God has given us many wonderful examples in creation to teach us His ways. There is so much we can learn from the life of the beehive. We marvel with fascination at the selfless devotion of the little bees that literally wear out their wings serving the hive. Each bee does his part in an amazing society that is continually growing and developing. Their life is beautiful to behold and the produce of the hive is sweet and life giving.
In the Hebrew word edah1 there is a key to understanding the beehive. This word helps to unfold the mystery of the new life2 God wants to establish on the Earth. In Jeremiah 30:18 – 31:1, we see a picture of the restoration of the people of God in the latter days. Jeremiah 30:20 uses the word edah,
Their children will be as in days of old, and their community [edah] will be established before me; I will punish all who oppress them. (NIV)
The word edah also means swarm or beehive, as in Judges 14:8. It comes from a root word that means witness or testimony.
Meet Ed. Ed is a leafcutter bee. Leafcutter bees are very similar to the common honeybee, yet they have very different habits. Leafcutter bees are solitary bees, meaning they don’t produce colonies as do social insects such as honeybees, nor do they make honey.
Ed decided long ago to buzz along a different path than most leafcutter bees. As a youngster Ed used to read the Book of the Honeybees. He would imagine himself being a member of the special colonies, bringing honor to the great queen. He understood that only those who were born of the queen could be part of the beehive.
One day Ed met a traveling carpenter bee that had a very special message for him. The boisterous bee told Ed that, by the mercy of the great Creator, he could be born again and become part of the mystical hive of the honeybees. All he had to do was believe in the great queen and ask her to come into his heart. The good news filled Ed’s little bee heart with great joy. He was so lonely and wanted to be part of the fellowship of the great hive. Ed bowed his antennae and whispered a little prayer. The carpenter bee, quite pleased with his new convert, heartily welcomed Ed into his new life in the hive. Ed merrily went on his way telling any bee who would listen of the great kindness that was available in the queen bee.
One day as Ed was buzzing along about his bee business he encountered another very zealous bee busily collecting nectar from a nearby flower. “Greetings! I’m Ed, the honeybee. Who are you?”
“Hello,” said the little bee, “I’m a scout bee from the nearby hive. We just swarmed into the area. I’m collecting nectar for my friends!”
“Nearby hive?” asked Ed.
“Yes, we’re over there in the big oak tree, you are welcome to come and see the wonderful life we share together.”
“Well” said Ed, “I also have a very wonderful life. I am part of the great hive, you know. We live our lives in devotion to the great queen.”
“Really” said the little bee, “Where is this great hive?”
“All over, my friend! I meet brothers and sisters wherever I go.”
“That’s very interesting,” said the little bee. “I wish I could stay longer and talk, but I must get back to the hive, for there is much to do to meet all the needs. Please come and see us if you can. We would love to have you!”
So the little bee buzzed away and left Ed to ponder the encounter. He was very intrigued by the kind spirit of the little bee and his talk of a wonderful life together with other bees. At the same time he was a little concerned that such bees could send the wrong message to potential bee-lievers that you would have to actually do something to be a honeybee. After all, it didn’t actually say in the Book of the Honeybees that you have to live in a hive. You only have to believe in the queen. Perhaps, thought Ed, he would have to help these fanatical bees with their understanding of what it meant to be a honeybee.
So with a sincere heart to help these poor misguided little bees, and a measure of curiosity, Ed charged off in the direction of the big oak tree. Soon he came upon a very amazing sight. He had never seen so many bees in his brief bee lifetime. The hive was teeming with activity. As Ed approached the colony a few guard bees flew to meet him. “Hello, welcome! Where are you from?”
“I’m Ed, the honeybee. I was invited by one of the bees that live here.”
“Really?! How wonderful! Please come in,” said the guard bees.
Ed could hardly believe his little compound bee eyes at what he saw as he entered the hive. There were busy bees everywhere he looked. Each one seemed to have a particular function in the hive. Some were cleaning. Some bees were making food. Some were caring for the young. Some were doing repairs on the hive and building new rooms for the new life that was continually coming forth. Some of the bees were doing a little bee dance, while others looked on and began to join in the dance. Ed marveled at how the hive seemed to be like one living organism – like a body, every part working in harmony with the others – for the good of the whole community.
“Hello Ed, I’m so glad you could come!” Ed turned to see the smiling face of the little scout bee whom he had originally met. “Have you ever seen anything as wonderful as the life of the hive?”
“Yes, well it’s interesting…” replied Ed.
They were interrupted as a group of worker bees approached, greeting Ed and offering him some honey and beebread. They began excitedly asking him questions about his life and telling him about the recent swarm and all the activity of the hive. More and more of the bees gathered around as the queen proclaimed a special celebration to welcome their guest. Ed could hardly bear all the attention he was getting.
As amazing as the life of the hive was, Ed could hardly see it. Somehow he felt very threatened by the things he heard from the honeybees. They seemed to think one had to live in a beehive in order to be a honeybee. But Ed personally knew many good honeybees that were not part of any hive. Ed determined that, although these bees were very nice and hospitable and had many admirable qualities, he didn’t think he could ever live the life they were living. He just wasn’t interested in opening his life to so many others. He could see that this was a very demanding life. He could sense that if he stayed he would probably be very limited in following his own pursuits. So he bid his host farewell and began to crawl toward the entrance of the hive.
“But where will you go,” asked the little scout bee.
“Well, you know, we all have different callings, my brother. It’s just good to know there are fellow honeybees out there like you all,” replied Ed. “I need to go and spread the good news about the hope that’s in the great queen.”
“But Ed,” said the little bee, “We have that same hope. But we know that our faith has made us part of a living hive with sweet produce. Our life is a witness of the goodness of our Creator.”
“Well, yes, I couldn’t agree more. But you can’t limit that life to your little hive. There are many out there that the Creator wants to reach out to,” said Ed.
“Yes, yes, we know that’s true, but His heart is to bring them home and restore them to the purpose He has for their life, all the bees working together, not one seeking for his own good, but rather for the good of the community where everyone is cared for, and no one is overlooked.” Then the little bee looked at Ed compassionately and said, “Ed, I have to tell you something, because I really care about you and I think you should know.”
“Yes,” said Ed, “What is it?”
“You see Ed… the truth is that you’re not a honeybee.”
Ed was instantly offended. “How can you say such a thing, after all the great work I’ve done for the queen?”
“But can’t you see Ed, that no bee can possibly do the will of the queen apart from the true hive? A lone honeybee could never bear the fruit of the hive.”
So what is Ed going to do? What would you do? The honeybee is a social creature. If a true honeybee becomes separated from the hive it will die within a very short time…
In Jeremiah 30:20 it speaks of the time when God will establish His community, His witness — His Body on the Earth. And then a few verses later in Jeremiah 31:1, it says,
“At that time,” declares the LORD, “I will be the God of all the families [clans, tribes] of Israel, and they shall be My people.” (NIV)
And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come. (KJV)
Yahshua preached the good news of a Kingdom that was coming on Earth, just as it was in Heaven – the same Spirit, the same love. Obedience to the gospel that He preached would transfer one out of the kingdom of darkness and into the kingdom of the light.6 This is not a mystical kingdom, but actual communities of believers that would set the evidence of God’s love for man and the salvation that is in His Son before all the world. This is what Yahshua prayed for right before He was crucified,
I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in Me through their word, that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in Me and I am in You, may they also be in Us, so that the world may believe that You have sent Me. The glory that you have given Me I have given them, so that they may be one, as We are one, I in them and you in Me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent Me and have loved them even as you have loved Me. (John 17:20-23, NRSV)
Beehive… swarm… community… witness… testimony… A life of brothers dwelling together in unity,7 loving one another as He commanded them,8 encouraging one another daily,9 seeing to it that no one falls short of grace…10 A life of fellowship, which is a sharing of all that you have and all that you are, considering others more important than yourself.11
Imagine a life where all you do is for the sake of others. Somehow that didn’t appeal to Ed, the lone bee. But those who know Messiah and follow Him walk as He walked.12
Imagine you are a carpenter. You work in the woodshop. Your little industry helps to meet the needs of your household. This is your gift and your contribution. Then someone else washes your clothes, and others make your meals, still others teach your children, others clean the house, others shop for food. So much needs to be done to meet all the needs, but you’re needed in your area. You can’t do it all. But you do what you do because you love your friends. They serve you in their areas because they love you. And all of you function together like a body to glorify the Head – your King, Yahshua.
Such a life was seen on the earth 2000 years ago for only a brief moment. It is recorded in Acts 2 and 4.13 But in a short time their loved faded and so did their light. They stopped doing the self-sacrificing deeds of love they did at first.14 They could no longer live together and share all things in common; they gathered less and less,15 until it was only once or twice a week.
They were no longer qualified to be His witness as they lost any evidence in their lives of the fruit of the Spirit, but rather dissension, factions, denominations, strife, envy and all the other fruits of the flesh crept in. They conformed more and more to the world,16 until the time came when there was hardly any difference between the world and the church.
Yet the promise remains of the restoration that Jeremiah spoke of in the latter days. This is the same Kingdom that the prophet Daniel spoke of in Daniel 2:44,
And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which will never be destroyed, and that kingdom will not be left for another people; it will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms, but it will itself endure forever. (NASB)
Once again in these latter days this life is being established as a witness on the Earth. There are communities of disciples who have seen the great worth of Messiah and His sacrifice for them. They have left behind everything that would keep them from following Him and serving Him and loving Him with all of their hearts. Together they share again the life of the “hive”, which you can come and see and experience and be a part of.
You will see what Ed saw, that this is a very demanding life. It is a free gift, but it will cost you everything to truly be part of the hive. But as Paul said,
More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus [Yahshua] my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish in order that I may gain Christ. (Philippians 3:8, NASB)