This world is fraught with wonders large and small. Often we find ourselves so anxious and discontent with every day life that we shift restlessly hoping for the next vacation, weekend, or getaway. We fork over the cash to go see the wonders of the world, and yet we miss the wonders right in front of us, if we but had the taste buds and eyes to taste and see that the Lord is good (Ps. 34:8) in ten thousand ways right in front of us.
To illustrate this I want to weave together two things. The first is an Old Testament battle, the second is a honey and a bee-hive. There is a battle, recorded in Scripture, of the Israelites vs. the Philistines. Saul is the current king, and as we would expect from Saul, he makes a rather hasty and rash decision and declares that “Cursed be the man that eateth any food until evening, that I may be avenged on mine enemies.” The verse continues and tells us, “So none of the people tasted any food (1 Samuel 14:24).” Saul makes a rather spiritual sounding vow, and then compels the whole army to refrain from food that day. Now, here’s the folly of this vow, if you are weakened physically, you’ll likely be defeated. If you don’t eat, you’re sure to die, no matter how spiritual not eating sounds. Many of us fall into the same pitfall; we speak nobly of battling and fighting for the truth and we say that “real” Christians do such and such, don’t do this, don’t say that, and certainly don’t go there. I remember reading some advice from Spurgeon to young preachers, and in essence he said, “Go take a walk outside every now and again.”
I take this to mean, don’t become so consumed with pursuits that seem spiritual while neglecting to actually live. Yes we ought to be praying, fasting, studying the Word of God diligently, and consecrating ourselves to ministry and service for the kingdom of God. However, it is not more spiritual to fast than it is to eat a nice meal with some family and friends. In fact, if you are fasting merely for the sake of appearing more serious and spiritual, your fasting is going to be your downfall.
Which is why this story, in 1 Samuel 14, contrasts Saul’s feigned “super-spirituality” with Jonathan’s genuine spiritual devotion. In fact, while Saul is waxing eloquent on the virtues of not eating on the day of a battle, Jonathan is, well looky here, battling (1 Sam. 14:14). Then when Jonathan rejoins the main force (after he and his armor-bearer defeated an entire Philistine garrison single-handedly), the army marches through a wood, “and there was honey upon the ground. And when the people were come into the wood, behold, the honey dropped; but no man put his hand to his mouth: for the people feared the oath. But Jonathan heard not when his father charged the people with the oath: wherefore he put forth the end of the rod that was in his hand, and dipped it in an honeycomb, and put his hand to his mouth; and his eyes were enlightened (1 Samuel 14:25-27).”
This is an incredible contrast of two different sorts of Christians. The first variety could be called the Ho-hummers; they know that they should tithe, pray, read the Bible, fast, serve, worship and other such spiritual things. Saul is the archetypal Ho-hummer; he tells the army, “Hey, anyone that is really serious about being spiritually healthy ought to be praying 16 hours a day, reading the Bible 10 times a year, giving away 110% of their income, attending every church potluck, not to mention eating organic and voting Republican.”
Jonathan is of a different variety. He’s what I would call a Holly-Jolly Christianity. He is actually living a lifestyle of constant preparedness and boldness in the battle as 1 Samuel 14:6-14 describes. Thus, when they are marching off to battle, rather than joining in the folly of such a rash vow, Jonathan sees a wood full of honey (which is an incredible thing in the first place) as a small blessing of provision from God. Faith reaches forth its rod, and partakes of the nourishment, and as a result the eyesight of faith is enlightened. It says of the rest of the people, “the men of Israel were distressed that day.”
This passage got me thinking about actual honey and beehives, and so being a curious fellow, I decided to look up some facts about honeybees. Here are a handful of the most fascinating ones:
- It takes 5000 “flower-visits” to make one teaspoon of honey.
- Bees collect 66 lbs of pollen per year, per hive.
- Bees account for 80% of all the plant pollination which insects aid.
- The queen bee lays 2000 eggs A DAY, and she can live up to 5 years.
- The female worker bees can live up to 4-9 months during the winter months. But, when summer comes, their work really begins. The average hive swells in population and there can be up to 80,000 bees during the summer months. During these months of high intensity business, the female worker bee lives only 6 weeks, because they literally work themselves to death.
Now, what does this have to do with our study of Saul and Jonathan? The ho-hum version of Christianity would look at a wood, dripping with honey (and remember that it takes 5000 flower visits to make one teaspoon of honey, just imagine the magnitude of work that it took to fill this wood with honey all over the place), and think how spiritually superior it is for not eating the honey. Holly-Jolly Christianity wonders and rejoices at the fact that God moved upon tens of thousands of bees, unfolded thousands of flowers, and provided the army with, literally, a lake of honey for their sustenance and strengthening.
The Holly-Jolly Christian doesn’t pretend at battle, he lives in the thick of the battle! The Ho-hummer feigns spiritual seriousness, but is really only sucking sour lemons. Our danger is not that we are too serious, but that we are serious about all the wrong things. Saul was dead serious about not eating anything on the day of battle, but only a few chapters later we see him violating his own law against wizardry (1 Sam. 28:8). Many Christians read their Bible everyday, but never stick forth their rod to taste of its sweetness. They are more concerned with getting their three chapters read than finding the glories of Christ revealed in the Word. They have sworn to read through the Bible ten times a year, but in so doing they walk through the wood full of honey and miss the nourishment that is found their. They have sworn to give 10% to the church, and they forget that God doesn’t need our money he wants our life.
A Lewis quote, which I’m fond of repeating, says, “Joy is the serious business of heaven.” Christianity is dead serious, but it is dead serious about enjoying the goodness and the glory of God; yes that does mean shedding tears in the prayer closet, it sometimes means fasting from earthly food to gain a greater sense of spiritual things, it does mean faithfully reading the Word of God. But more than just doing these duties, it means doing these things for the sake of enjoying and delighting in the sweetness of Jesus Christ. Don’t be a Ho-hummer, all serious about all the wrong things; let God shape you into a robustly serious Holly-Jolly Christian!