In this series, we have been studying The Consecrated Way, which is the sanctified way, as outlined in 2 Peter 1. It is found in climbing Peter’s ladder, working our way up round by round. Each time we take a step up, we find ourselves being called to a grander, nobler purpose in the plan of God.
Called to a Higher Calling
If those of us who are Christians had been climbing this ladder all along in our experience, long ago we would have reached a point when Jesus could have come, and we would be in glory. (See Evangelism, 695.) But we are still here, which tells me that there is still need for us to be exhorted, through the Scriptures, to the higher calling that God has given to us.
“Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance . . . .” 11 Peter 1:4–6.
What is temperance? Normally when we think about this word, the first thing that comes to our mind is the counsel to stay free and clear of the consumption of alcohol and of tobacco. But the concept of temperance goes much farther than just these two things.
It covers the full gamut of lifestyle; it calls for us to exercise the choice of our will for right or for wrong. Looking at Vines’ New Testament Dictionary for the meaning of the word temperance, we find that it comes from a Greek root word that means strength, and that makes good sense. Those of us of the older generation, who have kind of reached the pinnacle and are going down the other side, know that we suffer from a loss of strength. We are not as strong as we used to be. My mind tells me that I am sixteen. My body tells me something entirely different. The problem is trying to reconcile those two things together to where we live a balanced life. God has the answer for a balanced life. It is found in the word temperance, meaning strength. How are you going to expend your strength?
The development of the word beyond the root meaning is that of self-control. In the conflict between the forces of good and evil, it is extremely necessary that we, possessing the sinful nature that we do, exercise self-control, by God’s grace. The various powers that God has given to us in the area of the physical, the mental, and the spiritual are capable of abuse.
The right use of these powers demands the controlling of the will under the operation of the Spirit of God. Temperance, when it is rightly exercised, allows the development of character to take place and allows us to become, through the precious promises that God has given, partakers of the divine nature.
Putting this all into the context of our text, we see that temperance follows knowledge. This suggests to us that what is learned, and temperance is learned, should be put into practice. The Bible is filled with narratives which portray both the positive and the negative aspect of being temperate.
We will look at two individual examples in Scripture—Samson on the one hand, Daniel on the other. Samson was a man for whom God had great plans. He was called to serve God at a time when the spiritual level of Israel was dragging in the dust. The Philistines had overrun their nation; they were sniping them from every corner, harassing, causing them problems in every way, and Israel was weak.
Of themselves, Israel had little temperance. They had little strength. They had no power to overcome the Philistines. God called a man to be the example of self-control and strength, but he became a total wreck of humanity. So that which God intended should achieve grand and noble purposes and prepare the way for the Messiah to come, never really came to fruition.
God, the Pediatrician
During this time of apostasy, when there was wide-spread, national declension, there were a faithful few who were pleading with God for deliverance from oppression. In the course of time, God responded to their needs with this great man of strength. The Lord very carefully instructed his parents on how they were to prepare themselves, as well as the child, in habits of temperance.
“And the angel of the Lord appeared unto the woman [Samson’s mother], and said unto her, Behold now, thou art barren, and bearest not: but thou shalt conceive, and bear a son. Now therefore beware, I pray thee, and drink not wine nor strong drink, and eat not any unclean thing.” Judges 13:3, 4.
This is the instruction that God gave to the parents in preparation for the child that would come. This woman was barren, and in Israel, that was a shame. I have discovered that every time God has a plan for something marvelous to take place in the way a child is going to come into being, He closes the womb so that there can be no question in the mind but that God has His hand in the matter and that the instruction given should be carefully followed.
He tells this woman, Prepare yourself; you are going to have a child. Leave the wine bottle alone, and stay away from barbecues. It is still good instruction today. The baby was born and grew up, and the mother instructed the child to follow the ways of the Lord. Unfortunately, as happens too much of the time, the child did not continue in the habits of temperance.
But I Want Her!
Instead, we find that he went down into the town called Timnath, and there he fell where he should not fall. “And Samson went down to Timnath, and saw a woman in Timnath of the daughters of the Philistines. And he came up, and told his father and his mother, and said, I have seen a woman in Timnath of the daughters of the Philistines: now therefore get her for me to wife.” Judges 14:1, 2.
Where did it really start? When he went to Timnath? No. He fell when he failed to follow the counsel that his parents had received at the hand of God. “Now therefore get her for me to wife.” Ibid. I do not care what your counsel is; I want this woman! How much self-control is being displayed here? None!
There was no respecting his parents’ wishes. They took the instruction that was given, but they decided to take their own course. They did not want to offend this child, apparently their only child, a spoiled child, an indulged child, a child who, from an early age, had no self-control. “Then his father and his mother said unto him, Is there never a woman among the daughters of thy brethren, or among all thy people, that thou goest to take a wife of the uncircumcised Philistines?” Verse 3.
Did Samson say, I really need to think this thing through; I do believe there is probably someone who would fit the bill? No! He had no temperance, no self-control, no strength. “And Samson said unto his father, Get her for me; for she pleaseth me well.” Ibid.
Timnath was a city located in the territory of Dan, a tribe that lost out totally in the kingdom. Dan did not follow the instruction of the Lord, or they would be numbered among the faithful tribes. Timnath was inhabited by Philistines. What were the Israelites to do as far as the Philistines were concerned when, coming out of Egypt, out of the wilderness experience, they moved into the land of Canaan? They were to destroy them. (See Deuteronomy 4:37, 38; 7.) They were to move in and take total possession and dispossess the heathen. But they settled down instead, so when little Samson grew up, he found this Philistine girl. They began to eat and drink and make merry together and Samson’s self-control was no where to be found.
Led Into Total Darkness
Eventually a point was reached in which Samson lost every bit of his strength. His eyes were put out, and he was left in bondage to the enemy of God. Do you know why such a story as this is in the Bible? That story applies to us right now, and it tells us our end, if we have no greater self-control than did Samson. The devil led him down an alley where it was total darkness.
If you think that happened only in the days of Samson, you had better think again, because if you give the devil an opportunity, he is going to lead you down an alley into total darkness too. Your eyes will also be put out, in bondage to the enemy of God. The story goes that, while Samson was in darkness, he had time to reflect. He began to review his life, and he said, I need to make some changes; I need to repent of my sin. I need to confess to God.
He repented, and God restored his strength long enough for him to make an attack against the Philistines and to destroy the temple in the process. But it cost him his life. If you have ever had a hesitation about whether there is a God in heaven Who cares about you, Who is working on your behalf, then you need to read the story of Samson as found in Judges 13 and 14 and then read Hebrews 11.
Samson is listed in the victors’ hall of fame. A man who went into total darkness and yet, through repentance, confession, and restoration, was honored by God. He destroyed the temple, but the grand and noble future that the Lord had planned for him never happened, because he could not control himself. He failed to practice temperance.
God’s Health Laws
No doubt Samson lost his keen sense of right and of wrong when he first began to dabble with that which was forbidden to him. God made every provision, instructed his parents before his birth: “The angel’s prohibition included ‘every unclean thing.’ The distinction between articles of food as clean and unclean was not a merely ceremonial and arbitrary regulation.” Patriarchs and Prophets, 562.
Today, there are those who try to tell us that this health business is just arbitrary and ceremonial, but it has its authority in the Bible! It was “based upon sanitary principles. To the observance of this distinction may be traced, in a great degree, the marvelous vitality which for thousands of years has distinguished the Jewish people.” Ibid.
The Jews are still benefiting today from those health laws that God gave a long time ago. “The principles of temperance must be carried further than the mere use of spirituous liquors. The use of stimulating and indigestible food is often equally injurious to health, and in many cases sows the seeds of drunkenness. True temperance teaches us to dispense entirely with everything hurtful and to use judiciously that which is healthful. There are few who realize as they should how much their habits of diet have to do with their health, their character, their usefulness in this world, and their eternal destiny.” Ibid.
That is a powerful statement! The apostle Paul, speaking of these instances that took place in the Old Testament, stated, “Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.”
1 Corinthians 10:11. Do you believe that we are in the time of the end in the world? Then these things apply.
On the other side, those of you who realize how much your habits of diet have to do with health, character, and usefulness in this world, can be found applying the knowledge of the Scripture to bring about positive development.
A Bible character, who exemplifies all the attributes of temperance in his life, is Daniel. Before we look at the chapter where we find this story, let us look at Daniel 12. Daniel, of course, is the only book that has been sealed, and it tells us so. “But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased.” Verse 4.
On Peter’s ladder, add to knowledge temperance. “And he said, Go thy way, Daniel: for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end.” Verse 9. The book of Daniel is not just a historical book about the life of Daniel. It is a book that has special meaning for us in these last days, particularly down near the end of time.
This book was to be sealed until the time of the end. Its meaning and its most profound application did not come into play until the time of the end, but when the time of the end arrived, the meaning exploded, literally around the world.
“In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah came Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon unto Jerusalem, and besieged it.” Daniel 1:1. Do you have the feeling that Israel constantly repeats history? There is a reason for it. “And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, with part of the vessels of the house of God: which he carried into the land of Shinar to the house of his god; and he brought the vessels into the treasure house of his god. 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 skillful 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.” Verses 2–4.
Already diligent habits had been brought to the surface by certain captive individuals who were gifted in many areas. They had health; they had character development, and they had usefulness in the world. And the king said, When you find these youth, bring them to me. Out of all of this class, at least four individuals came to the top.
Verse 6 says, “Now among these were of the children of Judah, Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah.” And we find that early in their experience in the court of Babylon they began to undergo a change: “Unto whom the prince of the eunuchs gave names: for he gave unto Daniel the name of Belteshazzar; and to Hananiah, of Shadrach; and to Mishael, of Meshach; and to Azariah, of Abednego.” Verse 7.
But new names were not all that the Babylonians wanted to impress upon these young men. They wanted to change them entirely, to give them not only new names, but also new food. Verse 5 says, “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.”
I wonder what those who ate the provisions looked like at the end of three years. “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.” Verses 8, 9.
Daniel purposed in his heart; he won the favor of the eunuchs’ supervisor, and he came out on top. “There are many among professed Christians today who would decide that Daniel was too particular, and would pronounce him narrow and bigoted. They consider the matter of eating and drinking of too little consequence to require such a decided stand,—one involving the probable sacrifice of every earthly advantage. But those who reason thus will find in the day of judgment that they turned from God’s express requirements, and set up their own opinion as a standard of right and wrong. They will find that what seemed to them unimportant was not so regarded of God.” Counsels on Diet and Foods, 30.
A Peculiar People
“Our habits of eating and drinking show whether we are of the world or among the number whom the Lord by His mighty cleaver of truth has separated from the world. These are His peculiar people, zealous of good works. God has spoken in His word. In the case of Daniel and his three companions there are sermons upon health reform.” Testimonies, vol. 6, 372.
There are only two ways put forth in the Bible as far as life is concerned—there is the right way and there is the wrong way. The Bible knows no other way. It is either all right, or it is all wrong. There is no gray area in Christianity. We like to believe that there are gray areas. This is why we are where we are right now. We convince ourselves that it does not really matter.
The prince of the eunuchs tried to tell Daniel that there was a gray area. Daniel said, No, as far as I am concerned, there is no gray area. I have had people tell me, Well, you know, I am not a bad person; I do not do this, and I do not do that, naming sins that are obviously wrong. It may well be true that they do not do those things, but if they are not surrendered completely to the Lord Jesus Christ, they can be just as lost as is someone who does all the things they have not done.
If we are doing what we know is wrong, there is no neutral point. That is just where the devil wants us to be. He will keep moving us farther and farther away from the Lord, just like he did Samson. He did not take Samson down to Timnath when he was five years old. The seduction of Samson took a long period of time. Perhaps Samson climbed the hill and stood looking down at the city for a while, every day moving just a little bit closer to temptation, until he was in the city. And he found a woman who pleased him, and he said to his parents, Get her for me; she pleases me well.
Satan Plays to Win!
You do not just pick up and go home when you decide that the game is over. Not in the devil’s court. He does not play the game that way. He plays for keeps, and once you have come into his court and started to play his game, he immediately claims you as his own, and you do not just get up and go home. He has played with a lot of people like you before. When the game was over, he had them bound up so much in his way of fun that they wanted to go back for a repeat performance. Finally they lost their perspective as to where home really is, and they are just as happy in the devil’s house as they were in their own home.
“As the Lord co-operated with Daniel and his fellows, so He will co-operate with all who strive to do His will. And by the impartation of His Spirit He will strengthen every true purpose, every noble resolution. Those who walk in the path of obedience will encounter many hindrances. Strong, subtle influences may bind them to the world; but the Lord is able to render futile every agency that works for the defeat of His chosen ones; in His strength they may overcome every temptation, conquer every difficulty.” Prophets and Kings, 487.
There is no area so big that we cannot get a handle on it—if we allow the Lord to work.
There is a real key in the Scripture concerning the area of temperance in proper eating and drinking. It is found in Matthew 24:37, 38, where Jesus talks about what it is going to be like in the last days: “But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark.”
They were eating and drinking in apparent abandonment. Self-control was forgotten. We all need to eat and drink every day in order to maintain health, strength, life, and happiness, but self-control is the problem for many of us. That is the reason why the Lord mentions the days of Noah.
Do we need to be reminded that God has a plan? He has given us, as Seventh-day Adventists, a health message. He has given us Scripture that rehearses for us the positive and the negative influences of our eating habits. The most important aspect of the health message is character development—having strength of mind to make right choices, so we have power in the brain to understand where God would have us be.
That is the reason for the health message. It is to produce healthy bodies, which have healthy minds, which are able to comprehend the truth for this hour of earth’s history. Otherwise the mind will be so clouded that truth will fly right by and never be realized.
One of the great thrusts the devil is making in the last throes of this earth is against our minds, and it comes through eating and drinking the wrong things. That is why God’s end-time prophet, Ellen White, wrote about the health message. We must read and study her books, so the message of temperance can be realized in our lives.
Drive down any street. Notice the billboards. They have very seductive, welcoming commercials of abandonment to fleshly appetites. Think of the television commercials. Probably 90 percent of the commercials make an appeal to the appetite.
Do you know why they do that? Because the advertising is successful. They get people to go out and buy the product that they are advertising, and it dumbs them down. The brain goes. The Spirit of Prophecy says that all of this prepares the way for drunkenness. I believe that means more than just the consumption of alcohol. (See The Ministry of Healing, 334; Testimonies, vol. 4, 578.)
Daniel took his stand for God, conscientious and righteous even in little matters of his food and drink, and this laid a ground work for developing a character which would pass untarnished and unscathed through 70 years of political life.
Daniel went through 70 years without one blemish or one tarnished spot in his career or in his personal life. Daniel’s decision was not a mere whim or strange notion of an extremist. His conscience was enlightened by the Word of God, which is the only safe guide for us to have.
Our minds are the only link that we have between ourselves and heaven. Do not think for a moment that the devil does not know that also. He is going to do everything that he can to ruin the plan of God. What we eat either builds the mind or tears it down. If it tears it down, it gives Satan free access, and we do not even realize it.
“I’m Okay—You’re Okay”
Satan comes in on the sly and begins to control, and all the while we are satisfied that we are all right and that everything is under control, never realizing that he is pulling the strings. Can we afford to allow such a thing to happen this late in life, this late in earth’s history? Are there areas in which we need to reform?
We can never use as an excuse that we did what we did because of what someone else did. We need to think for ourselves. We need to be moved by the spirit of God, not by what others think of us. This is what Daniel did. This is why he had such a noble record.
A Crisis is Coming
In these last days we are going to be faced with a crisis called the Mark of the Beast. Do you think it is possible that temperance can play a part in the issue of the Mark of the Beast? I would suggest that it will. Think about it for a minute. A crisis is coming. We have been warned about it. Eating and drinking the way that God has commanded is part of that preparation.
“And beside this . . . add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance . . . .” 2 Peter 1:5, 6.