And the men of Israel had been hard pressed that day, so Saul had laid an oath on the people, saying, “Cursed be the man who eats food until it is evening and I am avenged on my enemies.” So none of the people had tasted food. Now when all the people came to the forest, behold, there was honey on the ground. And when the people entered the forest, behold, the honey was dropping, but no one put his hand to his mouth, for the people feared the oath. But Jonathan had not heard his father charge the people with the oath, so he put out the tip of the staff that was in his hand and dipped it in the honeycomb and put his hand to his mouth, and his eyes became bright.
Then Saul said to Jonathan, “Tell me what you have done.” And Jonathan told him, “I tasted a little honey with the tip of the staff that was in my hand. Here I am; I will die.” And Saul said, “God do so to me and more also; you shall surely die, Jonathan.” Then the people said to Saul, “Shall Jonathan die, who has worked this great salvation in Israel? Far from it! As the Lord lives, there shall not one hair of his head fall to the ground, for he has worked with God this day.” (1Sa 14:24-27,43-45)
This will be my last post in this series looking at the symbolism of honey. I have deliberately left this one until last, and given it a great deal of thought. Whilst what follows is certainly not the only, or even the most obvious exegesis of this passage regarding Jonathan's tasting of the honey (and I have drawn other lessons from it myself) I believe there is an important lesson concerning the word of God and how we receive it.
The word of God is living and active. It is not static; it is not a text book. This means that it always has more to teach us. Whilst the cannon of scripture is closed - we do not expect any new scriptures, or any new truths - this does not mean there will not be new revelation. New revelation is different from new truth. All truth about God is eternal, it cannot by definition be new. However, no-one has a complete revelation or understanding of God. When our eyes are unveiled (or brightened) to see something new (for us) from God's word, we have received fresh revelation by the Spirit into eternal truth.
The problem is that man always has a tendency to try and institutionalise the truth of God. To make formulas and constructs of human wisdom that act as a wineskin for the revelation of God. This in itself is not a bad thing, until those who grow up in these "institutions" become more attached to the wineskin than they are to the reason it was constructed, or the wine it contains. Thus when a "new vintage" comes along, one that will not fit with their beloved constructs, traditions, practices - they would rather reject the new revelation of God, and run-out the men who bring it, than to have to adapt and change to accommodate it.
Such has always been the way, even before the Scriptures were complete. Each generation of God's people rejoiced in the legacy of the prophets of past generations, whilst rejecting, despising and persecuting the prophets who spoke to them in their own time. Even Jesus himself was rejected in this way:
We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from. (Jn 9:29)
Church history is full of the same warnings. Those who begin in the power of the Spirit and/or a new conviction of truth from the Holy Scriptures, become in the passage of time just another institution with its own traditions and values which they hold to more dearly than the principle of pursuing the revealed truth of God's word no matter what the cost which drove their original founders.
"There was never any thing by the wit of man so well devised, or so sure established, which in continuance of time hath not been corrupted." ~ Thomas Cranmer [Founding figure of the Church of England]
Even in the early church this tendency had begun. Thus Paul's uncompromising words to the Galatians:
Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? (Gal 3:3)
Saul was such a man. He began well, in a powerful anointing of the Holy Spirit, leading God's people to victory over that which held them captive. But then he tried to establish and consolidate his victory in the flesh. He became jealous and hostile towards those who carried the anointing of God, and made his own rules that God had no part in that prevented the people receiving the food they needed.
Yet even in such a situation, God causes fresh honey to spring up along the path for those who are bold enough to taste it.
It was the people of God who were the final judge this day, because the old rules and ways of the flesh did nothing for them. But the man whose eyes had been brightened with the fresh revelation of God, was the one who led them into victory, the way the old man once had.
The lessons are clear. Because the "institution" we are a part of was in the cutting edge of God's plan in the past, is no guarantee it is today. Or indeed, because we are part of a fresh revelation of God's purpose today, is no guarantee that the "institutions" we are a part of today will still be manifesting the life of God in the years to come. God cares nothing for the institutions of man or the monuments they leave behind. He only has one church, one people, however they are distributed or fragmented. What he cares about is those who will live according to all that continues to be revealed from his wonderful word of truth.
He doesn't need another denomination - what he wants is a people who all have the sparkle of fresh honey in their eyes.
But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, which shines brighter and brighter until full day. (Pr 4:8)
"God has yet more light and truth to break forth out of his holy Word." ~ John Robinson 1620