Jesus’ Butter and Honey Diet
Verse 14 is familiar to most Christians; but they are not so familiar with verse fifteen.
Prophesying of Jesus, Isaiah said, “Butter and honey shall He eat.” Prophetic language is often figurative. But what is it speaking of? The context gives us clues. This butter and honey diet stands opposed to another diet of “briers and thorns.” (vs. 24). And His fabulous diet is also for those who follow Him. “For butter and honey shall every one eat that is left in the land,” who peacefully plow the ground; but the men “with arrows and with bows” only, would unhappily find that, for them, “all the land shall become briers and thorns.”
This is better understood when laid next to another reference from Isaiah. “Nevertheless the dimness shall not be such as was in her vexation, when at the first He lightly afflicted the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, and afterward did more grievously afflict her by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, in Galilee of the nations. The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined. Thou hast multiplied the nation, and not increased the joy: they joy before Thee according to the joy in harvest, and as men rejoice when they divide the spoil. For Thou hast broken the yoke of his burden, and the staff of his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor, as in the day of Midian. For every battle of the warrior is with confused noise, and garments rolled in blood; but this shall be with burning and fuel of fire. For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given.” (Is. 9:1-6).
The above text was later given by Matthew as a prophetic reference to Jesus the Messiah. “That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, The land of Zabulon, and the land of Nephthalim, by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles; the people which sat in darkness saw great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up.” (Matt. 4:14-16).
But Isaiah says more than Matthew quoted. He speaks of the joy that the followers of Christ would experience. All around would be anger and violence, but not for Jesus’ disciples. “They joy before Thee according to the joy in harvest” because the love of Christ had “broken the yoke of his burden, and the staff of his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor, as in the day of Midian.”
This the disciples of Christ experienced so much so that when the complaint arose that they didn’t fast like everyone else, Christ defended them by saying that the popular act of fasting would be impossible for them. A true fast is a God-given method for putting self-indulgence on hold, paving the way for the Holy Spirit to gain the advantage over Satan; but it had turned into a human endeavor to overcome the power of Satan alone without God’s help. Christ knew the futility of this and steered His disciples away it to a better and successful method of overcoming the devil—a friendship with the Anointed One, a union with Him who had the communion of the Holy Spirit without measure. Once their hearts were fully linked up with Him, Jesus re-introduced fasting to His little family of disciples, but fasting for the right purpose.
To fast according to the accepted method of a corrupted Hebrew religion, utilized by the Pharisees, was to separate from Christ, which was Satan’s goal in incensing the religious leaders against Jesus’ disciples. The ascetic life Satan has so often used for his advantage, grinding the hatefulness and vengefulness of Rome into everyone trying to free themselves of the grip he has on their heart. Fasting is only good if we use it to get back to Jesus, so that He can fight the battles with the arch-adversary for us.
Isaiah spoke of the Assyrian. “…Butter and honey shall He [Christ] eat, that He may know to refuse the evil, and choose the good. For before the Child shall know to refuse the evil, and choose the good, the land that thou abhorrest [the holy land] shall be forsaken of both her kings. The Lord shall bring upon thee, and upon thy people, and upon thy father’s house, days that have not come, from the day that Ephraim departed from Judah; even the king of Assyria. And it shall come to pass in that day, that the Lord shall hiss for the fly that is in the uttermost part of the rivers of Egypt, and for the bee that is in the land of Assyria. And they shall come, and shall rest all of them in the desolate valleys, and in the holes of the rocks, and upon all thorns, and upon all bushes.” (Is. 7:15-19).
This king represented more than just the rising power of Assyria. The prophecy spoke of Satan, “the prince of the power of the air,” “the god of this world,” and of his strategy of moving the world toward great, organized governments and the resultant centralization of power, wealth, and corruption—a whole series of empires that would dominate Israel until Christ would be born: Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome—which the prophet lumped all together into one long time period of overall world dominion. This was to indicate the dark bitterness, the vanity and vexation of spirit, that the Spirit of Prophecy told Isaiah would overtake this world because of sin. And Israel’s refusal to come under God’s sanctifying power would be the prime cause of the demise for the rest of humanity, because God could only bless the world with peace through sanctification, and that through Israel’s beautiful laws of love and righteousness.
So by the time Messiah, the Holy One, would arrive to consummate the plan of redemption, the effect of pagan empires would leave a bitter hell-hold on humanity. Violence would be the only way of life, even in religion, pagan and Jewish. There would be no escaping the painful fruits of disobedience to the Holy Spirit of God’s love. “And they [the Jews] shall look unto the earth; and behold trouble and darkness, dimness of anguish; and they shall be driven to darkness.” (Is. 8: 22). Israel thought they could partake of the spirit of the surrounding nations with impunity; but that was only day-dreaming. The long, inescapable nightmare would soon be upon them.
Thorns and thistles would run rampant, which are so painful to kick against (Acts 9:5); that “root of bitterness springing up” due to losing “the grace of God” (Heb. 12:15), the painful fruits of rebellion which cause the knowledge of grace and love to dry up and blow away.
But such was not the case with Jesus. Rather than thorns and thistles, “butter and honey” would be His constant diet—the oil of God’s acceptance and the knowledge of the love imbedded in all of His Father’s Law and His judgments and statutes. “More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.” (Ps. 19:7-10).
“Enlightened” from the dawning of His child-like intelligence, and “having tasted of the heavenly gift,” “being made partaker of the Holy Ghost,” and having “tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come,” Jesus blossomed beneath the sunshine of His Father’s love. (Heb. 6:4,5). Never once did rebellion rise in His heart at any of His Father’s requirements; never once did He fall under temptation and lose the perfect peace of His Father’s approbation; never did He imbibe the grinding influence of the devil, and receive of the wrath of God.
We see the faithfulness of so many Bible heroes: Abraham, Moses, Samuel, David, Paul, etc. But none of them, even Abraham and Paul who launched the first and second dispensations of God’s grace, knew the deep surrender Christ had to God. None of them, even Samuel in his early age of three, knew the communion that Jesus, the Son of God, had with His Father—that “butter and honey”—from the day a virgin gave birth to Him.
Jesus, the Holy One, stands infinitely taller than everyone crowding around Him, like Mt. Rainier, humbling all the mountains surrounding it. Abraham and Paul might look glorious compared to other great men, but not before God. Of Jesus it was prophesied, “A bruised reed shall He not break, and the smoking flax shall He not quench: He shall bring forth judgment unto truth. He shall not fail nor be discouraged, till He have set judgment in the earth: and the isles shall wait for His law. ...The Lord is well pleased for His righteousness’ sake; He will magnify the law, and make it honourable.” (Is. 42:3,4,21).
Only of Jesus did the Father proclaim from heaven, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” (Matt. 3:17).