Monday, February 7, 2011

Locusts and Wild Honey

The essays covered in this week’s discussion of The Spirit of Food: 34 Writers on Feasting aand Fasting toward God at The High Callling are mostly about fasting.


It’s not something I’ve voluntarily done. I’ve skipped meals, of course, or missed them because time slipped away. But a deliberate, planned fast has not been a part of my experience, spiritual or otherwise. (Then I stand on the bathroom scale and realize that perhaps it should be.)

The most notable fast of the New Testament is Jesus in the wilderness for 40 days and 40 nights, “and he was hungry.” Forty days is a long time not to eat. While that was most certainly possible for the Son of God, the human body would not likely survive with no food (or water) for that long.

Then there was John the Baptist.

I’ve been reading about the Baptist lately. It started when I was studying Jesus feeding the 5,000, which happens right after Jesus learns that John has been beheaded on Herod’s orders.

I don’t know whether it’s because of movies or illustrated Bible stories I read (or had read to me) as a child, but I’ve always had this image of the Baptist as something of a wild man – hair unkempt and uncut, clothes of camel hair, wandering around the desert until people begin to hear about his preaching about repentance, and they came, likely in twos and threes and then in large crowds.

He had a very simple diet – locusts and wild honey, both of which were readily available in the desert areas near Jude and Galilee (according to my Bible dictionary, wild bees established hives in rock crevices, and still do). Locusts were one of the four four-legged, winged insects that could be eaten under Levitical law (the others being katydids, crickets and grasshoppers; everything else was forbidden).

I’d consider a diet of locusts and wild honey to be a kind of permanent fast. John ate what was available, not because it was “local” (although it was that) but because it was there and food was relatively unimportant: the word of God had come upon him and he had things other than food to do.

This is the idea of food as sustenance. The fact that Matthew (alone of the Gospel writers) mentions it at all has some significance. Perhaps the significance is what it implies: John depended upon God for everything, including his next meal, and God provided.

A camel hair cloak, tunic
scratchy, or soft perhaps,
wrapped by leather belt.
Fingers reach for a locust,
crunch, a quick lunch
sweetened with the offerings
of bees in rocky hives.
It is sufficient.

I love good food (my wife says she is an “okay” cook; she is far better than “okay”). I love good bread. I love to sit at a nice restaurant and eat good food prepared well, with good bread and a good wine.

But I think of John the Baptist, and I ask myself, do I depend upon God for my food, my life? Is is the food itself that’s important or the one who provide sit? Could I be content with some contemporary version of locusts and wild honey?

To see more posts on these essays from The Spirit of Food, please visit The High Calling.

Photograph: Desert locust, courtesy of Wikipedia and Arpingstone; public domain.


Louise Gallagher said...

Um -- I draw the line at locusts, okay? No way!

Love the poem. And what a fascinating read this series is!

Laura said...

I don't know why, Glynn, but your linky to this post is not working. I'm going to investigate and see if I can fix it up.

I love John the Baptist's character. When I think of living off the land, he is truly the epitome. And I love that poem! You just amaze me.

Thanks for coming along on this food journey. Fasting is not my favorite thing to start, but once I am into it I have always found it so rewarding.

But...if I had someone cooking "more than okay" food for me, I might never do it again!

Anonymous said...

It is sufficient.

that says a lot...

Michelle DeRusha said...

Some big questions here, Glynn. Lots to ponder (you so often supply that!). And I love your poem...for some reason it makes John the B. more approachable for me.

Anonymous said...

"Is it the food that is important or the God who provides it?"

I'm asking myself this same question of late. This book has really ripped off the lid on a few issues I have been wrestling with.t

S. Etole said...

reminds me of the Israelites in the wilderness ... and the manna ... and the complaining