Surprise gift provides a sweet reminder of God's goodness
It's interesting how honey is made. If I were picking a living thing to produce something so sweet, it wouldn't be an insect. But God picked a bug.
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A good friend just did a very sweet thing, although the outcome may decrease my willingness to step on the bathroom scale in the next few weeks. Kathy sent me a gourmet honey collection — to die for!
It includes various creamed honeys, each infused with a flavor such as cinnamon or compotes of cranberry, apricot or blackberry. Blackberry is my current favorite; that is subject to change without notice. Even though I usually try to avoid eating sweets — at least when I'm at home — I'm feeling very Winnie-the-Pooh-ish as I open my little honey pots these days, and quite happy about it.
It's interesting how honey is made. If I were picking a living thing to produce something so sweet, it wouldn't be an insect. But God picked a bug. And if I had to choose an insect, it wouldn't be one that could cause so much pain with its stinger! Life is sweet, but hard. Life is hard, but sweet.
The Bible has a lot to say about honey. Jacob's sons took honey as a present to Pharaoh in Egypt during a famine. (Genesis 43:11) Manna was said to taste like wafers made with honey. (Exodus 16:31) The Promised Land was said to be flowing with milk and honey. (Numbers 14:8) John the Baptist's food was locusts and wild honey. (Matthew 3:4) And after his Resurrection, Jesus ate — you guessed it, honey! (Luke 24:42 — King James Version and New King James Version)
But in Psalm 81:13-16, we're told about honey in a most unexpected place. At the beginning of this section God says, "Oh, that My people would listen to Me" It ends with, "and with honey from the rock I would have satisfied you." How in the world did honey get into a rock?
Israel is a most rocky country, as Don and I discovered when we visited a few years ago. And apparently the bees in that region sometimes colonize and make hives in the clefts and crags of the rocks, or even in the trees that grow in the rocky soil.
I was thinking about that "honey-in-the-rock" verse as we rode an air-conditioned tour bus from Jericho to Jerusalem and watched the desolate, rocky stretch of landscape flash by our window.
I could just imagine how different things would've been in biblical times as some poor, weary traveler took the same route on foot — not in an air-conditioned bus! I could almost picture the scenario:
The traveler is exhausted, hungry and discouraged from the grueling, uphill journey. A broiling sun makes him feel faint so he stops to sip the water he has carried with him and to rest in the shade of some jagged boulders. His eyes wander disinterestedly at the monotonous landscape around him — it has been the same grays and browns for many miles and many hours.
Then suddenly, he spots something between two rocks, something he almost missed. A honeycomb! The traveler braves the bees and eagerly gathers some of its sticky sweetness. He smears it on his meager lunch of dried flat bread and begins to eat. With each bite, his energy level goes up. He licks his fingers and sighs with gratitude.
Yes, he still has far to go to reach his destination; the way to Jerusalem, the city of peace, is still uphill, rocky, and hard. But he knows he can make it. That little bit of honey, tucked in the rock, has renewed his resolve and given him strength!
Like that ancient traveler, most of us face stretches on our journey that are uphill, rocky and hard. But the farther I walk, the more convinced I am that God has tucked honey in the rock for us along the way.
If we take a second look, we'll find sweetness in hard and unexpected places. It might be a sincere word of thanks someone says about the same routine, unappreciated job you've always done, or the stranger who smiles and waves off the mistake you just made in traffic.
It may be hearing the laughter of neighborhood children as they romp through a pile of leaves on a crisp autumn afternoon. It could be the Bible verse that seems hand-picked just for you, the one that gives you a thick slice of hope when you read it on a hard day.
The "honey moment" might come when you just stop and thank God for the many sweet, overlooked blessings he adds to your daily journey: vision, hearing, mobility, freedom, friendships, family, books, coffee (and chocolate!), music, a place to live and food to eat — everything from furry pets who are always happy to see you, to starry nights that fill you with wonder.
Or it may even come in the form of an out-of-the-blue, for-no-special-reason, gift of gourmet honeys from a kindhearted friend who had no idea what a rocky path you'd walked that week. Sweet!
Jodi Detrick is a minister with the Northwest Ministry Network (Assemblies of God). She is also a public speaker, an author and a life coach. Readers may send feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org
Information in this column, originally published Oct. 6, 2012, was corrected Oct. 9, 2012. A previous version attributed to the Gospel of John a passage from Luke (24:42). The passage, as found in the King James Version of the Bible reads: "And they gave him a piece of a broiled fish, and of an honeycomb."