Sweet as Honey
“Every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name’s sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life” (Matthew 19:29).
by David Rice
Jesus’ closing prayer for his disciples included his request that they join Jesus himself in heavenly glory. When Jesus audibly expressed this prayer, the disciples would not have comprehended the grandeur of his request, the remarkable privilege that those words portended for them and all future followers of Christ. “Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovest me before the foundation of the world” (John 17:24).
Peter had once asked Jesus, “Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed thee, what shall we have therefore?” His reply was in the text heading this article. Remarkably, it offered “everlasting life,” a privilege whose value is inestimable. But Jesus’ prayer expanded even this privilege so wonderfully, it was truly beyond the understanding of even his close followers.
Earlier that evening Jesus had told the disciples that he was going away, but would return at an undisclosed time later on, to take them where Jesus himself would be (John 14:3). “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” However, it seems from the interchange that they did not yet grasp that a heavenly home awaited them.
This privilege is so wonderful, that even now we entertain it without a full grasp. Faith tells us that God’s love has something wonderful for his children. More grand than we deserve. Each of our brothers and sisters of faith may share this goodness also. Some who may not appreciate us. Some whom we might not appreciate. A little reflection gives us pause.
The Sweetness of Our Calling
The words of Jesus in John 14:3, cited above, carry something sweet that we might overlook. Apparently there was a Jewish custom that when a young man proposed marriage to a young lady, “the suitor would then offer the woman a glass of wine. If she drank it, she would indicate that she was accepting his proposal” (google “Jewish Marriage Proposals”). Thereafter the young man would return to his father’s home, and no matter how elegant that abode, the young man would add something new, a place for his new bride as the opening of a new family. When ready, he would return at an unknown time to receive his bride (Matthew 25:6-10).
Jesus had passed a cup of wine at the last supper. Each of his disciples had accepted it. Then Jesus said he would go away, but come again to receive them to himself, that where he would be, they could join him. This calling reflects the sweetness of a proposal for marriage. And as Revelation’s symbols confirm, the Church will be the Bride of Christ.
If you are consecrated, you have accepted the most wonderful offer one can imagine. If you are not consecrated, that offer is pending. Is the character of our heavenly Bridegroom appealing to you? Then, we advise, accept the cup that is tendered (Song of Solomon 2:3-5).
Honey from Heaven
One of the delicate symbols of the Old Testament is honey, representing the delightful sweetness of our heavenly calling. For the Israelites in the wilderness, led by Moses, God provided manna from heaven which they were to gather daily, except that on Friday they gathered twice as much, to cover their needs for the Sabbath when they rested from the work of gathering. The manna was something new, reflected even in the meaning of the name, which is “what is it?” — “manna.”
“When the children of Israel saw it, they said one to another, It is manna [margin, “what is this?]: for they wist not what it was. And Moses said unto them, This is the bread which Jehovah hath given” (Exodus 16:15). They marvelled at the taste of this new food. “It was like wafers made with honey” (Exodus 16:31). A wafer is the symbol used in Leviticus 8, in the consecration of the priesthood, to represent the privilege of our heavenly calling. “A wafer represented our hope and faith in the exceeding precious promises of glory, honor, and immortality” (Tabernacle Shadows, page 46).
But notice the taste description — like “wafers made with honey.” What delightful symbolism. Who could not relish their daily manna, like “wafers made with honey”? That is our portion, our daily reminder of the joys awaiting us beyond the vail. When we are younger, the time of this grand benefit seems notably distant. With the advance of years, it begins to seem near. If we think of our daily experiences like wafers made with honey, even our trials can be more readily accepted.
However, even this lovely heavenly manna, our sustaining hopes of glory above, fellowship with God, Jesus, and devoted saints, day after day, can become common. With familiarity, the appeal can diminish. Some time later, in Numbers 11:6-9, the same manna, with the same lovely taste, became monotonous to many Israelites. No longer did they view it the same. Now they complained, “Our soul is dried away: there is nothing at all, beside this manna” (Numbers 11:6).
They continued to use it. “The people went about, and gathered it, and ground it in mills, or beat it in a mortar, and baked it in pans, and made cakes of it: and the taste of it was as the taste of fresh oil” (Numbers 11:8). But where was the pleasant sweetness? The same taste was still there. But they looked at it differently. So perhaps may we, through the common days of our life. We still recognize our daily heavenly manna as “the taste of fresh oil” — the sustaining influence of the holy Spirit — but it may lose its fresh sweetness.
Beyond the vail, the reward of the saints will be wonderfully sweet. Let the foretaste of our promised inheritance not grow dull for us. Let it lift our spirits even if our experiences are repetitive. Lessons in the School of Christ are sometimes mundane, sometimes challenging, sometimes repetitive. Value them as stepping stones to heaven.
Samson, a man of God and leader in the period of judges, is a picture of the Gospel Age church. His foibles and triumphs symbolize those of the Church during the Gospel Age. There are even seven episodes in his life that seem to parallel the seven periods of Church history.
At the beginning of Samson’s public career, as he travelled into the land of the Philistines, he came across the body of a lion that bees had used as a place for honeycombs. Samson observed this oddity, took some of the honey, and went on his way. Later he proposed it as a riddle to the Philistines:
“I will now put forth a riddle unto you: if ye can certainly declare it me within the seven days of the feast, and find it out, then I will give you thirty sheets and thirty change of garments … Out of the eater came forth meat, and honey out of the strong came forth sweetness” (Judges 14:12,14).
There is symbolism here for us during the seven days of the Gospel Age. If we can determine this riddle, we can secure a change of garments — justification through Christ. The number “thirty” respecting garments reminds us that the price of redemption presented at Jordan, yielded at Calvary, was the value of Jesus’ perfect human life, then considered fully mature at the age of 30 — the age of Jesus at Jordan (Numbers 4:3, Luke 3:23, Matthew 26:15, Zechariah 11:12).
The answer was finally forthcoming, “What is sweeter than honey? And what is stronger than a lion?” (Judges 14:18). The riddle, symbolically, is about Jesus. He is the “lion of the tribe of Judah” who died for us. From his death comes redemption — but for us during the Gospel Age, it means something more. For us, redemption in Christ also opens up a heavenly calling, the “honey” with all its wonderful sweetness.
This psalm speaks of the testimony of the stars about God. “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork … night unto night sheweth knowledge There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard” (verses 1-3). Paul refers to this testimony in Romans 10:18, by quoting Psalms 19:4, which he gives this way: “Their sound went into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world.”
Psalms 19:4,5 speak of the sun as a “bridegroom coming out of his chamber,” reminding us of our heavenly bridegroom, which brings the focus to the Gospel Age. In verse 7, “The law of Jehovah is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of Jehovah is sure, making wise the simple.” If we attend to the principles of the Law — not the letter, but the spirit (2 Corinthians 3:6) — Paul says this enables us to be ministers, ambassadors for Christ, “as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God” (2 Corinthians 5:20). In other words, Psalms 19 connects to the Gospel Age work of redemption.
In verse 8 the “statutes of Jehovah” rejoice the heart, they are pure, and enlighten our eyes. Reverence for him is “clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of Jehovah are true and righteous altogether” (verse 9).
Now notice the symbolic connections in verse 10, where godly precepts will lead us. “More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.” Gold is a common symbol for the reward of the saints in glory, and here honey, the glorious sweetness of our heavenly calling, is added to the symbolism.
Let us cherish the principles of God for their intrinsic value, beauty, and worth. Someday everyone will. They will cherish them forever, they will be the fixed governing principles of humanity. But in the present time, they bring us hopes of glory so remarkable we can scarcely grasp their richness and sweetness — like gold and honey.
Jonathan’s Eyes Brightened
1 Samuel 14 recounts a narrative about Jonathan, son of Saul. Jonathan was a friend of David, and a man of strong faith. He died with his father Saul, who was less faithful. It seems that Saul represents Israel of the Jewish Age who lost their position when they did not embrace Jesus as Messiah. But Jonathan, strong in faith, perhaps represents some of the Ancient Worthies whose experiences also closed out with the end of the Jewish house.
Verses 26 and 27 speak of a time when Saul, Jonathan, and the armed forces they led, were in active service, when “the people were come into the wood, behold, the honey dropped … Jonathan … 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.”
Saul had rashly commanded that no one eat until the conquest was complete. Jonathan had not heard the order, so he took of the honey innocently, and was strengthened by it. Perhaps here also honey represents the lovely prospects of the teachings brought by Messiah, Jesus, to Israel at the close of the Jewish Age. The leaders of Israel rashly forbad people from the sweet teachings of Jesus. But those of faith who received them had their eyes enlightened. Perhaps Jonathan represents ones like John the Baptist, his disciples, and others like-minded, who heard the voice “of the bridegroom” and could say as John did, “this my joy therefore is fulfilled” (John 3:29).
No Honey on the Altar
Two ingredients common in the day were expressly not allowed to be given on the altar of the Tabernacle: leaven, and honey. “No meat offering, which ye shall bring unto Jehovah, shall be made with leaven: for ye shall burn no leaven, nor any honey, in any offering of Jehovah made by fire” (Leviticus 2:11).
Leaven is famously a symbol of sin. Sin is not acceptable as an offering to God. It is true that on the day of Pentecost two wave loaves baked with leaven were waved before God, showing that God does accept us even though we have residual sin. We are justified by redemption in Christ, so we are acceptable. We are purged from the propensity for sin throughout life, by our High Priest, Jesus. But still, residual sin is there, while we are in the flesh.
he other ingredient banned from the altar is very different: honey. Here we see represented our heavenly hopes of glory, the remarkable undeserved kindness extended to us, sweeter “than honey and the honeycomb” (Psalms 19:10). This God never asks us to sacrifice. The most valuable, wonderful, precious privileges imaginable — that is ours, our heritage, forever. We yield our mortal existence and its hopes and privileges on the altar (Romans 12:1). But the honey — that is ours. Forever. A gift from God.
The Pilgrim’s Path
“God will teach us of His ways, and we will walk in His paths” (Isaiah 2:3)
(From the ledger book of Br. John T. Read)
It may be thou art called to walk today
Amid earth’s shadows — that thy
Is dark, and long, and desolate, and drear,
Yet, Oh! Forget not that the Lord is near.
So very near, and O so strong to save!
Then let thy heart be calm, and stayed,
The one who walketh with thee in the Way
Is called the Mighty God. Then gladly lay
Thy sorrows and thy burdens all on Him
And He will carry them. No cloud can dim
The light of perfect love.
His thoughts towards thee
Have been naught else from all eternity.
’Tis but a little while, and thou shalt stand
Within the radiant, undefiled land
Of Christ the King. Be comforted, loved child.
He knoweth that thy path is rough and wild.
But what a weary, rugged path was his!
O, rest thee satisfied with that which is
His love encircling thee as heretofore,
His glorious presence with thee evermore.
Categories: 2021 Issues, 2021-March/April, David Rice