My least favorite time of the year approaches—winter, when everything is frozen, everything is dead. I pity the fish. I know they’re cold blooded, and deal with it by going into a sluggish state, but it can’t be fun for them.
Occasionally, warm water discharges from power plants run throughout the winter in certain bodies of water. That’s like an aquatic paradise for certain species. They remain active, feeding throughout the winter, the equivalent of a Largemouth Bass getting to wear a Hawaiian shirt and grilling burgers in mid January.
I think about us Christians, sunk into the midst of a rapidly chilling world. Our challenge lies in resisting its cooling trend, going numb toward God, experiencing reduced appetite toward spiritual things.
For instance, the proliferation of political media has created what some call a “cold civil war” where polarization becomes more complete by the day. Movies and television have slowly surrendered entertainment value in favor of overt messaging. Corporations willingly suffer financial losses in favor of scoring ideological points. Language itself has undergone revisions—newspeak Orwell called it—in order to avoid committing crimespeak.
And here we are, swimming around in the midst of it.
God said to Israel,
Lev. 20:22 “You shall therefore keep all my statutes and all my rules and do them, that the land where I am bringing you to live may not vomit you out. 23 And you shall not walk in the customs of the nation that I am driving out before you, for they did all these things, and therefore I detested them.
Being brought into the land is a comprehensive Old Testament analogy of being “called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord” (1 Cor. 1:9). Hence, God characterizes it as a living thing that could abhor the way people might live, and therefore vomit them out. This new fellowship is not congruent with an old, fleshly manner of life. Interestingly, Jesus said as much to the church in Laodicea, when He warned that He was about to vomit them out of his mouth (c.f. Rev. 3:16).
Paul charged us in Ephesians 4:17 to “no longer walk as the Gentiles do.” But the possibility is always there. After all, we live among the nations, and around the virtual reality the people of the world try so hard to maintain.
The Israelites, though victors, were about to march into a setting where they could have easily become spiritual casualties. God cautioned them about the manner of life fostered by the previous occupants, using the words “abominable” (18:30), “perversion” (18:20, 20:12) and “depravity” (18:17, 19:29, 20:124). These were associated with the casual killing of children, and every sexual contrivance. The world holds these things as acceptable and customary, legal, allowable, even praiseworthy.
Even as Israel cleared the land of these things, they would still have come into contact with them. There was no way around it. And so hopefully, a better life and an elevated appreciation for God would create a firewall that oldness would not easily breach.
Therefore, He told them,
20:24 “‘You shall inherit their land, and I will give it to you to possess, a land flowing with milk and honey.’ I am the Lord your God, who has separated you from the peoples.
As with the ancient people of God, so with believers today: right here on this side of heaven is an experience available that flows with rich milk and sweet honey. To the naked eye it exists in the same pond as everything else–the same waiting rooms, grocery stores, dentist offices, work cubicles, streets and neighborhoods. It is a different reality made available in Jesus, the Son of God.
Even as the current age slips into icy disobedience, we don’t go with it. Our pulse doesn’t slow, nor do we sleep with our eyes open.
That’s because the fellowship of the Son generates a discharge of warmth in an otherwise wintry atmosphere. It’s a zone of nourishing spiritual reality in a pond long dead. I’ve lived in this environment for almost forty years now, and where some might brand it “the evangelical subculture,” I wouldn’t. “Milk and honey” just doesn’t describe mass consumerized Christianity.
Instead, I’m talking about interacting directly with Jesus over a Bible brimming with visions and promises larger than life, hanging out with people who do the same, and who love to talk about it, to have it, and live it. You know the type. They’re always trying to introduce other fish into that warmer climate.
I have to admit I have swum out of that blessed gulf stream a time or so over the years to sample those other frigid waters where there was no nutrient for my soul.
I always came back because I missed the milk and honey.