I have a plan for surviving an attack of Africanized honey bees. I developed it after reading Psalm 118.
At the midpoint, the psalmist describes being attacked on all sides by enemy nations. He declares, “they compassed me, compassed me about… They compassed me about like bees.” How did the psalmist respond to this metaphorical bee attack? He boasts: “In the Lord’s name I crushed them.”
But how can someone “crush” a swarm of bees? It seems impossible to swat down every one of the thousands of individual bees. And as a matter of fact, swatting at the bees is the worst conceivable response. This video explicitly states, “avoid crushing any bees, as this will only worsen any attack.” Rather, survival experts universally advise to run as fast as possible and immediately seek safe shelter.
I won’t swat at the bees. My plan is to seek refuge. Basically there is nothing a person can do on his own to stop the attacking bees. Fighting back is completely futile, and probably counterproductive. I will run and seek refuge, and then I will treat my wounds.
Clearly the author of Psalm 118 was not writing a survival guide for nature lovers. Rather he intends to teach us something about God. We see this when we read the whole psalm. Although the psalmist initially boasted about “crushing” the bees, it seems however that his actions were ineffective. In the very next line we read, “I was thrust down, I was thrust down and falling, but the Lord was my helper. / The Lord is my strength and my song; he was my savior.” So in actuality, the psalmist didn’t crush the bees by his own efforts. Instead, the bees overwhelmed him. But then the Lord saved him. When in trouble, he ran to God for help. So he tells us, “It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in men; / it is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes.” Just as when faced with an attack of real bees, the psalmist sought refuge. Seek refuge in God.
So, what does that look like in our lives today? Sometimes we are beset on all sides by immediate and serious trials, such as illness, death, or unemployment. But, we can also feel overwhelmed by just the daily tasks of living. This was certainly the case when Jesus visited Bethany. Martha was “distracted with much serving” while her sister Mary simply “sat at the Lord’s feet and listened.” Martha, as the busy hostess, must have felt “compassed by bees,” and she tried to force Mary into helping. But Martha was swatting at the problem, and Jesus makes it clear that instead Martha should have sat with Jesus just as Mary did; Martha should have sought refuge in the Lord.
It is the same with us today. When faced with major crises or even just dealing with Black Friday and the hectic holiday season, we must always take refuge in the Lord. This starts by sitting quietly with him in real prayer. If we make it a daily habit during the calm times, it will become all the easier to run to Christ when facing a swarm of problems, big and small. Seek refuge in the Lord, because in the end, we can do nothing on our own. It is God who protects us from the bees, and he will heal our wounds.
Image: Jacques Callot, Peasant Attacked by Bees