persuade him by saying, “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 he make me endanger my head to the king.” Daniel 1:10
Melzar was deceived into believing that meat and an abundance of food is necessary for good health and that a simple diet, a vegetarian diet, will result in poor health and physical weakness. Similarly, today, the majority of the people living in the U.S. have been deceived by the beautiful poster hanging on our school room walls displaying the “Four Basic Food Groups.” Meat and dairy products occupy two of the four food groups, thus emphasizing that in order to have good health, we must include in our diets six to eight servings daily of foods that contain high amounts of saturated fat, cholesterol, disease, and environmental contaminants. Animal products and rich dainties are eaten regularly by Americans, and look at the results. Obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, colon problems, and diabetes have plagued our country in epidemic proportions. Not only adults by young children also are suffering from obesity, acne, rotting teeth, and high cholesterol at very young ages, because of lack of exercise and poor dietary habits. Today, my friends, there is the same temptation facing God’s people in regard to diet as was faced by Daniel in Babylon; it is called the Standard American Diet. The first letter of each of the three words Standard American Diet reveals its quality—SAD.
It is sad to see fast food restaurants like McDonalds, Burger King, and Carl’s Jr. in nearly every city in America, feeding the people the diet of Babylon. Donuts and coffee, junk food, ice cream, and animal flesh are the staple of the American diet. Is it any wonder why over half of Americans are considered clinically obese?
Paul warned his brethren in Romans 12:1, 2, concerning the condition in which they were to keep their bodies. “I beseech you therefore brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” In these two verses there are three points on which I would like to elaborate: First, is it possible to “present our bodies a living sacrifice unto God”? The Bible says, “this is our reasonable service.” Second, Paul not only pleads with us to do this, but also warns us not to be conformed to the world. Beloved, have you considered that being conformed to the world includes our eating and looking like the world, not only in our dress, but also by our physical appearance? Third, Paul admonishes us to be renewing our minds that we may prove, or demonstrate, God’s acceptable and perfect will to mankind. Oh, friends, as those who claim to be God’s remnant church, we need to know that “a close sympathy exists between the physical and the moral nature. The standard of virtue is elevated or degraded by the physical habits. Excessive eating of the best food will produce a morbid condition of the moral feelings. And if the food is not the most healthful, the effects will be still more injurious. Wrong habits of eating and drinking lead to errors in thought and action. Indulgence of appetite and spiritual powers.” Counsels on Diet and Foods, 62
Paul understood the close sympathy between the physical, the mental, and the moral nature. The Spirit of Prophecy gives us a most solemn declaration on page 63 of the same book. “It is impossible for you to increase in spiritual strength while your appetites and passions are not under perfect control….The brain nerve energy is benumbed and almost paralyzed by overeating.” My dear Adventist friends, please stand up and take notice. “The brain nerves which communicate with the entire system are the only medium through which heaven can communicate to man and affect his inmost life.” Testimonies, vol. 2, 347
In order to have a clear mind, there must be good circulation of the blood. The blood carries nutrients and oxygen to all of our body tissues and organs; and when we eat a high fat diet, the blood becomes thick and the circulation is impaired. A high fat, high cholesterol diet and lack of exercise are two of the contributors to heart disease, the number one killer in America. In fact, in 1987, C. Everett Coop, the Surgeon General of the United States, announced publicly that of the 2.1 million people who die in this country every year, 1.5 million are dying from diet related disease. Also, on July 1, 1992, The American Heart Association declared, “Lack of exercise is a major health risk factor for heart disease, ranking it with smoking, high cholesterol and high blood pressure. A poor diet and lack of exercise will affect your circulation. If your circulation is not good, your brain will be affected—and the mind is the only organ by which heaven communicates with man.
As we return to the story of Daniel, we read, “Daniel’s clearness of mind and firmness of purpose, his strength of intellect in acquiring knowledge, were due in a great degree to the plainness of his diet in connection with his life of prayer.” Testimonies, vol. 4, 515, 516. “The plainness of his diet” consisted of “pulse” and “water.” He refused flesh foods and wisely chose a vegetarian diet and pure water. Interestingly, this is the diet that John the Baptist ate in his preparation for the immense trials ahead. He ate locust and honey and drank the pure water of the hills. Both of these men of God, in preparing for the tests ahead, ate, in their most natural state, the simple foods…provided—quite the contrast to the rich diet of Nebuchadnezzar. Both of these men followed the diet instructions that God had sent through their parents, a diet that Harvard Medical School reported on in April 22, 1991, saying that eating red meat daily increases colon cancer risk and men eating low-fat high fiber diets, much less red meat, and more vegetables, were 33-50% less likely to get polyps than men on high fat, low fiber diets. Science is fast coming of age. Research is pointing clearly and consistently to a vegetarian diet being the best for men today.
Daniel, in his determination to remain faithful to the laws of health, requested a ten day trial of only pulse and water. He was granted his request, and while Daniel and his companions ate of the simple diet, others of the young men ate of the king’s dainties. He strictly followed principle rather than the demands of a powerful earthly potentate. By Daniel’s obedience to the laws of God, which included the laws of his being, he was a fitting example of “children in whom was no blemish.”
In the Old Testament sanctuary service, the sinner could bring a lamb as his offering, a lamb without blemish. In Deuteronomy 15:21, we read, “And if there be any blemish therein, as if it be lame, or blind, or have any ill blemish, thou shalt not sacrifice it unto the Lord thy God.” The sacrifice had to be flawless or it was rejected. After all, the sacrificial lamb was to represent “the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.” 1 Peter 1:19
Is it possible to present our bodies to God, holy, acceptable, and without blemish? This was a question that I pondered for some time. I was familiar with 1 Corinthians 15:53, which says that when Christ shall come “this corruptible must put on incorruption.” How then could I, with poor eyesight and a bad back, present myself to God a living sacrifice without blemish? My physical imperfections will most likely be with me until my change comes. As I prayed and searched for an answer to this dilemma, God revealed it to me. I found the answer in the following passages from the Spirit of Prophecy: “In the ancient Jewish service it was required that every sacrifice would be without blemish. In the text we are told to present our bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable, unto God, which is our reasonable service. We are God’s workmanship….There are many who are educated in the sciences, and are familiar with the theory of the truth, who do not understand the laws that govern their own being. God has given us faculties and talents; and it is our duty, as his sons and daughters, to make the best of use of them. If we weaken these powers of mind or body by wrong habits of indulgence of appetite, it will be impossible for us to honor God as we should.” Christian Temperance and Bible Hygiene, 15
“God requires the body to be rendered a living sacrifice to Him, not a dead or dying sacrifice….All should be very careful to preserve the body in the best condition of health, that they may render to God perfect service.” Counsels on Diet and Foods, 21
“Our first duty, one of which we owe to God, to ourselves, and to our fellow men, is to obey the laws of God, which include the laws of health.” Ibid. In fact, if “I violate the laws God has established in my being, I am to repent and reform, and place myself in the most favorable condition.” Medical Ministry, 230. And finally, “sanctification is not merely a theory, an emotion, or a form of words, but a living, active principle, entering into the everyday life. It requires that our habits of eating, drinking, and dressing be such as to secure the preservation of physical, mental, and moral health, that we may present to the Lord our bodies—not an offering corrupted by wrong habits but—‘a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God.’” Counsels on Health, 67
Here was my answer. My duty to God, in presenting myself without blemish, is to keep my body in the very best condition as possible and to obey the laws of health! Ellen White writes, “Christ looks at the spirit, and when he sees us carrying our burden with faith, his perfect holiness atones for our shortcomings. When we do our best, he becomes our righteousness. It takes every ray of light that God sends to us to make us the light of the world.” Letter 33, 1889. Jesus atones for my shortcomings and becomes my righteousness as I do my best; that is, by the grace of God, I live up to all the light that he has revealed to me. Beloved, are you obeying the laws of your being: Are you exercising regularly and eating a diet that is to be of the most simple kind? Are you obeying the light that our Lord has so graciously given to us on health reform—modern manna from heaven? We claim to be God’s remnant church; and as the Jews were to have an advantage because to them were committed the oracles of God, we, the Seventh-day Adventist people, have been entrusted with these oracles again. They not only contain the light on the Ten Commandments, but also the light on the laws of health. “It is a duty to know how to preserve the body in the very best condition of health, and it is a sacred duty to live up to the light which God has graciously given. It we close our eyes to the light for fear we shall see our wrongs, which we are unwilling to forsake, our sins are not lessened but increased. If light is turned from in one case, it will be disregarded in another. It is just as much a sin to violate the laws of our being as to break one of the Ten Commandments, for we cannot love the Lord with all our heart, mind, and soul, and strength while we are loving our appetites, our tastes, a great deal better then we love the Lord.” Testimonies, vol. 2, 70. My friends, this is our reasonable service.
It is interesting to note that the words reasonable service can also be translated from the original Greek, “religious worship.” Also, it is no coincidence that sanctuary language is used in Romans 12. To present ourselves to God a living sacrifice, to keep our bodies in the very best condition, is part of our religious worship to him. Remember, health reform is one branch of the word to fit and prepare a people for the coming of the Lord. As Daniel obeyed the health laws, he experienced greater physical stamina and an increased power of endurance. As he obeyed the laws of health, he was blessed with wisdom and understanding. His mind received the renewing and God could then fill Daniel’s undefiled temple with the fullness of His Spirit. It was then that the obedient, self-sacrificing man of God was blessed with the gifts of the spirit—visions and dreams.
Friends, are we loving our appetites a great deal more than we love the Lord? Are we spending as much time praying and studying as we are eating and drinking? Are we practicing the eight laws of health that we can be fit vessels undefiled and filled with the holy Spirit to demonstrate to a dark world all the light that God has entrusted to us? Are we accepting with readiness the light that God has blessed us with on health, or are we compromising with the diet and lifestyle of Babylon? Are we waiting for the baptism of the Holy Spirit, the latter rain, while we present to God our bodies as an unacceptable, blemished sacrifice?
What if Daniel and his companions had made a compromise with those heathen officers and had yielded to the pressure of the occasion by eating and drinking as was customary with the Babylonians? That single instance of departure from principle would have weakened their sense of right and their abhorrence of wrong. Indulgence of appetite would probably have involved the sacrifice of physical vigor, clearness of intellect, and spiritual power. One wrong step would probably have led to others, until, their connection with Heaven being severed, they would have been swept away by temptation.” Sanctified Life, 23
Friends, I cannot emphasize enough the importance of obedience to the laws of health. Again and again, I am finding statements from the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy that the physical, mental, and spiritual are interrelated, and many times in this order. If the physical body is not being kept in the best condition, the mind cannot be renewed and the spiritual discernment becomes impossible. As in the paragraph above, notice the order of events: “physical vigor, clearness of intellect, and spiritual power.”
In Daniel 1, the experience of Daniel and his three friends, in strictly following the laws of health passed their first test; and the four young men were thus fitted for the extreme trials ahead. In Daniel 3, their second test included the command to bow down to the image of gold or to be tossed into the fiery furnace. The third test is recorded in Daniel 6, where a firm decree was established, “that whosoever shall ask a petition of any God or man for thirty days, save of thee, O king, he shall be cast into the den of lions.” Daniel 6:7. Did Daniel compromise with the demands of the Babylonian leaders? Brothers and sisters will you stand when you are commanded to worship the mark of the beast or be killed? Will you obey the dictates of man when you are commanded to forsake the law of our God, the Sabbath? Our obedience to the laws of health will determine whether we will obey God or man! Remember, this was the first test for Daniel, not the last. The words of the prophet are clear, “the controlling power of appetite will prove the ruin of thousands, when, if they had conquered on this point, they would have had moral power to gain the victory over every other temptation of Satan.” Counsels on Diet and Foods, 59. “The reason why many of us will fall in the time of trouble is because of laxity in temperance and indulgence of appetite….Nine tenths of the wickedness among the children of today is caused by intemperance in eating and drinking. Adam and Eve lost Eden through the indulgence of appetite, and we can only regain it by the denial of the same.” Temperance, 150
The life of Daniel, a man in whom was no blemish, is on record for our admonition to whom the end of the world is come. By beholding Daniel, I realize the full potential that we may become in Christ—a people without blemish, a people who “stand without fault before the throne of God.” I know that I will not be eight feet tall if I am alive when the Lord comes; but this I do know, that “our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit, and if we fail to do all we can to place the body in the very best condition of health, we are robbing God of the honor due to Him frosm the beings He has created.” Medical Ministry, 295
Beloved, may our prayer be that by the grace of God we may “come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” Ephesians 4:13. May our prayer be that we will be this church, “the children in whom was no blemish.”