Anglican Morning Devotion, 31 May 2021 Anno Domini
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“Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise: 7Which having no guide, overseer, or ruler, 8Provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest. 9How long wilt thou sleep, O sluggard? when wilt thou arise out of thy sleep? 10Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep: 11So shall thy poverty come as one that travelleth, and thy want as an armed man.”
(Proverbs 6:6-11; all scripture quoted is from the King James Version)
“The ants are a people not strong, yet they prepare their meat in the summer.” (Proverbs 30:25)
Napoleon Bonaparte was a tiny man by military standards – tiny in physical size, but a giant of military tactical and strategic genius. So was Beethoven small of stature but a giant in musical composition. Size is a matter of perspective. David was a small lad armed only with a sling and five smooth stones, yet he was victor over Goliath the Giant who was armed to the teeth.
Perhaps my exalted title to this devotion has been given away by the two Bible texts from the Book of Proverbs. But the tiny ant (PISMIRE) deserves his title! For size and weight, the ant is the strongest known creature on the face of the earth. Some species can lift 100 times their weight. They possess a very advanced communications network and their armies are organized to a precision level. Some ants actually farm by planting seeds of a certain vine above their nests in the ground whose roots grow down into their passages and exude a sweet nectar which the ants devour.
The Army ant can kill large mammals and eat their bones clean. They even eat away the power poles in Kenya which I observed with my own eyes. When their armies are on the move, neither man nor beast in their path is safe. Strangely, the army ant cannot endure sunlight except for very brief moments of exposure; so, when crossing a sunlit trail, they form a tunnel of ants that rotate above and below as they cross the trail. They build living bridges with their bodies across streams or crevices.
The leafcutter ant of Africa carries away leaves from trees and produces a kind of compost. The fire ant is the most aggressive ant whose combined stings can kill babies or cattle even. Then there are Carpenter ants that can destroy the walls of a home. Some ants even have slaves which often come from the hatched eggs of conquered enemies. I have read that there is a specie of ant in Africa that scares elephants away from certain trees and plants in which they live. In fact, there are stories told in Africa of ants killing elephants by entering their trunks where the flesh is tender and stinging the elephants into delirium.
In his work, Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Edward Gibbon is quoted as saying, “Thou art no more than a pismire (ant); why wilt thou seek to provoke an elephant?”
For what purpose does God point to the ant as an example of heroic proportion? Unlike many human beings who are lazy and remiss in labor, the ant is forever busy building for future survival. They possess an innate wisdom that compels them to labor during the green months so that food will be available during the months of winter. They do not require constant supervision in carrying out their duties. Contrast the wise and energetic ant with the one who constantly spends every extra cent of his welfare check and ends up begging bread at months end. The Bible contrasts the ant with the sluggard, “The sluggard will not plow by reason of the cold; therefore shall he beg in harvest, and have nothing.” (Proverbs 20:4) A sluggish mentality is often fostered by governments who grant a minimal living to those who will not work thus increasing their political support as they increase the dependency of their citizenry.
The closest other example I can imagine of a sluggard would be that of the snail whose character is very much like the biblical definition of the sluggard man. “As a snail which melteth, let every one of them pass away: like the untimely birth of a woman, that they may not see the sun.” (Psalm 58:8)The snail cannot abide two common and everyday factors – one is salt, and the other is light. In that way, a snail is a perfect type of the wicked. He hides during the hours of sunlight and slithers toward the vegetable garden during hours of darkness to devour that for which he has not labored. But before the sun rises, he again begins his slow crawl back to the darkness of some nearby rock. Like a sinner, he leaves a track behind him. If placed in sunlight, he will melt away. If salt is sprinkled on the snail, he will also melt away.
Moral: There’s a time for work and a time for play.