“And the men of Israel were distressed that day, for Saul had placed the people under oath, saying, “Cursed is the man who eats any food until evening, before I have taken vengeance on my enemies.” So none of the people tasted food. Now all the people of the land came to a forest; and there was honey on the ground. And when the people had come into the woods, there was the honey, dripping; but no one put his hand to his mouth, for the people feared the oath. But Jonathan had not heard his father charge the people with the oath; therefore he stretched out the end of the rod that was in his hand and dipped it in a honeycomb, and put his hand to his mouth; and his countenance brightened.” (1 Sam 14: 24-27)
When our TV is switched on but the satellite box is off and there is no signal, a message displays on the screen saying: “Check external input, or select another input using the INPUT button.” The other evening I was confronting one of the areas in my life where I am still failing to walk in the victory that Jesus gained for me at the cross, and that “no signal” message was displaying on tbe screen: we had switched off the box, but the TV receiver was still on. It caught my attention in a new way. In my reactions to the “battle” situation that I was facing and where I was still losing, was I checking my input? Was I looking with any discernment at where my thoughts were coming from, to determine whether they were flesh or spirit?
There is a very clear litmus test we can apply. Here it is: “The Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45) If I am thinking about me – my reasons, my needs, my feelings, my motivation, my struggle, my interests, anything that is about me – I am focussed on self. The litmus says “flesh.” If however my thoughts are just focussed on the interests, feelings, needs etc of the other person, the litmus says “Spirit,” because I am dead to self and am operating in love. Sometimes I really think it can be that simple. Not easy, but simple.
The story of Jonathan and the honeycomb plays out this scenario before our eyes. Saul declared that none would eat or drink until he had taken vengeance on his enemies. The forest was dripping with honey, but none could touch it. Consequently the Israelites were weakened, their victory diminished, and they were so hungry that they fell on the spoils and devoured them with the blood, sinning under the law.
The flesh always drives, and always drives towards sin. God gave the Law to His people as a tool that would enable then to manage their flesh and remain holy. Inevitably they failed, as we continue to fail today whenever we bind ourselves under legalism. Yet the flesh continues to yearn for the Law: my spirit is justified in Christ, but if there is one thing that my flesh wants to do, it is to justify itself. Unfortunately the only law that self can access is the law of sin and death, and not the law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus (See Romans 8:2). Saul sought to pursue his enemy, but his pursuit was fleshly and his pride and his emotions put the people under the bondage of the law, which they ultimately and inevitably broke. However Jonathan knew nothing of Saul’s oath and ate the honey, and “his countenance brightened” – or as the New Living Translation put is, he was “refreshed.”
The story had started with Jonathan and his armourbearer routing the Philistine garrison, and it ends with Saul discovering that his son had broken the oath; but I just want to focus on this one section rather than look at all the other conclusions that we can draw from the rest of the account. (Maybe another time…) Whether we see it at times or not, we are always in a battle. However, as we know from Psalm 23, God has prepared a table for us in the face of our enemies. The forests where we face our enemy are dripping with the honey of the Holy Spirit. So do we eat at His table, or do we go hungry? Do we rest in His Spirit, or do we run with our flesh? God calls us to dip our sticks into the honey; to taste and see that the Lord is good, and to be equipped for the battle by going in His strength and not our own. He is always there; the honey is always available, but we cannot taste and run at the same time. We have to stop and make the choice if we are to dip into what He has provided.
The Lord says in His Word: “With honey from the rock I would have satisfied you.” (Psalm 81:16) To return to the image of the “no signal” message on our TV screen: do our thoughts and motivation come from the Holy Spirit and lead to life, or do they come from our own flesh and the law of sin and death? The “litmus test” will tell us. Because we always need to check our input if we don’t want to be exhausted by the battle.