“They gave Moses this account: ‘We went into the land to which you sent us and it does flow with milk and honey! Here is its fruit.’” Numbers 13:27
A land flowing with milk and honey. This is what God had promised to his chosen people.
Okay, there’s a chance I’ve seen Josh and the Big Wall a few too many times, if that’s the first thought that comes to my mind when we talk about the Promised Land. Of course, it didn’t literally flow with milk and honey (because that would be sticky), but this image was symbolic of the fact that the land God had claimed for Abraham’s descendants was a rich and fertile. This land was also described as “a land with streams and pools of water, with springs flowing in the valleys and hills; a land with wheat and barley, vines and fig trees, pomegranates, olive oil and honey; a land where bread will not be scarce and you will lack nothing; a land where the rocks are iron and you can dig copper out the hills” (Deuteronomy 8:7-9) but within the pages of the Bible, “milk and honey” were the most common resources linked to the land of promise.
Many scholars believe that the honey God refers to was not beehive honey, but rather nectar that issued from dates which had been grown in well-nourished soil. Milk would have also required good land, because their animals–most likely sheep, cows, or goats–would needed to have been well-fed to reproduce, and for females to have adequate milk production to nourish their young and still provide excess for their owners.
The Promised Land held the hope of everything the Israelites had been missing while they were in the desert. In fact, it’s probably impossible for us to imagine just how amazing it must have sounded to those wandering pilgrims to be heading into a land where milk and honey would abound.
The longest I have ever had to go without milk was a day or two, and probably only then because we didn’t have the time or the desire to go to the store. Because after all, whenever there’s no milk in my house, I can drive (or even walk) to the nearest market and buy milk by the gallon with however much or little of the fat skimmed off as I prefer. And if I decide I don’t want mass-produced homogenized and pasteurized milk, I could pick up raw milk at my farmer’s market. If someone in my family developed lactose intolerance or a milk allergy we could switch to drinking milk-like products made from rice or almonds. We can even buy milk in a can or a box.
And let’s not forget that on top of that, we humans are mammals who can make milk for our own babies, too. According to the Centers for Disease Control, the number of mothers who breastfeed in the United States is continuing to rise. And even when we cannot or choose not to, there are ways to make sure that our babies receive adequate nutrition.
Back in Bible times, there was no such thing as formula. Remember when the Egyptian princess found Moses floating in the bulrushes? She couldn’t nurse him, so her first priority was to acquire a wet nurse who could. If she hadn’t, Moses would have died.
Listen, mamas, we have got to stop giving each other such a hard time about what kind of milk we feed our babies. Milk from your body? Milk from a bottle? Milk from a tin can at Walmart? They will all keep our little ones alive. The fact that we even have that choice should make us count our blessings. In fact, with all of this so readily available to us, how can we doubt that we are living in a land that flows with milk just as much as (if not more than) the Promised Land did?
So we should take note that the Israelite’s promised abundance was conditional on their obedience to God. After describing the abundance of the land he was leading his chosen people to settle, God gave this warning:
“When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the LORD your God for the good land he has given you. Be careful that you do not forget the LORD your God, failing to observe his commands, his laws and his decrees that I am giving you this day. Otherwise… your heart will become proud and you will forget the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery…. You may say to yourself, ‘My own power and the strength of my hand have produced this wealth for me… If you ever forget the LORD your God and follow other gods and worship and bow down to them, I testify against you today that you will surely be destroyed.” Deuteronomy 8:10-19
Now, I’m not going to make the presumption that America is some modern-day promised land and that those of us who grew up under the stars and stripes are a chosen people anymore more than any other tribe or nation. Because we aren’t. Paul said that for all of us who have submitted to Christ, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).
But we are a blessed people. And we would do well to remember that those blessings are always–always–mercies from God.
This post is part of a 31-day series. A list of all the other posts in this series can be found here.