Drippings from the Honeycomb
More to be desired are [the rules of the Lord] than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. (Psalm 19:10)
We have begun a New Year. It is no longer 2022 but 2023. That is a boundary. The Bible says that boundaries are a God given gift to be respected. A classic verse on the subject is Proverbs 22:28:
Do not remove the ancient landmark that your fathers have set.
What is that about? It means that in ancient Israel farmers marked the boundaries of their lands (allotted by God through Moses) by large stones or piles of stones. A greedy neighbour could sneakily move those stones over time and enlarge his land at the expense of his neighbour.
The world is filled with myriads of boundaries at God’s design. Because God designed them they are good and not to be understood in a negative way as many might see words like ‘division.’ They are good and we’d do well to respect them. Some boundaries like those at Creation are fixed and immoveable: day and night, land and sea, etc. Other boundaries are moveable. Yet it is only in our pride that we seek to move what God has fixed. This is because in our desire to be as God (Gen 3:5) we don’t respect God or others but move those stones to our own advantage. (Even the Creator-creature distinction is a boundary, Ro 1:25. We can’t actually move it but we try!). How we respond to God’s boundaries can be appropriate and inappropriate, good and evil. All sins and troubles, particularly of the inter-personal kind, stem from, in pride, breaking God’s boundaries.
Considering just some of the good God-given boundaries that we find in the Bible:
Perhaps with this in mind you might now see more boundaries in Scripture and identify them in the world around us.
May we repent of boundary breaking, seek the boundary Maker for forgiveness, and find the Holy Spirit’s renewing power to respect the boundaries that God has established for our good.
I remember about a decade ago it was thought that Canada Post would soon be obsolete with the dawn of the electronic communication era. Today the online shopping revolution has meant that Canada Post (and other carriers) are busier than ever. One reason, despite the rising cost of stamps, is that in our digital age people are actually reverting (or advancing?) to sending letters. Think how impersonal a text or email can be; they’re surely easy to send and free. Not so with a letter. You need to pick out a card or paper, you need to take the time to write something with real ink, your hand and eye being intricately involved in the process. Then you need to seal the envelope, buy a stamp and then get that letter to the Post Office (It then travels about and a real person delivers it to you). While still a relatively simple form of communication it is actually an involved process that breathes connection and relationality. The impersonality of our electronic age is seeing letters make a return. I’m always delighted to receive a letter, especially from overseas.
In the ancient world, to write a letter, on parchment or papyrus (costly resources because of the time involved in preparing them) was a very intentional thing. There was no whiteout or delete buttons. Every word mattered. The intentional inspiration of Scripture is therefore a wonder, especially when scroll lengths are considered.
In a sense letters are actually a thing divine for through them God chose to reveal Himself to us.
We’re presently reading one of them—Revelation—which is a letter to the Seven Churches!
I first became interested in Biblical letters, ironically, not through the Epistles but through a letter Elijah wrote to Jehoram (2 Chr 21:12) Here Elijah challenged Judah’s idolatry. While difficult or sensitive matters are usually best reserved for in person conversations, sometimes they can be effective when written in the right spirit (they give people something to come back to) or when in person conversations may be impossible. John Newton once had to write such a letter and said he sought to, “play the part of a friend by letter.”
Perhaps most famously were Paul’s letters to the Corinthians. He actually wrote several letters, only two making it into the Bible. Having founded and pastored the church, it became shipwrecked. He wrote a previous letter to the Corinthians (1 Cor 5:9), then 1 Corinthians, followed by a visit (2 Cor 2:1), followed by a “sorrowful” letter (2 Cor 2:3) and then 2 Corinthians. Sometimes difficult letters are necessary and effective.
However, in person meetings are ideal. This is what John expressed, though in more positive circumstances, when he wrote in 2 Jn 12, Though I have much to write to you, I would rather not use paper and ink. Instead I hope to come to you and talk face to face, so that our joy may be complete.
One day, there will be no need for difficult letters and time will abound to fellowship with the saints; until then, however, the Lord has given us letters.
As we yield to and are filled by the Spirit in the Christian life (sanctification), each Christian is to progressively bear all of the fruit of the Spirit as a witness to the saving reality of our faith (are we who we really profess to be). Such fruit is not limited to the description found in Gal 5. Many other fruit can be found listed throughout the New Testament. James 3:17 is one such place. Speaking of the fruit that comes from the wisdom from above it lists:
Pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.
I’d like to zero in on one fruit: open to reason, or the fruit of “reasoning”, or being reasonable.
There is a reason why the Bible speaks so much about good communication and that is because we are so bad at it. Most church conflicts are not about doctrine, or wrong doing, or even personality differences, they’re communication issues that usually arise from a wrong disposition, a want of sanctification. Immediately after James speaks of taming the tongue he shows what someone being transformed by the Spirit will look like in their communications: be open to reasoning.
The word here can mean well-persuaded, already inclined, already willing, easy to come to terms with because already willing, etc. It conveys the notion of someone willing to go to great lengths to come to terms with someone, foster understanding, get to the bottom of the situation, be level headed, committed to working something through, labouring to this great end. This is not being quick tempered, which short circuits the intellect, but restrained, mentally engaged and charitable. It is a clarity of the mind and a calmness of our affections. It is a rare quality today, to be patient, peaceable, and restrained, enough to work through a difficulty. It is a key Spiritual fruit that enables us to truly submit to one another out of reverence for Christ (Eph 5:21).
So the next time you are presented with a difficult situation, in or outside of the Church, as a believer, would you pray that the Lord would enable you to be open to reason, for everyone’s good and His glory.
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