EPISTLE LESSON Hebrews 13:1-8
HEBREW BIBLE LESSON Psalm 81:1-8, 15-16
SERMON: “Show Me the Honey”
More years ago than I like to think about, when we were living about half-way between Ludington and Scottville, we made friends with a family who had – I guess you would call it an egg farm. Well, they had 8,000 chickens that produced something like 6,000 eggs every day. Gordon and his wife and their two children collected, washed, weighed and packed the eggs every day themselves with no hired hands to help. But it wasn’t quite enough business for them, so they started two other businesses on their property – The Fish Cellar (a pun because they set this up in their basement) and honey bees. I like honey, but bees are not my friend. I read the opening page of a book about keeping bees for honey. It said if you hear the word “bees” and think honey, you might do well in this business. But if you hear the word “bees” and think sting – forget it. That was me; I put the book down and never thought about beekeeping again. In all fairness to myself, it’s not just the pain of a potential sting, but along with an allergy to penicillin and keflex, I’m also allergic to bee stings.
Commentary on this 81st Psalm says, “God is in the honey business. We know this because our text says so: “With honey from the rock I would satisfy you” (v. 16). So, God has honey, and God wants to give us some.”
I steer clear of bees – absolutely, but I’m with our friend Pooh: Show me the honey! Great stuff! That bees are able to make honey comb with hexagonal wax cells, fill the cells with honey and then seal them with more wax is remarkable. How it is that bees make cells that are horizontally, but not vertically aligned is amazing.
Getting honey from a rock is not like getting blood from a turnip — it’s something that can actually be done. Bees can build nests and honeycomb in all kinds of places. But finding honey in a rock requires keeping your ears open. If you’re looking for an actual beehive in a rocky land, you must listen for the buzzing of the bees which helps you detect the location of a hive.
But finding honey from a rock as promised in Psalm 81 is only minimally about the honey itself. Here the honey is a metaphor for God’s blessings – sweet and delightful, and listening for God’s voice is what helps you find those blessings.
The reminder is there for a forgetful people, a people whose history goes up and down like a wild roller coaster ride, this is the God who brought his people out of slavery in Egypt. This is the God who has blessings for the people, just open your mouth and taste the sweetness. “But, complains the Lord, “my people would not listen to me; Israel would not submit to me. So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts to follow their own devices.”
Since the time of King David when many of the psalms were written, for some 3,000 years, God’s people have resisted the idea of obedience. Oh, it goes back further than that – Our first parents in the Garden of Eden were convinced that they knew better than God what they could and should do.
“My people would not listen to me,” says God, so God said, “Okay, do it your way. Be your own authority.” The implication is that the result will be far from satisfying.
If we want to find the honey, we have to listen. And if we want God’s blessings . . . we have to listen. The Hebrew word translated here as “listen” — shema — means “to hear intelligently (often with the implication of attention, obedience).”
We don’t like that obedience thing. After all, we are adults, grown-ups living in a land where freedom reigns and if the Bible says one thing, but when with all my years of experience and education and my intelligence that Bible doesn’t make sense to me, then it must be wrong. We think, “I will do what I think is right.” And then we wonder why we don’t have all of God’s promised blessings.
Most of know the poem called “Footprints,” that describes a dream in which a person is walking along a beach with God, leaving two sets of footprints in the sand. When the person looks back he notices that in the tough times, at the lowest and most hopeless moments of his life, there is only one set of prints. Why would God abandon him in those times. “During your times of trial and suffering, when you see only one set of footprints, it was then that I carried you.” It is a beloved poem because of the reassurance it offers that God carries us through the hard times.
Lon Waitman, in contemplating this whole thing about obedience to God, revisited the Footprints poem:
Footprints Revisited by Lon Waitman
One night I had a wondrous dream. A set of prints on the sand was seen.
The footprints of my precious Lord, yet mine were not along the shore.
But then a strange print appeared. I asked the Lord, “What have we here?”
This print is large and round and neat, but Lord, it’s just too big for feet.
“My child,” he said in somber tones, “for miles I carried you alone.
I challenged you to seek my face, take up your cross and walk in grace.
You disobeyed, you would not grow.
You would not stand against the flow.
Your neck was stiff, your ears were shut.
So there I dropped you – on your butt!
Because in life there comes a time when one must fight,
when one must climb,
When one must rise and take a stand – or leave one’s butt print in the sand.
13 ”If my people would only listen to me,
if Israel would only follow my ways,
16 . . . you would be fed with the finest of wheat;
with honey from the rock I would satisfy you.”
A video clip from worship films reminded me that when God calls us to do something, he often stretches us beyond our comfort zone. We are quick to say things like, “I don’t do mornings.”
“I don’t do nursery.” “
“I don’t do that tithing thing.”
“I don’t do youth ministry. I don’t do Sunday school. That’s just not my thing.”
Consider for a moment:
What if Noah had said, “I don’t do arks?”
What if David had said, “I don’t do giants?”
What if Mary had said, “I don’t do stables?”
What if Paul had said, “I don’t do Gentiles?”
What if Jesus had said, “I don’t do crosses?”
Shema means listen, not just “hear,” but listen with attention, with a sense of responding with obedience. The word “obey” is found 206 times in the Old and New Testaments. Add 38 more for the word “obedience.” We don’t really like that obedience thing, and yet it is central to finding an appropriate response to God. In Deuteronomy we hear Moses charge the people, to “be careful to do what the Lord your God has commanded you; do not turn aside to the right or to the left. Walk in obedience to all that the Lord your God has commanded you, so that you may live and prosper and prolong your days in the land that you will possess. (Deuteronomy 5:32-33) The Gospel of John records Jesus’ words: “If you love me you will obey what I command. (John 14:15) and “Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me.” (John 14:21) Paul wrote to the Christians in Philippi, “The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things and the God of peace will be with you.” (Philippians 4:9)
Remember WWJD bracelets and such – the initials standing for “What Would Jesus Do” reminding us to ask ourselves that question, especially in difficult circumstances.
I’ve got a new one for you --- YBSW – stands for “Yeah, But So What.” YBSW – Every time you read your Bible, attend a class, listen to a sermon, sing a hymn, pray a prayer, ask yourself, YBSW. Listen – shema – for what God is saying to you. Listen with attention to how God is calling you past your comfort zone to respond in obedience so that you will be filled with honey from the rock.
Show me the honey? The blessings of God follow obedience to God.
What is the honey? God invites us to join his family and live like the children of God — grown children, mind you, for it’s not a call to childishness. But it is a call to reflect the values of God’s family and of our heavenly parent.
Call it shema — or call it listening to God — or call it obedience — or whatever term best clarifies it for you. The result is having access to and being satisfied by sweet honey from the rock that is the Lord.