One of my favorite hobbies is beekeeping. And not just one or two hives, but 20 or more!
The whole family helped during the honey harvest, which produces hundreds of pounds of great local honey every year. A couple weeks ago, I headed down to the bee yard to check on their progress and to make sure they would have sufficient room for the upcoming nectar flow. As I watched them fly in and out of the hives by the thousands, I marveled at what a great work of God the honeybee is. Consider the following facts that give manifold witness to the living God:
They build their hive in total darkness out of wax that they secrete from their own glands. These wax plates are fashioned into the honeycomb we all recognize. Even the ancient Romans speculated on why the honeybee chose to always make perfect hexagons. Modern engineering has confirmed that the perfect hexagon stores the most honey with the least amount of building material (wax) and is stronger. Wow, those bees sure are smart! I wonder how many generations it took for them to figure that out.
But wait, there’s more.
The hive has three distinct residents — female workers, the queen and drones. After spending their early days cleaning the hive, minding the nursery and other domestic duties, the female workers begin to forage for nectar. Their flights can range as much as 3 miles; they will literally work themselves to death in a couple of months. As various nectar sources become available, the worker bees communicate through a dance that gives other workers distance and coordinates. You might be wondering how a colony could stay alive if its worker force had such low life expectancy.
Enter the queen bee.
Each colony has only one queen. Her presence (and scent) provide hive stability. Although she begins her infancy like her sisters, after being fed a special diet she is transformed into an anatomically different female. After becoming impregnated (more on that next), she begins to lay somewhere between 1,000 and 2,000 eggs a day. Yes, a day. She may continue this pace for several years.
So, how do her eggs get fertilized?
Enter the drone.
Drones are male honeybees. They don’t do hive housework, take care of the bee nursery or guard the entrance. They don’t forage for nectar or pollen, or scout for a new home. Their sole role is to mate with virgin queens. They do this by flying to drone congregating zones and flying around in a wide circle waiting for a virgin queen. To this day, we humans do not understand how they know where these zones are. What is amazing is that there is no generational transfer of this information. How do we know this? At the end of every season, remaining drones are driven out of the hive to die, so as not to be a burden to the hive during the winter. Somehow, every year a new crop of male drones knows where their work station is. I wonder how much trial and error that took.
Worship the Creator
There are probably a million other examples in God’s glorious creation that speak to his majesty, creativity, connectedness and sense of order. Indeed, such numerous examples give the words of Paul in Romans 1:19-23 special power:
“For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not think to honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.”
Yes, much of our modern world sadly worships the created things and the gift of science without giving glory to the actual creator.
Lastly, the example of the humble, hardworking honeybee is here to remind us of another encouraging biblical truth. God loves order, not chaos. The Genesis account is one of order and purpose. The honeybee family structure is there by God’s design. So is God’s design for the health and happiness of the human family.
Everyone has a job to do. Worker bees don’t try to be queens. If you want to see what that looks like, open up a queenless colony some time. You won’t forget it — chaotic, angry, confused bees.
Some worker bees are trying to pretend to be queens, since they are sterile by God’s design. Bad results. No one is in charge … shalom is gone.
In our lives, shalom is possible when we put things in the proper order. When the Lord is Lord of your life, and we live obediently in accordance with the design and calling of the creator, our “hives” will be productive, fruitful and happy places. This is not to say that females alone have responsibility for domestic duties, and that males should, well, never mind ... it is to say that there is one God who is sovereign of all the universe and we are wise to worship him, rather than any created thing.