Doug Batchelor - Babylon's Buffet
In 1629 the emperor of India, Shah Jahan, went on a military campaign to crush a rebellion in his kingdom. Even though she was ill and pregnant, his wife joined him on the grueling journey. On the way she collapsed, gave birth to their daughter, and then died. The beautiful empress was only 39 years old. Beside himself with grief, the emperor carried his wife's body home and constantly wore white robes of mourning. When he finally came out of seclusion, he ordered that a beautiful palace be built for his beloved wife. It was never to be called a tomb; it was to be called by the Indian word, Mahal, meaning palace. The palace that the emperor built is one of the most breathtaking structures ever built. A dazzling wonder of marble and Jewels known today as the Taj Mahal. This majestic tomb is an abiding memorial of the emperor's love for his wife. Did you know that God has also given believers an eternal memorial of His creative power of love? It's built not in marble but in time, and it can change your life. So, let's dive into together now and explore this important and fascinating subject.
We're going to start with a story that you find in the Bible in the book of Daniel, chapter 1, and it's called Babylon's Buffet and this is based upon Daniel 1, verses 1 through 21 - it's a whole chapter. Now Daniel is a book that deals a lot with prophecy, but it's interesting how the book of Daniel begins with a test. About 500 years before Christ, King Nebuchadnezzar invaded Jerusalem, and on his first attack on the city he carried away thousands of prisoners from Jerusalem to Babylon and among those he carried away were some of the princes of Jerusalem. Some of them, the Bible foretold, were descendants of King Hezekiah. And they were taken and they were educated in the palace of Babylon. And the king said, 'Look, we're going to teach you the language of the Babylonians' - he took the brightest and the best looking of all the royal children back to Babylon and he said, 'I’m going to train you in all the sciences of Babylon,' - which was the most sophisticated place in the world at the time - 'and after three years, those who passed the test - the cream of the crop - will stand before me and they will be representatives to these other nations.' Nebuchadnezzar was really a very smart leader and he had great counselors and this was a wise plan.
So among some of the thousands that were carried from Jerusalem were four Hebrew young men. Their Jewish names were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. Babylonian names were Belteshazar, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. And Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego went to this school, but then they found out that they were going to be required to eat from the royal cafeteria. Now most captives would have been thrilled. All the other students from the other parts of the world Nebuchadnezzar conquered - they were thrilled that they got to eat at the Babylonian buffet. It was supposed to be the best food in the world, but right away Daniel and his friends realized they couldn't eat that because there was food in there that God had designated as unclean.
And it says in Daniel 1, verse 8, "But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king's delicacies, nor with the wine which he drank;" - so Daniel went to the chief of the eunuchs, which was in charge of the preparation and their training, and he said, 'Let us just eat vegetables. Give us ten days.' And you'll find the King James word there is 'pulse' - some of your translations it just says vegetables - and he said, 'Oh, I can't do that.' - he says - 'The king's going to look at you and say, 'How come these young men are sick?' and I’m going to say, 'Well, they're not eating the food that you provided.' 'What? My food wasn't good enough for them?' And he said, 'He'll take my head off.' Daniel said, 'You test us. Give us ten days. If we don't look okay, fine.' So, for ten days they ate nothing but vegetables. They ate vegetable stew and a vegetarian diet - drank water - and the Bible says - Daniel 1, verse 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 king's meat." They were healthier than those who were eating from the cafeteria of Babylon.
Now why does the Bible include this story? The Bible says that when Nebuchadnezzar had them tested - probably by himself as well as his other wise men in the kingdom - they found that among all the captives that had been trained, Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah were ten times wiser - ten times wiser - than any of the others who had trained. Being a Christian is not just about a change in your thinking. Being a Christian is an entire transformation and 'Whatever you eat and whatever you drink, do all to the glory of God It does make a difference what you do with your body. Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. And a truth that has been lost in recent years to Christianity - both Protestants and Catholics and Evangelicals - is a very clear biblical teaching that we are to take care of our bodies. We are to be careful. We are to use self-control and especially is that important when we're living in a society that is drowning in abundance.
#1 - What was the original diet that God designed for humans in the beginning? We're going all the way back to Genesis now - first chapter in the Bible, Genesis 1:29, and God said, 'Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed,'" - and that's talking about every plant. And it goes on to say, "...and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.'" - and that word 'meat' there is the old English word. It means 'food' - it's like the meat of a nut - it just means 'the food'.
So the original diet for Adam and Eve was what? Fruits, grains, nuts - it was a 'fruitarian' diet. They probably didn't even cook any food back there. How long did God intend for Adam and Eve to live when he first made them? Forever. And then, after sin, God added one more thing to the diet because He said, 'You can't eat from the tree of life any longer.' After Adam and Eve sinned it says, 'What supplemental food did God then add to their diet?' Genesis 3:18, it says, "...thou shalt eat the herb of the field." that means the vegetable. But a vegetable is technically - oh, let me give you a test and find out - fruit or vegetable - banana? Fruit. Apple? Zucchini? Fruit. Eggplant? Fruit. Brussels sprouts? Inedible. Brussels sprouts are actually a vegetable. Celery? It's a vegetable. Potato? It's a vegetable.
So any part of the plant other than the seed and the product of the flower - a fruit is the product of the flower - is going to be a vegetable - the stalk, the leaves, the flowers - those are all considered to be vegetables. The root - you know, they're tubers - a potato. So He added that to the diet and there were all kinds of important enzymes and things in there. So there are benefits - there's no question that there are benefits to eating a vegetable-based diet.
For awhile, people thought that Seventh-day Adventists were kooks, but I don't know if you read the National Geographic a couple of years ago. It said - they picked out the three longest living people in the world. Did you know that? You can go look this up. Number 1, there were people in Sardinia in - off of Italy in the Mediterranean, the people of Okinawa, and the Seventh-day Adventists, principally in the Loma Linda area where they have a university and there's a large concentration. They studied them. They lived the longest of any people groups in the world.
And when they asked why do these people live longer, they said, 'Well, Seventh-day Adventists - it's the community, the rest from the Sabbath, and they're largely - not entirely, but largely - a vegetarian lifestyle - healthy lifestyle. And so, what we're sharing with you is not some religious belief, this is hard, scientific fact - that if you eat - the closer to the biblical diet that God prescribed, the longer you're going to live, the better you're going to feel, the less disease you're going to have. In the manual He tells you what the ideal diet is for man, and following that diet will certainly make you feel better. I'll share a little more personally with you as we proceed.
What does the Bible say, more specifically, about eating? Are there some mammals - some foods that are clean and some that are unclean? You know, Daniel said he wouldn't defile himself with the meat which the king's servants were eating. What mammals does God permit humans to eat? That's question #9. You look in Leviticus 11, verse 3, it tells us that there's two criteria that are supposed to be on a mammal that is going to be eaten. It says, whatever does what? Parts the hoof, and is cloven footed - and chews the cud - these are clean. Now, that would mean that goat, sheep, deer, elk, moose, these things are what you would call 'clean' animals. But then he goes on to say some things that may chew the cud - like a camel - but it doesn't have a cloven hoof. It needed both criteria - they're unclean.
I know some of you are probably thinking, 'Oh, Doug, you tell me I have to get rid of my camel steak tonight after the program.' Yes. That's why Jesus made fun of the Pharisees. He said, 'You're hypocrites. You strain a gnat' - what He meant by that was they used to pour their water through these straining cloths - they said, 'Lest we have a gnat in there and it's unclean.' They would strain their water to prevent eating a gnat, but when no one was looking they'd eat a camel steak, which was unclean, biblically. He says, 'You strain a gnat and you swallow a camel.’ You ever heard that expression before? That's what He's talking about. He's saying 'You're hypocrites. You know camel is unclean but you're so afraid of a little gnat and when no one's looking you eat camel steak.' If you're going to eat meat, it needs to have those two criteria - be cloven hoofed and chew the cud.
Now there are some of you who are thinking, 'Well, pastor Doug, but didn't - aren't humans designed to eat meat and isn't that why God gave us these, you know, canine teeth for the ripping and tearing of meat?” See this character on the screen? He's got canine teeth too. He's a vegetarian. So it's just - there's all kinds of myths out there. Matter of fact, the animal with the biggest teeth is an elephant and hippo - they're all vegetarians. So, people say all kinds of, look at what happened biblically when - before the flood, you can see - of course there was lots of vegetation back then - you've got Methuselah - 969 years, Noah - 950 years, Seth - 912 years. Immediately after the flood it drops down to 500 years, 200 years, Abraham - 175 years, Jacob - 147 years, David 70 years. And David said, 'Now our years are three-score and ten.' That's about 70 - as an average. And he said, 'If, by reason of strength, it's four-score' - that's 80 - he said, 'It's still with much pain and suffering.' And so our time is limited.
But you know what happened after the flood? All the vegetation was destroyed. Noah was told to take the clean animals on the ark by sevens - unclean just two. Why? If they were allowed to eat the unclean animals there would be a lot more extinct species, right? They would have eaten them during the flood. But you're only allowed to sacrifice the clean animals. What types of fish and seafood are considered clean, biblically? Leviticus 11, verse 9, "These you may eat of all that are in the water: whatever...has fins and scales," - it needed both characteristics to be clean and the reason for that was there's a lot of strange things that are out there in the ocean and some of them are poisonous.
You know, the U.S. Navy did a study a few years ago where they said, 'What do we give, as a rule of thumb, to sailors or pilots that are shot down - if they need to eat seafood while they're floating around on these rafts?’ Because during World War II a lot of them, they didn't know what they could and couldn't eat. They spent millions of government dollars. They did a study and you know what they came back with? This is what the Navy study concluded: if it has fins and scales it's probably safe to eat. They could have saved so much money and just read what the Bible said.
Now you can read on there in Leviticus and it says there in Leviticus 11, verse 10, "But all in the seas or in the rivers that do not have fins and scales," - that means rivers, seas, lakes - all the other water creatures - "that do not have fins and scales, all that move in the water or any living thing which is in the water, they are an abomination to you."
Why doesn't God want us to eat certain things? These animals - crabs, lobsters - you know how they catch them? They're scavengers. They put some decomposing fish head in a trap and they are made by God to be the garbage cans in the world to clean the environment. They eat all the toxins. Clams - they soak up all the toxins. We have one president that died from eating contaminated oysters. And these things are just - they're not healthy. Shrimp - when they serve shrimp, they serve it complete with the intestines - are still - the digestive track is still in there. That's not God's - that stuff's not good for you. There's - down in the bottom of the bay where you get the oysters and the clams are all the toxins. They're - these animals are made by God to filter and help clean the environment.
Same thing with certain birds that are considered unclean. Which birds are unclean? In Leviticus 11, verses 15 and 16, it says, "Every raven after its kind, and the owl, and the nighthawk, and the cuckow...after its kind," - the raptors and the carnivorous birds were considered unclean. The clean birds - there's not a rule like fins and scales - but the clean birds were the foraging birds - turkey, the chickens, pheasant, so forth - they would be clean.
Are the laws about clean and unclean animals part of Moses' ceremonial law which ended at the cross? This is what some people think. Genesis 7, verses 1 and 2 - some people say, 'Oh, those are laws just for the Jews' - those clean and unclean laws. Was Noah Jewish? Let's read this together: "...come thou and all thy house into the ark...of every clean beast thou shall take to thee by sevens." So does God make a distinction between clean and unclean animals even before there were any Jews? Quiz: How many of you are related to Noah?
That's right! Everybody here - and so if God made it - this is a test. I don't know if any of you managed - your ancestors survived the flood, besides Noah - everybody here is related to Noah. God made a distinction - these are things that were for mankind - you can see it going all the way back to genesis. Should a Christian, biblically, use alcoholic beverages? Some churches would say, 'Sure, what's wrong with that? Jesus drank wine.' It was not alcoholic, it was grape juice. The Bible says - Proverbs 21 - and the Bible doesn't contradict itself - "Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging" - it's talking about fermented wine here - "and whoever is deceived thereby is not wise." The Bible says 'Give wine to him that is ready to perish.' The Bible tells us that Noah drank wine and he stumbled around naked and something embarrassing happened. Lot's daughters gave their father wine and he slept with his daughters.
Good things do not happen when people drink alcohol. Christians should not underwrite that. And you might be saying, 'Pastor Doug, I just have, you know, a little bit of wine once a week. Just a little - I have no problem - I don't have a drinking problem.' That may be, but are you aware that one out of seven people does have a drinking problem? Alcohol is addictive. Do we all know that? Some people - it just wrecks their lives. It wrecks their marriages. It wrecks their careers. It wrecks their health. There will be people in Heaven that smoked. I want to make it clear. There are going to be people that drank alcohol - Martin Luther drank beer. I don't think they understood back then what we understand. The man who wrote Amazing Grace, John Newton, he smoked. Do you know, back when he smoked, doctors actually prescribed tobacco for asthma. Can you imagine that? How many of you knew that? Yeah, but we know better now. Cigarettes are the number two leading cause of death - preventable cause of death - in North America - tobacco. It makes you prematurely age. It'll make your voice raspy and makes your clothes smell funny. Tobacco - there's nothing good about it. There's no nutritional value and it costs a fortune. When I was a kid it was twenty-five cents a pack. Man, I can't believe what people pay for a pack of cigarettes now. You can buy a new car after quitting for a couple of years.
Are the Bible health principles still practical today? Now we're going to go through a list of several Bible principles and these are health principles and you are going to be surprised how much of the world, now, is realizing these are basic health laws - they're all in the Bible. First of all, quarantine procedures control contagious disease. With this Ebola discussion, what are they talking about? Look at the incredible lengths they're going to to maintain a sterile environment and quarantine procedures. In the Bible, God gave that. He said if someone is unclean, they need to wash, they need to stay outside the camp, they're contagious - there's all kinds of laws about contagion. They understood this in the Bible.
Number two - basic thing, again, connected with Ebola - if these things were being practiced in some of the countries - it says human body waste should be buried. Now, I know, it may not be pleasant to think about that, but if you've traveled - many parts of the world I go to, even in big cities, they still don't have regular sanitation and - I know, it would shock you. And I won't name those countries because I don't want to offend anybody now, but way back in the Bible, even going through the desert, God gave them certain rules about that.
C - Washing - regular washing of the body and clothing controls germs. You know, that's in the Bible? They had to regularly wash. Even as they went through the wilderness, God always made sure they had a water supply. Moses would strike the rock and water would run out and this river seemed to be reproduced and followed them wherever they went in their journeys so they could not only drink, but so they could wash. And frequently it talked about washing. The Bible tells us that a lot of disease could also be prevented, as we know today, by moral living. It prevents sexual diseases. Leviticus 18; Proverbs 5, verses 1 through 12 and many other verses. There are a number of sexually transmitted diseases and some people have received fatal infections because of immoral lifestyle.
Answer E - Another Bible principle about health - animal fat should not be eaten - not only fat, but blood. You know, disease can be transferred from animal to animal. You don't catch a disease from a plant. You might get poison ivy - but disease can be transferred from animal to animal and He says we should not eat blood. By the way, New Testament/Old Testament, both say blood is forbidden. Acts 15 - read it yourself - no question about it. Some people say, 'These are Old Testament laws.' it's repeated in the New Testament.
F - Another principle - hatred and bitterness is detrimental to one's health. Some people are sick, not just because of what they're eating, but because of what's eating them. And having anger and bitterness in your heart - stress - it really does cause health problems.
G - Proverbs talks about overeating is bad for your health. It's one thing to eat honey, it says don't eat too much. And you can even eat too much of good things. And sumo wrestlers usually don't die of old age because it's just, obviously, not good.
H - Our bodies need proper rest. Psalms 127, verse 2 and Mark 6:31 - The Sabbath is all about that - getting plenty of sleep.
Answer I - The importance of work. Not only does it say rest the seventh day, it says six days thou shalt what? Work.
Answer J - A positive attitude is good medicine. The Lord wants us to have good atti - a happy heart is good like a medicine. And even when I teach some of these difficult truths, you know, I think we sometimes need to be able to smile because life is tough enough. Is God concerned with our physical health? ‘I think God's only concerned with spiritual things.' Is that what the Bible teaches? Matthew 4:23, "And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and" - doing what? "Healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people." Does the Lord care about our health? Yes. And He, many times, will miraculously heal people.
Sometimes sickness comes just because of genetics, sometimes sickness comes because you're exposed to someone else who is sick, there might be some environmental problem but, you know, the majority of sickness in our country is self-induced because of lifestyle. You know why there's a health-care crisis and the medical institutions are bankrupt and so expensive? Because of our lifestyles, in particular in the western cultures, because the rich life, the lack of exercise, and the abundance, people are bringing on diseases early in life and then they are struggling with these diseases for many years and it's causing catastrophic expenses. We'd be able to put a lot of hospitals out of business if we'd just follow the Bible. 3 John 2, "Beloved, I wish above all things" - God says, 'above all things.' - "that you may" - what? - "prosper and be in health," - How? "just as your soul prospers."
So what kind of level does He put it on? I want health - physical prosperity - and I want spiritual prosperity. Now, if you can only pick one, pick the spiritual because what profit is it if you have perfect health and you're a terrible sinner? It's not going to save you for eternity. But God says, 'You know, when you've taken care of the spirit, make sure and take care of the body because having your mind clear and your body healthy makes it easier to serve God - to resist the devil and do God's will.
Another one - John 10:10 - It says, I have come that they may have life, and" - and what kind of life does He want us to have? - "...more abundantly." You see the fellow in that picture? His name was Banana George. He is skiing barefoot - I've done that. That is very, very hard for a young man to do - he is, I think, 80 years old in this picture. He continued skiing until 92 - didn't even start skiing until he was in his forties. He loved bananas and that's why he always wore yellow. He passed away way up in his 90s in 2013, but I always was fascinated by that picture.
Here's a picture someone just gave me this year. This is someone - Karen and I were pastors of this church in Northern California and one sister, last time we saw her she was 106. At the time of this article - she passed away since - she was 111 then. And I remember I sat with her and her brother-in-law and his wife - her name was Viola Cook - in their home and I would eat with them. They had delicious vegetarian food - she was a vegetarian her whole life. And I remember her brother-in-law - I used to say, 'Art, how do you guys have such great health and strength?' Here I was a young whippersnapper - I'd try and do work for them - I couldn't keep up with them. And I noticed he pushed away from the table. I said, 'You're done eating?' He said, 'Here's the secret to life, Doug. Stop eating while you're still a little hungry. Wake up when you're still a little tired. And stop talking when you still have something left to say. So that's the secret to happiness in life.
Why is our health so important to God 1 Corinthians 6:19, "...your body" - and verse 20 - "is the" - what? "The temple of the Holy Spirit...therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's." Again, Romans 12:1, "...present your body a living sacrifice" - how? - "holy and acceptable to God which is your reasonable service." God says, 'Look, you've been - you're made in God's image, you belong to God you are to present, not just your spirit, but present your body. You know, we worship God not just with our minds, we worship God with our lives and whether you eat or drink, whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.