Occasional Thoughts

The Hornet and God’s Pace

we can trust God's perfect pace in growing us

Lesson From A Wood Pile

A pile of firewood sat at the camp for years. Too far from the campfire circle to be convenient for campers, the wood was left to rot. Soon, all it could do was provide food for moss and mushrooms, and shelter for rodents, snakes, and bugs.

The pile was a lost cause. Camp clean up day came to the rescue. After carefully backing the trailer as close to the pile as possible, folk donned their gloves, and tackled the job. Many logs were solid enough to pick up and toss. Others weren’t much more than mush. They had to be scooped or shoveled into the trailer.

Somewhere in that rotten mess, a family of yellow jackets had built their home. When a gloved hand collapsed their walls, those tiny creatures personified fury.

I wasn’t helping that group. From across the camp, I heard their yell. Looking up, I saw everyone running full tilt away from the pile. Not many people were stung, but no one wanted to finish that job right away.

Lesson learned: When yellow jackets are mad, your best bet is to cede territory—run as fast and far as you can.

God Chose The Hornet 1

God told Israel that the hornet was part of His plan for clearing the Promised Land.

After the Exodus, Israel could not just kick back and relax. They needed to keep moving. Conflict was coming. Hand-to-hand combat was part of the plan. And, they had to get ready—God intended for the children of Israel to actively work to overthrow the people of the land. God’s angel would guide them: showing them when, where, and how to fight.

Yet, while these rescued slaves had a role in the conquest, God planned to clear much of the land for them. They would not need to fight for every inch. A God-sent terror would confuse the enemy and cause them to flee.

And, occasionally, God would use hornets.

I will send hornets ahead of you so that they will drive out the Hivites, the Canaanites, and the Hittites before you.

— Exodus 23:28

Creepy, crawly, angry, stingy.


You burn out a nest. The hornets make a new home.

Without jet-propelled, fast-acting poison, what choice did the enemy have? When hornets are mad, your best bet is to cede territory.

And so the enemy fled.

Little By Little

The conquest would not happen overnight. God told Israel:

I will not drive them out before you in a single year, that the land may not become desolate and the beasts of the field become too numerous for you. I will drive them out before you little by little, until you become fruitful and take possession of the land.

— Exodus 23:29–30

When God spoke these words, Israel was not ready to fully occupy the Promised Land. They needed more people. They needed more livestock. They needed more experience. They needed more trained leaders. They needed to learn to trust God with all their hearts.

The children of Israel might have wanted to see the land cleared overnight—but God had a better plan.

God arranged for the needed time and resources. He provided the opportunity to walk with Him and to follow in His way. Done right, Israel could learn to marvel at and cherish what God did and could do.

God’s choice to act little by little illustrates this reality: God orchestrates the growth of His people.

Sometimes in our walk with God, we want to skip to the end. To arrive. To be complete. Yet, for now, God has a better plan for us. Instead of instant transformation in all things, the New Testament proclaims, “God causes growth” (1 Corinthians 3:6).

He orchestrates our growth. Growth can come in fits and starts, in giant strides and stumbling steps. Yet, when healthy growth comes, God is in it—preparing us for what is in front of us and for what will come. In Christ, we will be ready to face the challenge of the day.

God’s use of the hornet to clear the land little by little reminds us: God’s pace is just right. As individuals and as a church, if we remain faithful, He will cause us to be ready for whatever comes.

In this season, let us praise God for His plan, for His promise, and for His pace.

  1. I listened to Exodus 23 recently and was struck by both God’s use of hornets and God’s promise to clear the land little by little. A few days later, Carl Greene pointed to both of those in a devotion he shared with the General Council. This Occasional Thought parallels Carl’s thoughts but was developed independently.

German Seventh Day Baptist Church
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New Enterprise, PA 16664

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