THESE DAYS we are bombarded by the media about the necessity of having a healthy diet. There are hundreds, perhaps thousands, of diet and healthy food plans to be found in magazines and on the Internet, for anyone who desires to lose weight or is health conscious. There are the “super foods”, which we are told will improve and maintain our health because they contain all manner of beneficial vitamins and chemicals which our body needs.
The flip side of this is that if we don’t care what we eat, abusing our bodies by solely eating junk food, or merely eating “the wrong foods”, our bodies will suffer and we may even shorten our lives! It is important we maintain a good diet to keep healthy, such as eating five portions of fruit and vegetables per day, or other similarly reputable diet plans.
However, there is another diet from which we will gain great benefit, which will ultimately result in our living for ever! This diet can only be found in the Bible, which is the Word of God.
Daniel and His Companions
In the book of Daniel we have one of the first mentions of diet. We have the account of Daniel and his three companions Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, in their captivity in Babylon. They refused to eat the food and drink sent to them from king Nebuchadnezzar. ‘Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the king’s food, or with the wine that he drank. Therefore he asked the chief of the eunuchs to allow him not to defile himself’ (Daniel 1:8). The chief of the eunuchs was afraid for the health of Daniel and his companions because of his request not to eat of the king’s food (v. 10).
Then Daniel said to the steward whom the chief of the eunuchs had assigned over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, “Test your servants for ten days; let us be given vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then let our appearance and the appearance of the youths who eat the king’s food be observed by you, and deal with your servants according to what you see.” So he listened to them in this matter, and tested them for ten days. At the end of ten days it was seen that they were better in appearance and fatter in flesh than all the youths who ate the king’s food (vs. 12–15).
It was the faith of Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah which brought this good health upon them. They trusted in God and didn’t want to be fed food that had probably been offered to Babylonian idols and was thus defiled. The four were affected in a positive way by their diet, which was far healthier than the king’s portion as given to the rest of the young men. We can be quite certain that the Lord God was behind the amazing result of their simple diet of vegetables and water.
Ultimately, Daniel who loved God and who was ‘greatly loved’ (Daniel 9:23) was promised in the final verse of the book that he would be resurrected to eternal life in God’s Kingdom: ‘Go your way till the end. And you shall rest and shall stand in your allotted place at the end of the days’ (12:13). Certainly, Daniel received great benefit by being obedient to God’s commandments.
The Word of God
During the temptations of Jesus in the wilderness he quoted from Deuteronomy 8:3 and said, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God’ (Matthew 4:4). In fact, Jesus countered all three of the temptations which came to him in the wilderness, by quoting Old Testament verses. In Matthew 4:7 he quotes Deuteronomy 6:16 and in Matthew 4:10 it is Deuteronomy 6:13. Jesus used the Word of God as a weapon to combat the temptation to disobey God’s commandments. The Word of God is described as ‘the sword of the Spirit’ (Ephesians 6:17), and as Jesus showed, it is the best defence in times of temptation.
The Word of God is also the means of our spiritual sustenance. A healthy person has a healthy appetite, whereas a sick person has little or no appetite. It is possible to gauge a person’s spiritual health by the state of their appetite for the Word of God; how much do they read it, how important is it to them in their lives? Conversely, someone who has little appetite for the Word and godly things in general, will be spiritually unhealthy.
Food for a New Life
At baptism we symbolically die and rise again to a new life (Romans 6:3–5). We are then described as ‘putting on Christ’ (Galatians 3:27) and adopting a new spiritual outlook, very different from the “old self”.
We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin (Romans 6:6).
When we rise out of the water of baptism, we are figuratively raised to a new life leading to the Kingdom of God—God’s Way. We find the letters of the New Testament full of valuable advice and guidance on how we should ‘walk in newness of life’ (v. 4).
An essential part of this new life is to ensure we don’t spiritually starve, so that our new life withers away. In Jesus’ parable of the sower we are shown just how this can happen (Luke 8:5–15). We need to be spiritually nourished and built up, starting immediately we commence our new life in Christ. It is vitally important for our spiritual well-being that we are nourished by the food that really matters—the Word of God—and by putting it into practice. As the Apostle Paul taught his young fellow- believer, Timothy:
If you put these things before the brothers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, being trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed… while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come (1 Timothy 4:6, 8).
This is not to say we shouldn’t look after ourselves, or that we should neglect our physical health. It is a matter of putting our spiritual health first. This is the diet that really matters, and it is the only one that ultimately will provide us with unbounded good health, because it will give us life for evermore in the Kingdom of God.
Grahame A Cooper