Reviewed by Kristyn Komarnicki
Flourish Magazine, Fall 2009
Like members of the early church, contemporary Christians consider God’s Word to be alive with truth and meaning, and we search the pages of our Bible for insights and guidance. But unlike the earliest readers of the scriptures, most of us miss out on the profound richness of its language. What sounds merely poetic to us today was to them pregnant with tangible, sensory substance and depth
We might know how to use an online concordance (the whole Bible, in 41 languages, at our fingertips), but how many of us understand at a visceral level that when Jesus called himself “the gate for the sheep” (John 10:7) he meant he literally lays his own body down as a barrier between us and our predators? Do we ever stop to wonder why Jesus, after identifying himself as “the true vine,” identifies God as the lowly vinedresser (John 15:1), the hands-on guy who gets dirty clipping and trudging through the fields, as opposed to the distant but powerful vineyard owner? While the words “milk and honey” bring to mind a moisturizer we might pick up at the mall, do we know that for Moses and his crew these ingredients implied a land that was not only abundant but also ecologically balanced?
These are a few of the fascinating insights explored in Margaret Feinberg’s Scouting the Divine: My Search for God in Wine, Wool, and Wild Honey. In love with the scriptures but yearning to connect at a deeper level, Feinberg set out to see the Word through the eyes of contemporary agrarians, folks who experience on a daily basis many of the realities common in biblical times. Befriending a vintner in Northern California, a shepherdess in Oregon, a Nebraska farmer, and a beekeeper in Colorado, Feinberg delves into their worlds for a brief time, studying the staggering intricacies of a beehive, watching sheep respond to their master’s voice, discovering the commitment required to train grape vines to produce the stuff of fine wine, and marveling at how wheat and tares look identical until they’re crushed to see what they’re really made of.
Delighting in the sensory details of her experiences, Feinberg draws spiritual parallels from each new discovery, winsomely sharing her own struggles to trust the Lord as instinctively as sheep trust their shepherd, to rejoice in God’s discipline even as vines respond to the pruner’s seemingly painful (and sometimes extreme) slicing, to patiently await the harvest in her life just as the farmer knows he cannot rush his crops, and to enjoy without envy her role in the body of Christ in the same way that bees commit wholeheartedly to the particular job they are given.
Joining Feinberg on this journey into the heartland of wonderment will enhance your reading of the scriptures from here on out. I understand such verses as “How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” (Ps. 119:103) and “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4) with a new appreciation—one I can taste, smell, savor, and digest. (Having heard her speak at the Flourish conference in May 2009, I had the added pleasure of hearing her rich alto voice reading the first-person account into my inner ear.) Once you’ve read this book¸ you’ll never again read the Good Book in quite the same way.