Hurricane Michael, a powerful Category 4 storm, recently roared ashore in the Florida Panhandle before veering northeast with high winds, record breaking rainfall, widespread flooding, astounding amounts of property damage, and power outages for millions of people. Vacationers scattered, residents evacuated, and emergency crews prepared for the worst. There were scenes of heroic rescues and the dramatic pictures of the devastation in the affected areas dominated the news for days.
Dedicated emergency crews have now been hard at work for weeks, restoring power and other needed services to homes and businesses. Massive debris removal and repairs will take a long time, but tremendous effort and resources have already been spent to accomplish the cleanup.
While there was extensive daily news coverage of the catastrophe, there is a little-known story that may have far-reaching effects. The massive storm toppled thousands of beehives in the Panhandle area, widely known for tupelo honey, produced by honey bees from the flowering tupelo tree that grows prolifically in the wetland areas along the Gulf Coast. Not only were the bees roiled by the damage and destruction of their hives, but the fragile tupelo blooms and the trees that produce them were wiped out by the storm. “Well, that’s interesting,” you might think, “but in the whole scheme of things, what’s the big deal?” The Orland Sentinel reports, “About 500 beekeepers are registered in Florida’s Panhandle, with more than 1.2 billion bees in their colonies, according to the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. They range from hobbyists to mom-and-pop businesses to large commercial operations.” The honey produced is worth millions of dollars.
The newspaper reports continued, “Tanker trucks of corn syrup and tens of thousands of pounds of synthetic pollen are being rushed to beekeepers from the Gulf of Mexico to the Georgia state line to feed surviving bee colonies that also pollinate crops such as watermelons, cantaloupes and blueberries.” The loss of the bees can seriously impact other valuable crops. As the storm moved inland, it is certain that other areas also experienced damage to their apiaries with similar interruptions in the pollination process so necessary for agriculture.
As in so many situations, important stories are often overlooked.
The Bible has many references to honey. It often uses the phrase “milk and honey” as a metaphor for peace and prosperity (Deuteronomy 11:9, plus 22 other verses). There is another unusual reference to honey in the Book of Wisdom known as Proverbs. “My son, eat honey because it is good, and the honeycomb which is sweet to your taste; so shall the knowledge of wisdom be to your soul; if you have found it, there is a prospect, and your hope will not be cut off” (Proverbs 24:13–14).
Just as honey is sweet and delicious to one’s taste, so should knowledge and wisdom be to one’s soul; that is, one’s life, character, or inner being. In another proverb, wisdom is personified with these words: “Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom. And in all your getting, get understanding. Exalt her, and she will promote you; she will bring you honor, when you embrace her. She will place on your head an ornament of grace; a crown of glory she will deliver to you” (Proverbs 4:7–10). In the modern vernacular, one might say “Sweet!” at the prospect of this promise.
Life can be “sweet” if a person uses wisdom and understanding in his or her daily life. Where does wisdom begin? The Bible also makes this plain; “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding” (Proverbs 9:10). “Fear” in this context doesn’t mean terror, but it means to have great respect for and to be in awe of God.
If a person ignores God and His instruction, the results can be disastrous. The prophet Jeremiah put it this way: “Know therefore and see that it is an evil and bitter thing that you have forsaken the Lord your God, and the fear of Me is not in you…” (Jeremiah 2:19). Famously, Isaiah put it this way: “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” (Isaiah 5:20).
So, as we consider the plight of the bees and those who keep them in Florida and Georgia, it brings to mind important Biblical instruction about something even more important than tupelo honey, and that is to fear God and to seek His will and wisdom for our lives. Doing so will bring a special sweetness.
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