Chasing Fads

The prophet Ezekiel had to act out many of his prophesies. Think performance art. This ranged from being stuck lying on one side for months at a time (Ezekiel 4:4-8), to laying siege to a brick (4:1-3), to God making his wife die, while instructing him not even to mourn, just so he could serve as an illustration of what it would be like for the Israelites when the temple in Jerusalem was desecrated by the Babylonians (Ezekiel 24:15-27). Then, you have this:

“Take wheat and barley, beans and lentils, millet and spelt; put them in a storage jar and use them to make bread for yourself.” (Ezekiel 4:9).

This verse has been ripped from its context and then employed as an excuse to sell Christians a “health food,” something called “Ezekiel 4:9 Bread”. You just know it has to be good and healthy if God told his prophet to eat it.

Um, yeah.

Of course, the rest of the passage is conveniently ignored:

You are to eat it during the 390 days you lie on your side. Weigh out twenty shekels of food to eat each day and eat it at set times. Also measure out a sixth of a hin of water and drink it at set times. Eat the food as you would a loaf of barley bread; bake it in the sight of the people, using human excrement for fuel.”

The LORD said, “In this way the people of Israel will eat defiled food among the nations where I will drive them.”

Then I said, “Not so, Sovereign LORD! I have never defiled myself. From my youth until now I have never eaten anything found dead or torn by wild animals. No impure meat has ever entered my mouth.”

“Very well,” he said, “I will let you bake your bread over cow dung instead of human excrement.”

He then said to me: “Son of man, I am about to cut off the food supply in Jerusalem. The people will eat rationed food in anxiety and drink rationed water in despair,for food and water will be scarce. They will be appalled at the sight of each other and will waste away because of their sin. (Ezekiel 4:9-17)

Clearly, the bread Ezekiel was instructed to prepare was supposed to be the worst, most horrible stuff imaginable. It was described as “defiled” food. I doubt that the manufacturer of “Ezekiel 4:9 Bread” actually cooks it over human excrement, let alone cow dung. And of course the peddlers of Ezekiel 4:9 Bread miss the whole point of what the bread really was: the dregs that desperate, starving people under siege could scrape together off the floor and bottoms of baskets and bins.

And then, as if that were not enough, along comes Genesis 1:29 Bread–apparently another attempt to pander to the faithful. This bread is supposed to be based on Genesis 1:29:

Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food.

And so this product is stuffed with 18 different kinds of grains and seeds.

Yes, I’m sure making an expensive loaf of bread was the entire purpose of that verse.

Likewise, I don’t think much of the Daniel Diet, which is based on Daniel 1:8-16:

But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way. Now God had caused the official to show favor and compassion to Daniel, but the official told Daniel, “I am afraid of my lord the king, who has assigned your food and drink. Why should he see you looking worse than the other young men your age? The king would then have my head because of you.”

Daniel then said to the guard whom the chief official had appointed over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, “Please test your servants for ten days: Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then compare our appearance with that of the young men who eat the royal food, and treat your servants in accordance with what you see.” So he agreed to this and tested them for ten days.

At the end of the ten days they looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food. So the guard took away their choice food and the wine they were to drink and gave them vegetables instead.

Of course, the only reason Daniel and his friends ate the way they did is because they didn’t want to “defile” themselves. That is, they wanted to keep kosher! By eating only vegetables they avoided the issue of what kind of meat they might have gotten, such as pork or unclean birds, or who knew what. The reason Daniel and his friends were healthier and better off than the others who ate the king’s food is because God performed a miracle, not because they were suddenly eating “healthy.” The diet Daniel and his friends ate is no more something to practice than hopping in a den of lions or walking in a fiery furnace is to be a regular practice for modern Christians. Again, Daniel and his friends survived because God performed a miracle. You’re not supposed to “go and do thou likewise.” Sure, if you want to go on a diet, lose weight, exercise, bake organic multi-grain bread, that’s well and good. But do you have to misuse a Bible passage and paste it on your product or diet plan to make it worthwhile? Perhaps it’s simple superstition: if we put a Bible verse on it, God will have to bless it. Like wearing a lucky shirt, rubbing a rabbits foot, or wearing a specially blessed pendant will make your life turn out swell.

As I watch people chase after the latest thing, whether food or diet, new approach to church growth, God’s plan to escape debt or improve your finances in some special, fancy God way, I’m reminded of something James wrote:

So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. (Ephesians 4:11-16, emphasis added)

One would hope that Christians, of all people, could avoid being carried along by one fad after another. But sadly, the church is filled with fads and those who chase them.

Jesus said,

I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. (Matthew 10:16)

Sadly, all too often, Christians are actually as shrewd as doves and as harmless as serpents. No wonder the author of Hebrews wrote,

We have much to say about this, but it is hard to make it clear to you because you no longer try to understand. In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil. (Hebrews 5:11-14)

Maybe I should talk to our congregation. I’m sure we could use some more money, so maybe we can hop on the bandwagon and start our own profitable fad: First Commandment Bread!


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About R.P. Nettelhorst

I'm married with three daughters. I live in southern California and I'm the interim pastor at Quartz Hill Community Church. I have written several books. I spent a couple of summers while I was in college working on a kibbutz in Israel. In 2004, I was a volunteer with the Ansari X-Prize at the winning launches of SpaceShipOne. Member of Society of Biblical Literature, American Academy of Religion, and The Authors Guild
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