beak to belly

Imbibing the Word of God: From the Beak to the Belly

19 February 2024

4.4 MINS

Recently, I took a walk beside the Parramatta River. High above me, a pelican was frantically flapping its wings. It looked so ungainly. It reminded me of how I often flap about. Then, the gigantic bird spread its wings wide and glided effortlessly on the thermals.

Oh, that’s like me when I worship! Everything external is irrelevant as, by the Holy Spirit, I soar into the presence of the Lord.

As I was pondering these things, the famous limerick came to mind: “Oh, what a wonderful bird is the pelican; its beak can hold more than its belly can.”*

There may be a lesson here. I peck around the Bible, picking up the morsels. They go into my beak [head]. Often, I don’t transfer them into my belly. In Scripture, the belly represents your innermost being, your heart and soul.

It is vital not just to read the Word, but to ruminate on it, research it and understand its cultural context. Jesus is a Jew, and our Bible was written by Jews. Understanding the cultural context can enrich our spiritual lives in ways you could not imagine.

Christ Our Leader

Famous leadership expert John Maxwell’s mantra was: “A good leader knows the way, goes the way and shows the way.”

Simply interpreted, a good leader knows his stuff. He is an expert in his field. He speaks with authority because he has the knowledge he needs to fully understand the area in which he leads.

He goes the way. He lives what he believes. His integrity is paramount. His followers can trust him. He has their best interests at heart. He is honest and dependable.

He shows the way by compassionately, patiently and intentionally showing those he is leading all they need to know. If they cannot follow instructions, he humbly leads them through the processes until they grasp it.

Jesus declares He is the way, the truth and the life [John 14:6]. Maybe John Maxwell was thinking of this verse when he made his quote.

Jesus is the way to the Father. All He does points us to Him. He invites us to follow him. In Acts 9:2, Saul, before his life-changing encounter with Jesus on the Damascus Road, sought letters of authority to persecute those ‘who belonged to the Way’. How grateful I am to Jesus that He showed Paul the Way!

One of the most endearing qualities of Jesus is that he goes. He goes deliberately to the well, where he meets the Samaritan woman. He goes to Jairus’ daughter and raises her from the dead. He goes to Zaccheus’ house [the hated tax collector] and brings the gospel truth. He goes, and He does what He knows He was born to do.

Of course, His greatest ‘going’ is to the cross, where he willingly lays down His life as a sacrifice, so that we might be reconciled to our Holy God.

Then Jesus, after His resurrection, spends 40 days showing His disciples the way. Throughout his ministry, Jesus demonstrates His integrity, His authority and His trustworthiness.

Digesting the Word

So how can I get all that ‘beak’ knowledge into my ‘belly’? Well, there are many different ways. According to your circumstances, you have to find the way that suits you best.

One thing is for certain: to have an intimate relationship with Jesus, it has to be at the ‘belly’ level. We have to dig deep and not just read a few verses here and there. We need to thoroughly understand the author and have a personal encounter with Him.

Like most people, I’ve spent a lot of my life with a daily devotion. I’d miss a day here and there, but generally, grabbing a verse and a few paragraphs, often delivered on my phone or in a quarterly booklet, I was satisfied I was fulfilling all that was required.

However, that changed when everything I held dear was taken from me. Jesus was all I had left. I began to search the scriptures for answers. What is God really like? Is He able and willing to help me? Can I trust Him? What evidence is there that His Word is true?

As I began a desperate search for answers, I found myself on an exciting adventure. The deeper I went, the more relevance I found. The more I trusted God, the more my eyes were opened to His goodness, truth and faithfulness.

Something surprising happened when I recognised God was actively leading and guiding my life. As I shared this, I became more convinced of its truth. When we witness to God’s goodness, and give Him all the glory, it not only encourages our hearers, but affirms our faith as well.

Jesus promised the Holy Spirit will lead us to understand the Word if we grasp it, swallow it and inwardly digest it. We need it in our belly!

“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name,
He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.”
~ John 14:26 (NKJV)

An amazing thing happens when the Holy Spirit teaches us. Probably most of us have experienced a time when ‘the words jumped out of the page’.

Even if we read the words hundreds of times, suddenly, our spirit knows we have received a deeper understanding. We know that we know that we know.

It is tempting to say we don’t have time for further study. Maybe if we are honest, it is about making Jesus a priority rather than an afterthought.

I love the story of John Wesley’s mother, Susannah. She raised ten children, mostly as a single mother. She was devoted in her walk with Jesus. Her children knew that when Mother had her apron over her head, she was at prayer and not to be disturbed.

Two of her sons, John and Charles, led thousands to Christ. Susannah had a belly relationship with Jesus. He was her ‘go to’, her comfort and her wise guide.

Please, don’t leave all that wonderful knowledge in your beak; toss back your head and let it flow to your belly. Become voracious for the Word. The benefits are out of this world. We are blessed, to be a blessing.

Some Useful Resources

  • Israel Bible Center:
    Be ready to have the traditional interpretations of familiar passages discussed and often challenged to their core. The suggested alternative interpretations will be more consistent with the historical background and a more natural reading of the text. Prepare to be pleasantly surprised as you uncover previously unseen gems in God’s Word.
  • Bible Movie App:
    Experience the world’s first full-length word-for-word Bible movie with word-for-word Bible audio.
  • YouVersion Bible App:
    We wholeheartedly believe a daily rhythm of seeking intimacy with God has the power to transform lives.


*a limerick written by Dixon Lanier Merritt in 1910 and often quoted by Ogden Nash.


Photo by Mauricio Borja.

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  1. Pearl Miller 19 February 2024 at 9:24 am - Reply

    So good! Recently I “lost everything” spent Christmas with Jesus. I then realised that Jesus is the only one I need, who will not betray or slander but will fill the pools in the Valley of Baca.

  2. Stan Beattie 21 February 2024 at 8:09 am - Reply

    Thank you Teri,
    You bringing of the joy of the word is so real. It blesses me, and I speak blessings over you

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