Saturday, August 18, 2018

Tres Leches

Photo by AndonicO 2006

Although our physically demanding dance ministry demands that I pursue a healthy lifestyle overall, and particularly a healthy diet, I must confess that I love sweets. As my husband and dance partner likes to point out, “She never met a dessert she didn’t like.”

To which I often reply, “Just hand over my ‘medicinal’ chocolate, and no one will get hurt!”

One of my favorite desserts is Tres Leches, a delectable Mexican concoction so named because its recipe calls for three milks, namely evaporated milk, condensed milk, and heavy cream. The end result is a sponge cake layered in custard, drenched in sauce redolent of caramel, and topped with whipped cream.
This unique confection got me thinking about symbolism involving milk in Scripture, and I realized that it can involve God’s creation, God’s provision, and God’s Word, consistent with the pattern of threes echoing the Trinity reflected throughout the Bible.

In the midst of his suffering, Job imagines a conversation he would like to have with God, and he asks for God’s mercy on His own creation. He poetically compares God’s creation of man to sculpting a masterpiece from clay, curdling cheese from milk, and clothing him in flesh and skin supported by bones and sinews (Job 10:8-11).

The process of curdling cheese from milk may symbolize seminal fluid entering the womb, and, at conception, beginning a process in which the developing embryo and fetus become progressively solidified, albeit containing fluid within blood vessels, brain ventricles, and lymph vessels. It is unlikely that Job understood this completely, yet by inspiration of the Holy Spirit he wrote a beautiful metaphor describing prenatal development, a process totally governed by God (Psalm 139:13-16).

Milk as a symbol of God’s provision is abundant in references to the Promised Land He offered to His children as a land flowing with milk and honey (Exodus 3:8, 17; 13:5, 33:3, etc.). God promises that if we work diligently, He will bless us with goat’s milk, referring generally to the food He provides, to meet our own needs and those of our family and employees (Proverbs 27:27).

In the Song of Solomon, the love between a man and his wife, which is also a symbol of the love Jesus Christ the Bridegroom has for His bride, the church, is portrayed three times using milk as a symbol of delight, purity and beauty. He praises His beloved, for her lips “drop as the honeycomb: honey and milk are under thy tongue; and the smell of thy garments is like the smell of Lebanon (4:11).”

He further describes his delight in their union as “I have gathered my myrrh with my spice; I have eaten my honeycomb with my honey; I have drunk my wine with my milk“(5:1). In return, the beloved spouse praises her Bridegroom, for "His eyes are as the eyes of doves by the rivers of waters, washed with milk, and fitly set (5:12).”

Jesus Christ, Who is the Living Water, promised us that once we know Him, we will never thirst again (John 4:10-14). The prophet Isaiah foretold this and promised that God offers not only water to all who thirst, but also milk and wine offered freely at no cost (Isaiah 55:1), for we cannot buy or earn our own salvation (Ephesians 2:8-9). Rather, it is only by trusting in Christ’s completed work on the cross to pay for our sins, in His burial and in His resurrection proving that He is God, that we can be saved and have eternal life (1 Corinthians 15:1-4).

Isaiah also prophesied that God would bless Israel so richly that her breasts would nourish not only her own people, but also all nations and even Gentiles (Isaiah 66:10-13). This has been fulfilled in part through the birth of Jesus in Israel (Luke 2) and will be fulfilled completely when Christ returns and rules in the New Jerusalem (Revelation 3:12; 21:2). The prophet Joel describes the blessings of the New Jerusalem as “the mountains shall drop down new wine, and the hills shall flow with milk, and all the rivers of Judah shall flow with waters” (Joel 3:18).

God is honored when we give a portion of His blessings back to Him as an offering, so it is appropriate that Abraham offered a feast of milk and butter, and a calf representing their earthly source, to God and two angels who visited him in human form (Genesis 18:8).

Just as God created us and provides for all our physical needs, He also satisfies our soul with spiritual blessings. He communicates with us, leads us, and nourishes us primarily through His Word. Newborn infants receive nourishment exclusively from the perfect food of their mother’s milk, or from infant formula, whereas babes in Christ grow spiritually from the sincere milk of the Word, meaning fundamental passages explaining salvation (1 Peter 2:2).

But as we grow physically, our diet becomes more varied and comprehensive, including meat once we are able to digest it. Similarly, as Christians growing in our walk with Christ, we need to supplement our spiritual diet with all Scripture (2 Timothy 3:16), including the “strong meat” that is more difficult to assimilate (1 Corinthians 3:2; Hebrews 5:12-13) yet is essential to our strength and vitality as Christ’s ministers (1 Corinthians 4:1), fellow-laborers (1 Corinthians 3:9) and ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20) doing His work in this lost, sinful and dying world (John 17).

Still, we should never lose our taste for the milk of the Word, and we should never tire of hearing the Gospel message. Even after a hearty steak dinner, I can always find room for the sweet, rich, satisfying experience of Tres Leches. May we always taste and see that the Lord is good!  (Psalm 34:8)

© 2018 Laurie Collett


Saturday, August 11, 2018

The Infant, or the Kitten?

Photo by Mehregan Javanmard

In 1882, Frank R. Stockton wrote a famous short story, “The Lady, or the Tiger?” about a convicted man who had to choose between two doors. One door led to freedom and marriage to a beautiful maiden, and the other to cruel death by a ravenous tiger. I had a dream recently in which I was faced with an equally life-changing decision.

In the dream, I was living in a strange country far from home. I had no provisions for my stay, but I heard that the ruler was giving away special gifts uniquely suited to each recipient. I lined up with many others to receive my gift, and one by one we were seated in small cabins ascending into the sky, like a ski lift.

When my seat reached the platform where an official was distributing gifts, I was shocked when he placed an infant in my arms. I had hoped for money, or a job, or a house, or some other way to sustain myself in this foreign land, and here I was with another mouth to feed!

But as soon as I held him I felt an unaccustomed sense of peace, hope, and awe at his perfect composure and regal bearing, so unexpected from such a young child. When he smiled, his eyes sparkled with sunbeams that lit the darkest recesses of my heart. Although I didn’t know how, I vowed that I would devote my life to caring for him.

As I held him on my knee he laughed with delight at various sights, drawing my attention to delicate flowers hidden along the path below, butterflies wafting on the breeze, a breathtaking waterfall that I would have missed otherwise. I had never before felt such joy or anticipation for the journey.

Suddenly I was distracted by a crawling sensation at my feet that made me shudder, and I feared that it might be a spider or even a tarantula. But to my surprise, on the floor of the cabin was a tiny white kitten, rubbing against my calves, wanting to be petted. I was concerned about the infant, but the kitten seemed so helpless and innocent that I reached down to stroke it.

Photo by Alicia Harvey 2007

With a plaintive “Meow” the creature leaped into my lap, still out of reach of the infant. But the baby fixed his eyes on me with a reproachful glance that cut through to my very soul, and my eyes filled with tears as I realized that I had betrayed him. The velvety skin on the pads of the kitten’s feet retracted suddenly to reveal cruel talons, and it pounced upward, clutching my throat.

I awoke in a panic, relieved that it was just a dream. Yet it got me thinking about the message our preacher gave last Sunday about the danger of letting sin creep into our life.

We are indeed strangers in a distant land, for our life on earth will be over in a flash (2 Corinthians 4:17). Then we will spend eternity in heaven or in hell, depending on whether or not we have been born again and trusted Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.

Life on earth is full of trouble (Job 14:1), with no promises even for tomorrow (James 4:13-15). The best gift anyone could ever receive while on earth is the gift of salvation, of placing your faith in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ as the only way to heaven (1 Corinthians 15:1-4; John 14:6). Not only does that guarantee your eternal life in heaven, but it gives you abundant life here and now (John 10:10).

Not only will God provide for your physical needs (Psalm 37:25), but He will bless you spiritually with joy in Him (Nehemiah 8:10; Isaiah 61:10; Philemon 1:20), peace that passes all understanding (Philippians 4:7), and faith that He is working all things together for our good and His glory (Romans 8:28).

The infant in my dream symbolized Jesus Christ, Who took on human flesh to come to earth as an Infant while retaining His divinity (John 1:14). He is all we need (2 Corinthians 12:9; Philippians 4:13). At the moment of salvation we are filled with joy, hope, and zeal to serve Him and to dedicate our lives to Him. If we remain faithful to that vow, we will be richly blessed by being in His perfect will (Romans 12:2).

But sadly, it is all too easy to let temptation creep into our lives, distracting our focus from Jesus. Why would we waste any of our time and energy on anything so clearly inferior to His perfection, especially when He promises us an escape from temptation? (1 Corinthians 10:13; 2 Peter 2:9)  If we yield to temptation it becomes sin – often a vicious cycle of sin compounded upon sin -- and the wages of sin is death (Luke 11:4; Romans 6:23).

If we have truly been born again (John 3:3-8), our salvation and eternal life in heaven are secure no matter what sins we commit (John 10:28-29), for His death on the cross paid for it all (1 John 2:2; 4:10). Yet sin inevitably results in other forms of death (Romans 5:12-21). Sin kills our testimony and effectiveness as ambassadors for Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20); it demolishes our fellowship with Him (Luke 15:18-21); and it ultimately destroys our physical body through injury, substance abuse, and/or illness.

The devil doesn’t cloak temptation in black robes and warn us with thunder and lightning bolts to stay away. Instead, he lures us in, disguising temptation in beauty appealing to our eyes, our flesh, or our pride (1 John 2:16). He may tempt us into evil plans and deeds through the sympathetic whisper of a “friend.” (2 Samuel 13).

Temptation may appear as innocent and harmless as a kitten, but if you accept its advances, it will ultimately turn on you and endanger your very life (Proverbs 7).  Samson (Judges 16:4-20), David (2 Samuel 11:1-15), and Solomon (1 Kings 11:4) all succumbed to lovely temptations, with disastrous results.

In the dream I was concerned about the infant, although not enough to resist the kitten. Yet it is not Christ Who is endangered by our sins, for He has forever conquered sin and death (Romans 5:12-21). We ourselves suffer the consequences of sin, not the least of which is the sadness of knowing we have quenched and grieved His Spirit (1 Thessalonians 5:19; Ephesians 4:30). 

Which will you choose, the Infant or the kitten? Eternal life and abundant life blessed by His fellowship and being in His perfect will, or the downward spiral of sin and death? The choice is yours. But thankfully, He provides all you need to make the right choice. 

© 2013 Laurie Collett
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