There are some wonderfully colorful stories buried deep in the Old Testament. Personally, I find it a treasure trove of the obscure, the curious, and the priceless. Wisdom is often veiled in cultural intricacies or traditions that defy translation, but wade through the labyrinth and you will find the rare. If you have the patience and purpose, you can come away with one-of-a-kind prizes of wisdom and beauty. Of such is the bizarrely eccentric tale of Samson and his exploits.
Take time for a quick perusal of Judges 13-16 and chances are you’ll come away with more questions than answers. It’s a head-scratcher of epic proportions. This is what a Champion looks like? Hmmmh. The saga of Samson is as enigmatic as the pivotal riddle he poses to the Philistines in Judges 14:14.
And he said unto them, “Out of the eater came forth meat, and out of the strong came forth sweetness”.
And the answer?
“What is sweeter than honey? What is stronger than a lion?” Judges 14:18b
Strength and sweetness. Boil it all down, and that’s the valorous challenge of life, in a nutshell. We blaze out of the gates in our twenties, thinking all the world is our oyster; all we have to do is find the right career, the perfect mate, a comfortable home and settle into a sustained rhythm of bliss. Success will simply come looking for us, don’t you know? We’re not far into our plans when we realize there are a few unforeseen bumps in the road, not to mention major detours. Our little gold brick road to Utopia has some steep slopes and sheer drop-offs; monsters and malefactors lurking in the shrubbery and all manner of inclement weathers to traverse. How do we keep those two diametric contenders in proper balance? This is the great culmination of tempering, knowledge and humility, which takes most of us a lifetime to master.
Strength and sweetness. That we will need muscle and might goes without saying; this is after-all, a male-dominated world. What gets grossly underestimated however, is the real value and indeed, necessity of sweetness. “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction” may be a great Rolling Stones classic, but it makes a lousy theme song for the soul. It’s not simply enough to meet basic human needs of shelter, food and sleep; the soul demands its own comforts. Just like the sumptuous pleasure of a superior cheesecake, our inner man craves some gooey, chewy caramel every now and again. We’re not fooled by saccharine superficiality, but long for the intimacy, empathy, and depth of passionate relationship that feeds our very essence and smooths away the bitter and difficult. All of us require approval, affection, fulfillment and enjoyment. Honor is also necessary to our survival; the feeling that we are precious and valuable in the eyes of others. Proverbs zooms in on some of these rare and precious life moments and helps us identify them clearly.
Pleasant words are as a honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones. Proverbs 16:24
Ointment and perfume rejoice the heart: So does the sweetness of a man’s friend by hearty counsel. Proverbs 27:9
Wisdom tells us that words of encouragement and kindness actually bring not only pleasure, but health. The gratification of a friend’s intimate caring feeds the starving soul. Honey can also represent victory: a feat of warfare or more simply, a goal attained. Going back to our Samson story, the original idea for his riddle actually came from something that happened to him minutes earlier, when he found an unexpected cache of comb in the carcass of the lion he had previously slain with his bare hands. It’s significant that he was able to give this treat to his parents, as the real sweetness in our lives comes when we are able to share the joys and triumphs with our nearest and dearest. When it comes to honey, the unparalleled bliss of family unity is in a category all by itself.
Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron's beard: that went down to the skirts of his garments… Psalm 133:1-2 KJV
My heart has been quietly lamenting how much precious, irreplaceable time we waste in stupid conflict, grudges, offences and petty scrapping. How pathetically easy it is for Satan to steal what is so uniquely valuable in our times together! The moment was hanging there like ripe fruit, to really speak what we felt, or listen open-heartedly to another's response, but we let it go by. It would have cost us nothing to be encouraging, empathetic or respectful. We could have been kind, understanding, patient; acting as a fire-wall for another’s fear and frustration, but we squandered our moment for honest and intimacy. We sucked back lemons instead of dipping into the honey.
When we don't get the sweetness we need we go hunting desperately down fetid corridors of hedonism, substance abuse and dark relationships that lead only to ruin. Don't despise the relationships God has ordained for your inner circle, as crazy and dysfunctional as you may find them. We need the sweetness of each other. We also receive Divine sweetness through the inner confidence of love and acceptance from the Lord. We are the Beloved – but do we act like it? The only way to truly absorb His magnificent approval, unconditional love and dynamic intimacy is to receive it. What we lack in honey, both in our souls and in our words, is given to us by Jesus. He unfailing provides the sweetness in life, but most times, strangely enough, He does it through our interaction with one another.
His mouth is most sweet: yea, he is altogether lovely. This is my beloved, and this is my friend, O daughters of Jerusalem. Songs 5:16
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