Milk is excellent as a food for babies, but it spoils rapidly, and if spilled milk is not properly cleaned up, it may produce an awful stench! This contrasts with honey, which can be kept without spoiling for a long time.
The promised land was called "a land that floweth with milk and honey." When the symbolic meaning of the land in the gospel and in prophecy is understood, a reason is suggested why the promised land is associated with milk and honey. Both milk, and honey, are foods; how does the promised land resemble food?
The promised land is a type, or figure, of the revelations of God. The oracles of God in scripture are connected with the promise of the land. These relate to the children of Israel possessing the land, their possession of it for a few centuries, and then their losing possession of it, when they were taken captive and went into exile. While some of them returned, the prophets Jeremiah and Ezekiel foretold a future return to the land, a glorious restitution, which involved not only Israel possessing the land, and the return of all those included in Israel, but also, their reconciliation to God. Ezekiel said it would be "better than at the beginning." [Ezekiel 36:11] This is not fulfilled by the modern Zionist Jewish state.
In the NT, the land promises are considered fulfilled in Christ. Paul said, "For all the promises of God in him are yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us." [2 Corinthians 1:20] Since the land promise was one of the most prominent of the OT promises, and is a prominent theme throughout the OT, this promise must be included; no doubt it is one of the promises, that are "in him are yea, and in him Amen."
Jesus compared himself to food, when he said man needs to "eat his
flesh." [John 6:53-58]
Perhaps David alluded to this, in the Psalms.
O taste and see that the LORD is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him.
So, both the promised land, and Jesus, are compared to food. This makes sense, as both are aspects of the revelations of God to man. The land is symbolic of God's word, and Jesus represents God's word too. [John 1:1] To believe and understand God's word, is compared to eating food. Isaiah said:
9 Whom shall he teach knowledge? and whom shall he make to understand doctrine? them that are weaned from the milk, and drawn from the breasts.
10 For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little:
11 For with stammering lips and another tongue will he speak to this people.
12 To whom he said, This is the rest wherewith ye may cause the weary to rest; and this is the refreshing: yet they would not hear. 13 But the word of the LORD was unto them precept upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little; that they might go, and fall backward, and be broken, and snared, and taken.
Isaiah said those who are taught of God have been "weaned from the milk." There is "milk" in the scriptures, as well as "meat," or solid food. Isaiah said, those weaned from milk are the ones who will be taught the knowledge of God. They are the ones who experience the "rest." To Isaiah, this "rest" means understanding God's word. "Weaned from the milk" was not intended as a disparaging comment by Isaiah about his contemporaries, as some commentators have thought; rather, it refers to a mature attitude to God's word.
Many things in the Bible resemble milk, such as the stories in Genesis, and the parables of Jesus. But while these stories are "milk," unless they are interpreted, and understood in the light of the gospel, they may appear to be mere stories. Jesus spoke to the people in parables, but he explained their meaning to his disciples. And the meaning of some of the events in Genesis, in the life of Abraham, is explained by Paul in the NT. For example, he gave an explanation of the story of Sarah giving Abraham her handmaid Hagar, to have offspring by her, in Galatians 4:22-31.
In Galatians 4, Paul identified those who believe in Christ with Sarah, the freewoman, and those who are Jews after the flesh, who reject Christ, he identified with Hagar the Egyptian who was Sarah's handmaid. He contrasted the earthly Jerusalem with the heavenly one.
Paul identified the earthly Jerusalem with Hagar. She and her son represent Abraham's seed after the flesh, or the Jews. She and her son were cast out of Abraham's house, and her children may not be heirs with the children of promise. In fact, Paul said her children persecute the children of promise, which remains true even today.
OTOH, Sarah, the freewoman, who was Abraham's legitimate wife, represents the saints. They include people of every race, both Jew and Gentile, and they are called the "heavenly Jerusalem" and the "bride of the Lamb."
Christian Zionists who say that the land promises in the OT can only mean the literal land, which therefore belongs to ethnic Jews, who they say inherit the promises, rather than the church, are misguided, as their doctrine corresponds to Sarah offering her handmaid Hagar to Abraham, to have offspring by her.
Eventually, just as Hagar and her son were cast out, those promoting Zionism will be cast out too. Hagar and Abraham's son Ishmael were expelled, after the birth of Isaac. The story shows Sarah was a tough mistress to Hagar, who was twice sent out to the wilderness. When she was eventually cast out of Abraham's house, she left Ishmael under a tree, and laid down to die, but God was merciful to them.
When reading scripture, the literal view is like "milk," while the hidden, spiritual meaning is more like "honey." Literalism obscures the deeper spiritual meaning, also referred to as the "spirit" in contrast to the "letter." Like milk gone sour, literalism also tends to produce a bad odour over time.
Paul said, "our sufficiency is of God; Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life." [2 Corinthians 3:6]
The promised land was called a "rest" for the children of Israel when they possessed it after wandering 40 years in the wilderness. But Hebrews 4:8 says that Joshua did not give them rest, although they possessed all the territory that was promised.
For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken later about another day.
Isaiah 28:12, quoted above, alludes to the true significance of the promised "rest." It has to do with understanding the word of the Lord, which was given by "stammering lips and another tongue," perhaps meaning it was given in the language of metaphors and parables. This "rest" is the word of God, but Isaiah showed that it was hidden from the people.
The promised land is called a "land of milk and honey," in Exodus 3:8; 3:17; 13:5; 33:3; Leviticus 20:24; Numbers 13:27; 14:8; 16:13, 14; Deuteronomy 6:3; 11:9; 26:9; 26:15; 27:3; 31:20; Joshua 5:6; Jeremiah 11:5; 32:22; and Ezekiel 20:6.
The "milk" of God's word refers to things that are literally understood, which require no interpretation, and it is the nourishment intended for babes. The apostle Peter said:
1 Peter 2:2
As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby:
Just as human babies become weaned, and begin to use solid food in place of milk, the saints must be "weaned from the milk" of the word, to learn mature doctrine. The author of Hebrews refers to this.
For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe.
Taking the scriptures literally, is viewing them as if they consist only of "milk," which can be swallowed without any chewing, and so is suitable for infants lacking teeth. The scriptures can be read in a literal fashion, but they have a deeper spiritual significance, that requires some thoughtful interpretation, analogous to "chewing" solid food.
The "land" promised to Israel is not only a land of "milk," but also of "honey." The Psalmist wrote:
How sweet are thy words unto my taste! yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth!
An in Proverbs, we read:
Pleasant words are as an honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones.
The true meaning of the land of Canaan that was promised to Abraham is that it represents the revelations of God intended for the saints. Possessing the promises requires faith. But it requires no displacement of Palestinians from their homes, or flesh and blood warfare. Paul said, "For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places." [Ephesians 6:12]
The spiritual wickedness that Paul refers to above applies to some leaders in the church, who give heed to seducing spirits, and command people to "abstain from meats," or solid food. [1 Timothy 4:1-3] To abstain from "meats" or solid food implies they are limited to "milk," or literalism, and they reject the spiritual interpretation of the scriptures, and prophecy, such the apostles applied. For example, they reject Paul's teaching in Galatians 4:25, that identifies the earthly Jerusalem with Hagar, the bondwoman, and insist that the land promises must be fulfilled to ethnic Jews!
Paul said those who believe in Christ, whether Jew or Gentile, are "the children of promise." [Galatians 4:28] The Zionists disagree with Paul, when he said, "the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman." [Galatians 4:30] They want to make Hagar the bondwoman and her spiritual seed inherit the literal land. Their misguided interpretations produce a stench, reminding us of the smell of milk that was spilled, and not cleaned up.
"Milk" represents a literal, straightforward reading of scripture, and those who use it are called "babes," or infants, while honey is not recommended for them. Experience, and medical science, show that honey should not be fed to infants, because they have not developed an immunity to C. botulinum. These quotes explain:
Honey may contain spores of Clostridium Botulinum, a form of botulism. In older children and adults, the amounts are so microscopic and are generally harmless. For babies though, infant botulism caused by eating honey may cause lasting damage.
Botulism is an illness caused by the botulin toxin. The toxin blocks nerve function, eventually leading to skeletal and respiratory paralysis. Botulin is also incredibly powerful; as little as one microgram can kill a human. Fortunately, botulism is extremely rare. One of the main uses for the toxin is for botox injections.
Many doctors and other medical and nutrition experts recommend not giving babies honey until they are a year old. Honey can contain Clostridium botulinum spores, which can cause severe illness in infants.
Botulism attacks the nervous system and causes double vision, droopy eyelids, and difficulty in swallowing and breathing. It also can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. Symptoms of infant botulism include lethargy, weakness, loss of head control, and a wail or altered cry. Symptoms typically develop within 18 to 36 hours and can last weeks to months. The severity can range from mild illness to severe paralysis and sudden death, if not treated. Even with treatment, it can cause nerve damage.
The "milk" of the word represents basic information, that is
excellent as nourishment for
"babes." The mature teaching of the scriptures is called "meat,"
meaning "solid food,"
5:12-13. The manna
God gave to the
Israelites in the wilderness tasted like honey.
And the house of Israel called the name thereof Manna: and it was like coriander seed, white; and the taste of it was like wafers made with honey.
Jesus identified himself with manna, and said he was the true bread from heaven.
30 They said therefore unto him, What sign shewest thou then, that we may see, and believe thee? what dost thou work? 31 Our fathers did eat manna in the desert; as it is written, He gave them bread from heaven to eat.
32 Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven.
33 For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world.
34 Then said they unto him, Lord, evermore give us this bread. 35 And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.
He explained further:
47 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life.
48 I am that bread of life.
49 Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead. 50 This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die.
51 I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.
The true bread from heaven, pictured by the manna in the wilderness, is Jesus, whose name is called the Word of God. [Revelation 19:13]
Clearly, the words of God in scripture are represented by the "land that floweth with milk and honey."
In Revelation 10, John describes an angel from heaven, who stood on the sea and on the earth, and who held in his hand a little book, and which John was told to eat. This parallels a similar event which occurred soon after Israel entered the land of promise. Joshua similarly met with an angel, who had a sword drawn in his hand, who identified himself as the Captain of the Lord's host. He had come to give instructions to Joshua about Israel's assault upon Jerico. [Joshua 5:13-15]
In John's account, the drawn sword in the hand of the angel is replaced by a little book, which was open. Thus, the little book very likely represents the scriptures, especially the scriptures of the OT, which tell primarily about the land promise, and Israel's taking possession of the land, and their ultimate loss of it, and exile.
And I saw another mighty angel come down from heaven, clothed with a cloud: and a rainbow was upon his head, and his face was as it were the sun, and his feet as pillars of fire:
And he had in his hand a little book open: and he set his right foot upon the sea, and his left foot on the earth.
Then seven mysterious thunders sound, and attention is focused upon the little book.
8 And the voice which I heard from heaven spake unto me again, and said, Go and take the little book which is open in the hand of the angel which standeth upon the sea and upon the earth.
9 And I went unto the angel, and said unto him, Give me the little book. And he said unto me, Take it, and eat it up; and it shall make thy belly bitter, but it shall be in thy mouth sweet as honey.
10 And I took the little book out of the angel's hand, and ate it up; and it was in my mouth sweet as honey: and as soon as I had eaten it, my belly was bitter.
11 And he said unto me, Thou must prophesy again before many peoples, and nations, and tongues, and kings.
The location of the angel, standing upon the sea and upon the earth, seems to be a key here. John was instructed to eat the little book. The eating is a metaphor, similar to the words of Jesus in John 6, where he spoke of men eating his flesh. In both cases, the meaning attached to eating is that we should believe and understand the scriptures, and the words of God. The little book had a sweet taste like honey, which it shared with the manna in the wilderness. Its honey sweet taste refers to the sweetness of the knowledge of God and the gospel to the mind, as nourishment for the spirit, while the bitterness that it produced in his belly probably depicts the flesh, which naturally reacts against the words of God, implying that the meaning of prophecy is primarily of a spiritual nature. Paul said,
For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.
Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.
So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.
The little book, the "land flowing with milk and honey," and the scriptures, all point to Jesus.
When the Israelites entered the promised land, the words of the law were written on great stones, that were an integral part of the land.
And it shall be on the day when ye shall pass over Jordan unto the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, that thou shalt set thee up great stones, and plaister them with plaister: And thou shalt write upon them all the words of this law, when thou art passed over, that thou mayest go in unto the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, a land that floweth with milk and honey; as the LORD God of thy fathers hath promised thee.
These stones were set up in mount Ebal. Thus God's word was
physically written upon the land.
The kind of teaching represented by "milk" sees the land promise as meaning the literal land of Canaan only, while understanding the promised land as a type and figure of God's word, is like "honey."
Copyright © 2010, 2012, 2013 by Douglas E. Cox
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