And now honey: Read Psalm 119, such a beautiful one, note verse 103: “How sweet are your words to my taste,/ sweeter than honey to my mouth!” The psalmist is talking to God. This is about the joy of wisdom, of right relationship to God. Psalm 19 (and others) also refer to this idea, that God’s true and righteous law is to be desired more than gold, because these laws (words) are sweeter than honey. It seems to me that John is described by Psalm 119 – I can imagine him saying these words, praying these words, using these words to speak to the crowd. After all John is a son of a priest of the temple, right – he would know this Psalm. He isn’t some homeless person who has wandered into the desert and is just ranting. He is full of love and hope and Spirit and wants to share that, wants to renew, refresh, the people of Israel. Yes?
Just because I can see this doesn’t mean it is true. So consider if you see something different from the image of John eating wild honey. Do you see him smeared with honey? Do you shudder at the thought of the all the bee stings it would take to obtain wild honey? Perhaps this is just to indicate how brave he is? Perhaps, like the water of the Jordan river, “wild honey” is to contrast with safe honey bought in a market, no bees around. Instead of a transaction – money for honey – John is being given honey by God. Honey like grace!
So in the description of John the Baptist we have all these images and echoes: poverty, hunger, longing, hope, joy, grace, riches beyond gold, a deeply righteous man who loves the Lord the God, who hungers for others to do so too.
Suddenly we can see why those crowds are flocking to him, to the wild river Jordan, to this man who must be a prophet. Our feet are itching to join them, to hear him, to feel the cleansing water, to taste the joy.