Here in southern Idaho we have unwanted house guests in the form of little brown ants. At first we did not mention it around, thinking we might be classed as poor housekeepers, but then, the reality sifted out as we learned other people were regularly fighting the same battle! A crumb of bread inadvertently dropped on the kitchen floor will soon be covered, within hours, with those little brown things. How those little creatures can communicate so rapidly is amazing—rivaling even today’s teenage texting rage, seemingly. How did they get on the ark? It’s hard for me to wrap my mind around a picture of two little ants marching up the gangplank behind those two huge elephants!
When our kids were little, we often watched Saturday morning cartoons, especially those public television educational ones. There was one that showed a magnified view of a creature dodging through the hairs on a dog’s back, singing, “Food around the corner; food around the corner!” Maybe that’s how the ants got on board the ark, by hitching a ride on another passenger, or was it the fleas that did that?
Anyway, the matter of finding food brings to mind the way the late Lorne Sanny, former president of The Navigators mission organization, described witnessing to others of the mercy and grace of our Lord Jesus Christ: “It’s like one beggar telling another beggar where to find food!”
There is the story, probably well-known, of a man whose shadow fell on a colony of ants as he was out walking. The ants immediately scattered in all directions, scurrying for safety, somewhere, anywhere! It caused the man to wonder how he could tell those ants that he was not their enemy and did not have any destructive intentions toward them at all. Then, he realized he would have to become an ant, like one of them, to really make the truth believable.
And, that’s just what God did! He became a man in the flesh, a human being so that mankind could see, touch and handle eternal reality as One whose intentions were not destructive, but exactly the opposite:
“The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” (John 10:10).
The apostle Paul declares, “Beyond all question, the mystery from which true godliness springs is great: He appeared in the flesh…” (1 Timothy 3:16), and details how it came about, from heaven’s viewpoint of Jesus entering humanity:
“Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothingby taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:7-8).
Am I, then, equating humanity to ants? Of course not, and neither does God look upon man as a creature to be trodden into the ground. Man was the one and only creature in whom God “breathed the breath of life, and man became a living soul,” (Genesis 2:7), and it was God who initiated a plan of salvation that would satisfy all questions of eternal justice, while providing mercy for the undeserving and the means of redemption for those whose hearts would be drawn to Him in repentance.
David is described as “a man after God’s own heart” (Acts 13:22), and Abraham, the Friend of God (James 2:23), but Enoch, the son of Jared, “walked with God,” the only one so described since Adam and Eve walked with God in the Garden, “and he was not, for God took him” (Genesis 5:24). Yet Jesus walked among men and with men and many of them had a very hard time believing He was really God in the flesh.
Strangely enough, it appears that God so intensely keeps separate the works of the flesh—mankind’s own insights and solutions—from spiritual realities and eternal truth that only by His Spirit’s enlightening of man’s understanding can they recognize Him. It was that way, even with the disciples:
“When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?” So they said, “Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”
Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 16:13-17).
It is clear that no flesh shall have credence before God. When God said salvation is “not of works, lest any man should boast,” He was establishing the fact that salvation is His doing, and only when man is responding to His invitation with a repentant heart. Look at that picture of the three Hebrew young men in the king’s fiery furnace (Daniel 3).
It was seven times hotter than ever before—like the perfect fire of God’s judgment—and yet, they were not consumed because a fourth person was seen with them, someone who looked like the Son of Man. Take away that fourth person, and “whoosh,” they are immediately victims of the unrelenting, fiery judgment of God. And, since God cannot alter His eternal character—He cannot lie, or change His mind when circumstances change, as man does (Hey, He makes the circumstances!), He made a way to satisfy every issue regarding man’s redemption.
So, unlike those ants who have no eternal consequence, we can identify with the apostle John, who wrote:
“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life—the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us— that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. And these things we write to you that your joy may be full” (1 John 1:1-4).
Charles Schultz produced some very meaningful commentaries on our selfish ways in his Charlie Brown cartoons. In one account, Lucy, that persistent contrarian against Charlie Brown, is this time targeting Snoopy with her snippy remarks. The scene is a wintry day, snow is falling, and she sees Snoopy through the snowflakes, shivering and shaking in the cold, frosty air. She goes over near him and exclaims, “Snoopy, be ye warmed and filled,” and turns and walks away.
But in John’s analysis, he is writing of this God in the flesh person, with whom he has fellowship, that we might have fellowship with Him, too. As one beggar tells another beggar where to find food, we are two beggars feasting together, in common fellowship with the source of that provision. The Scripture says:
“Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, whom He has redeemed from the hand of the enemy” (Psalm 107:2).
Some years ago I heard a message that included an analysis of the three stages of a believer’s growth in expressing his faith to the unsaved. The first stage is when the new believer gets a bit of Bible knowledge “under his belt” and his “zeal without knowledge” kicks in. He finds some suffering sinner and whip-lashes him with Bible verses that condemn his sinfulness.
The second phase comes after a few attempts at soul-winning that first way results in angry rebukes and the new evangelist draws back and avoids any kind of confrontation regarding the gospel, uncertain about what he has in his hands.
That third level of understanding is the one we all would like to attain to, sooner than later. It is the place where we begin to deeply realize that God was exceedingly merciful to save a wretch like me or you, and we come humbly to another “beggar” to let him know about that living water of life that we have located. It is so easy to forget that “some plant, others water, but it is God who gives the increase” (1 Corinthians 3:6-8).
That little ant is an object of admiration to the writer of Proverbs:
“Go to the ant, you sluggard! Consider her ways and be wise, which, having no captain, overseer or ruler, provides her supplies in the summer, andgathers her food in the harvest” (Proverbs 6:6-8).
Lay that thought alongside this one:
“We then, as workers together with Him, also plead with you not to receive the grace of God in vain. For He says: “In an acceptable time I have heard you, and in the day of salvation I have helped you. ’Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation’” (2 Corinthians 6:1-2).
Finally, when should we be about, looking for that open heart who is unknowingly hoping to find answers to their life’s difficulties? The Word of God seems to have ready answers. That purveyor of wisdom in Proverbs also comes up with some thoughtful insights in his writings in Ecclesiastes. This one fits this discussion superbly:
“In the morning sow your seed, and in the evening do not withhold your hand; for you do not know which will prosper, either this or that, or whether both alike will be good” (Ecclesiastes 11:6).
Peter, then, closes the commentary with this important note:
“But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear…” (1 Peter 3:15).
May the grace of God enable us to do so in these days of waning interest in an eternal destiny!