Milk and honey and believing the gospel
In Hebrews, the promised land and the sabbath day both represent the rest that is promised to the Christian. This rest is something that has to be believed, and it is something that the saints are encouraged to labour to enter. [Hebrews 3:18-19 & 4:9-11]
Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief.
For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
In the verses quoted above, and as the context shows, the rest that the saints may enter is believing the word of God. This is also the symbolic meaning of the promised land. Believing the word of God, corresponds to entry into the land of promise. This is supported in other scriptures too.
Paul wrote to the Ephesian Christians,
Ephesians 4:8, 11-15
Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. …
And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;
For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:
Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:
That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;
But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:
Paul showed that the Christian life is a development, like growth from childhood to adulthood. The goal is to grow up unto Christ in all things. A similar idea is present in Hebrews 5:12-14, where milk represents basic concepts of the gospel, and the elementary teachings in the Scripture intended only for those who are immature. Those who are more mature are able to process strong meat, or solid food, that requires chewing. Strong meat contrasts with the liquid diet of infants, milk which requires no chewing.
In the Scriptures, the promised land, which the Israelites sought to enter after they were delivered from Egypt, was associated with milk and honey. Why would the land be connected with foods? And why milk and honey? Jesus also identified himself with food, in particular, manna. He said he was the bread, or manna, which came from heaven. Manna tasted like wafers made with honey. [Exodus 16:31]
John 6:53-54, 56
Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. … He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him.
The following commentary is from William Milligan & William Fiddian Moulton, The gospel according to John [Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1883. p. 161-162.]
As to the general meaning of this important passage, there can be little or no doubt. There are some new expressions, but on the whole the imagery agrees with that employed in the earlier part of the chapter, and the blessings offered by Jesus are described again in identical language. Here, as before, life, eternal life, is promised; again ‘eating’ is the figure which describes the mode of receiving life; as in vers. 35, 48 and 51, Jesus identifies Himself with that which when eaten gives life; and, as in ver. 44 (comp. vers. 39 and 40), He promises that He will raise up at the last day every one who has thus received eternal life The agreement then between these verses and the earlier part of the discourse is so marked that there can be no change in the general sense: all the expressions in previous verses in which figure is wholly or partially set aside may be brought in here also to elucidate the meaning. Our Lord therefore still teaches in regard to all who come to Him, who believe in Him, who are intimately joined to Him in the union of faith, and, receiving all from Him, may be said to appropriate to themselves Himself, and to feed on Him—that these, and these alone, have eternal life.
Milk is excellent as nourishment for infants, and it is peculiar to mammals. But unless refrigerated, it sours quickly, and becomes quite smelly. Both milk and honey are associated with the word of God. The apostle Peter recommended the sincere milk of the word: “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby.” [1 Peter 2:2]
Honey is produced by bees from the nectar from flowers, which they collect, and transform into honey by regurgitation, and then store in cells of a honeycomb made of wax. Honey has many health benefits for humans, as it has antioxidant, and anti-bacterial properties. Some claim it may also possess carcinogen-preventing properties.
David compared the words of God with honey. “How sweet are thy words unto my taste! yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” [Psalm 119:103] In one of Ezekiel’s visions, he was given a scroll to eat, and he said it tasted sweet like honey. [Ezekiel 3:3] In Revelation, John described a similar experience. [Revelation 10:8-10] The symbols of milk and honey connect the promised land with the Scriptures.
David said, “O LORD, how manifold are thy works! in wisdom hast thou made them all: the earth is full of thy riches.” [Psalm 104:24]
In Proverbs 8:22-31, wisdom is associated with the earth’s creation, and composition.
Possession of the land is connected with the gospel, and with the promise to Abraham, that in his seed all nations will be blessed, and with revelations from God in Jacob’s dream at Bethel, where he dreamed he saw a ladder reaching to heaven, and angels ascending and descending upon it, and where God promised to give him the land.
In the law of Moses, God was the inheritance of the Levites, in lieu of a portion of the land such as were assigned to each of the other tribes. [Deuteronomy 18:1-2] When Israel entered the promised land under Joshua, the whole law was written on it. [Deuteronomy 27:2-3]
Jesus inherited all the promises of God, which includes the land. [2 Corinthians 1:20]