Go to the Ant

Ants. What do you know about them? Do they intrigue you? Or does just the sight of them make your skin crawl?

What affect do ants have on you?
Photo by Pranimm Athithawatthe via Pexels

I know I’ve had my run-ins with them. They’ve invaded our house, more specifically our dishwasher.  They’ve turned periods of relaxation into bouts of panic by climbing on or near my vicinity. They’ve frustrated me with their persistence in establishing and reestablishing residence. And they’ve fascinated me by moving in circular motions prior to an oncoming storm. My feelings of ants tilt toward the side of annoyance.

But King Solomon was clearly fascinated by them.  In Proverbs 3:16-18 King Solomon writes:

Ants in the background with the verse overlaid.

About King Solomon, Mark W. Moffett, author of Adventures Among Ants: A Global Safari with a Cast of Trillions, weighs in, “King Solomon must have been a devoted ant observer to reach this conclusion.” Why would a King, known for his wisdom (I Kings 3:28, II Chronicles 9:5-8) care about the behavior of ants, and moreover suggest we should likewise? 

This blog, and a few to follow, seeks to explore these questions. We’ll walk through the verse step by step and perhaps, by the end, gain some glimmer of understanding into why, we humans – God’s dearly beloved – should take the time to consider, well, a persistently pesky insect that dines on our discarded food and the decaying dead.

Here's an outline of the upcoming blogs and questions they’ll seek to answer:

  1. “Go to the Ant” Why an ant?
  2. “An Ant’s Ways” What are the ways of an ant?
  3. “Gaining Wisdom from Ants” What wisdom might I, a sluggard, gain from an ant?
  4. “The Freedom of Ants” Though free, what motivates an ant to continue working, and would I?.

So, in continuing to read, you accept the fact that I will not get through the entire ant-alysis of this verse today.  The focus of this post, the one currently before you is: “Why an ant?”

Background of ants on a sidewalk


Props in Nature

An ant, undeniably, is part of nature. The Bible consistently utilizes nature comparisons to aid the reader’s understanding.  Consider the following examples: 

The verse with grape vines as the background
Photo from Pixabay

This verse, John 15:1-2, portrays a gardener tending to the branches of a grape vine. Each element of the portrayal represents a different person in the relationship between God, Jesus and ourselves. God is the gardener, we are the branches, and the vine is Jesus. 

Text that features the verse with open hands holding mustard seeds beneath.
Photo from Josua Lanzarini via Unsplash

Matthew 17:20 uses a mustard seed (1 to 2 millimeters in diameter) to demonstrate that only a small amount of faith yields significant results.  In other words, the amount of faith is not equally proportional to the measure of its result.

A man sowing seeds on the right with the verse on the left.
Photo from pxfuel

Hosea 10:12, relates growing crops to the process of receiving God’s mercy, and it connects well to Galatians 6:8, "You reap what you sow."

The verse surrounds two lambs.
Photo from pxfuel

John 10:14-15 parallels the relationship of a shepherd and its sheep to Jesus and his followers.

Birds and flowers to the right accompanied by the verse on the left.
Photo from pxfuel

In Matthew 6:26-30, Jesus uses the satisfaction of birds and adornment of flowers to demonstrate how well our heavenly Father cares for creation and how much more He’ll provide for us.

These connections give us a common reference point: both God and humans relate to nature. We live in it; He created it.  By relating a new idea to something familiar, we are more likely to grasp the concept. It’s why teachers connect learning to food, video games, sports, and popular entertainment. Connecting new learning to preexisting knowledge is simply excellent pedagogy.  In scientific terms, it builds neural connections and long-term memory storage, thereby making learning more effective (Bernard 2010). From a scientific, pedagogical perspective, King Solomon leads us to the ant because of best teaching practices.


Connecting Creation to Wisdom

But, why use nature as the connection?  Might it be because Wisdom was there when God made creation (Proverbs 8:22-31).  And, as Wisdom observed, she noticed the beauty, the complexity, the meaning, and delighted in all of it.  Perhaps Wisdom sees Christ in the grape vine and us in the branches, observes faith nestled in every mustard seed, envisions righteousness springing forth from sown seeds, visualizes Christ as a shepherd and us as His sheep, witnesses the provision of God for the birds and the flowers projecting into an overabundance of riches for us, and perhaps Wisdom perceives an ant as the object of instruction to a sluggard. From observing elements of creation, Wisdom is found.  Even a basic definition of science encompasses an observation of nature (Science Definition, 2006-2019).  It’s evident: humans, in our search for knowledge, are drawn to observe nature. And Wisdom, an observer of creation, holds insight for us in the secrets of nature - should we seek to also study the lessons of righteousness.


But Why the Ant, Specifically?

Sure, they are hard-working, but what about one of these other animals touted as workaholics by Animal Planet?  Like the bee, who not only has specified roles, but also makes honey, which is prized by humans.  Or what about the beaver, who after it spends countless hours gnawing down trees, biting them to size, carrying them to their home, and masterfully crafting the home must then also chew out the living quarters.  Or the cleaner wrasse, who works all day every day to clean parasites off fish of the coral reef?  Why not one of the other hard-working animals?  

Perhaps it’s because ants are everywhere. True, ant species vary by place, but if you were to observe an ant, you would not need to travel far.  A quick glance at Ant Maps reveals only polar regions lack native ant populations.  And, not too many people live in these regions either.

Areas lacking in ant populations
This photo licensed under CC BY-SA

And, if we want to be honest, ants are fun to watch. When I told my nephew that ants were the topic of my next post, he wanted to make sure I included this fact: people love to watch them.  That’s why ant farms, an invention that emerged in 1956, remain popular today (Hevesi, 2011).

Invented in 1956, but still popular today.
This photo licensed under CC BY-NC-ND

But, most importantly, I think ants present another opportunity for God to teach us humility.  God, whose son, amid a triumphal march, rode on a lowly donkey. God, who chose a stutterer to be the spokesman that lead His people out of Egypt. God, who dined at the house of outcasts and healed the untouchable.  That God wants us to see that an ant - yes, the very same one who dines on your crumbs - has a lesson of value to teach you. 

Just what is that lesson, you ask?  Well, for my answer to that, you’ll just have to wait until next time, dear reader.  Until then, I encourage you to spend time in nature.  Observe.  Notice the small things, the large things.  Take it all in.  Feel the connection.  In awe, recognize God created it all.  Everything around you, God spoke into existence. 

Next, find one moment, one object, that speaks to you.  Hold on to it.  Keep it in your head.  On the way home, ponder it.  Replay it.  Let it settle into your soul.

When you reach home, find a Bible verse that connects with that moment. Dig into the verse.  Break it down word-by-word, connecting it with your experience.  How is the Holy Spirit speaking to you using that moment in nature and God’s holy word?  What wisdom is there to gain?

If you’d care to share your moment, we’d love to hear about it.  Email us (mr@wolfestew.com or mrs@wolfestew.com), send us a message on social media, (Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram) or comment below.


Before You Go

We’d Love to Know:

  1. What observations have you made regarding ants?
  2. Where else in the Bible is nature used to teach a lesson?

With Love and Prayers from the Kitchen,

Created to do good works.


Interested in more faith-related blogs?  Then you're looking for Faith Food.  At Faith Food, you'll find links to all our faith-related blogs and a short description of each.  


References

  1. Bernard, Sara. “Science Shows Making Lessons Relevant Really Matters,” 1 Dec. 2010 Edutopia. https://www.edutopia.org/neuroscience-brain-based-learning-relevance-improves-engagement Accessed 7 May 2020.
  2. Hevesi, Dennis. “Milton M. Levine, Inventor of Ant Farm, Dies at 97.” The New York Times 29 Jan. 2011, www.nytimes.com/2011/01/30/business/30levine.html Accessed 14 May 2020.
  3. Moffett, Mark W. Adventures Among Ants: A Global Safari with a Cast of Trillions. University of California Press, 2020, Berkeley, California. 




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