13.6.07

Milk from the flock

He [the Lord] made him [Jacob] ride on the high places of the land, and he ate the produce of the field, and he suckled him with honey out of the rock, and oil out of the flinty rock. Curds from the herd, and milk from the flock. (Dt 32:13-14a)

I finished my last post by proposing that milk and honey represent the word of God that comes to us, that addresses basic issues in our life, and causes us to grow onwards towards maturity.

When the Lord led the people out of Egypt he fed them with manna. This was food direct from heaven, and collected individually. However when the people entered the land the manna stopped. There was a new dynamic, one of milk and honey. It is no longer a sustenance that comes primarily direct from heaven, nor one that is applied to individuals in isolation; it is one that is from the flock for the flock.

It is important for us to realise that God has not just called us out of something, he has also called us into something. The people were not just called out of Egypt to wander in the wilderness being fed by the mercy of God by manna direct from heaven; they were called to enter Caanan to become an established people who would nourish each other with the milk and honey that would cause them to grow up into maturity.

Those who are baptised into Christ are baptised into his body. We do not just become a new person in the waters of baptism, we become part of a new people. We become part of a covenant community, the flock of God, where each member has a responsibility of care for the other, and where each has something that is needed for the common good. No child of God can ever reach maturity in isolation. Manna is not enough, we need milk and honey. It's not just that we need to receive it, as part of the flock we are supposed to produce it.

We need to see our time in the word in this light. God gives both bread and seed. Are we coming to him just for manna for ourselves that will get us through the day, or are we coming for milk that will both satisfy us, and be a source of blessing to others? When you read the word, don't just think how it applies to you, take something for someone else too.

This is how the body is meant to function and build itself up. Paul writes to the Ephesians:

And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. (Eph 4:11-16)

Maturity is not reached by believers in isolation. Nor is it reached just by the working of the "recognised ministries". It is reached by the body, when the whole body is functioning as a body. The milk is not produced the the shepherds, but by the flock. The role of the shepherd-teacher is not to run around from morning to night trying to feed every sheep and goat with the milk that it needs. (Jethro had to rebuke Moses for such behaviour) Rather it is to equip the flock to produce its own milk. So that the members of the body can minister to each other. Only in this way will the body reach maturity.

God wants his church to be a land flowing with milk and honey. He wants a bride that is prepared for his son. He wants a people who continually minister the word of God to each other in love.

Your lips drip nectar, my bride; honey and milk are under your tongue; the fragrance of your garments is like the fragrance of Lebanon. (SoS 4:11)

4 comments:

SLW said...

Thanks for a fresh way to figure equipping and body ministry.
Makes me think!

Chris HH said...

Thanks for all your feedback, SLW.
It's encouraging to know someone is listening :-)

Richard Bentall said...

Chris

One thing that is to be drawn from the passage in DT 32:13-14 is that there was oil.

Oil in the bible is understood as symbol of the Holy Spirit and thus does not require a detailed explanation, but one scripture will suffice to link the Holy Spirit and oil directly:

The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed. . . . (Luke 4:18)

"The Spirit of the Lord" and the oil of anointing are directly linked. The oil of anointing stands as a physical representation of Jesus being given the Spirit to perform these functions for God in His service to man.

Though Jesus was bruised in service, He never lacked power. By contrast, we are rarely bruised, broken, or ground in service, but we are usually powerless. The truth is, the greatest zeal and knowledge are useless without God's Holy Spirit providing the right perspective, attitude, and intention for any service we perform.

I'll leave you to do the link from your post and to the Holy Spirit :-)

Every Blessing

Richard.

PS although you might not get many comments, there are loads of people that read your post. Keep them coming
Richard

Chris HH said...

Well spotted, Richard!

Actually both oil and honey come from the rock. Showing the connection between the Spirit and the Word. And they come from the rock, which is Christ - the ultimate word of God, and the anointed one. He is the one to whom both the Word and the Spirit testify. He is the source of both the Word and Spirit to our lives.

...but I'm stealing my own thunder!

Thanks for the encouragement regarding my posts. Appreciated :-)