Monday, 1 February 2021
So I went to the angel and said to him, “Give me the little book.”
And he said to me, “Take and eat it; and it will make your stomach bitter, but it will be as sweet as honey in your mouth.” Revelation 10:9
John was just told to take the little book that was open in the hand of the angel. In compliance with that directive, he says, “So I went.” It is a compound word in the Greek beginning with the preposition apo, signifying away, or from. The imagery here is in the form of a vision, and so he “went away” to the angel, as if he is moving from one place to another. In this movement, he says to the angel, “Give me the book.”
He complied with what he was told to do. The symbolism here seems to reflect what occurred in Isaiah 6. Isaiah had a vision of the Lord. During that vision, someone was needed to go forth and proclaim the Lord’s words to Israel. With that in mind, it says –
“Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying:
‘Whom shall I send,
And who will go for Us?’
Then I said, ‘Here am I! Send me.’” Isaiah 6:8
In Revelation, the Angel is standing there with this little open book in His hand, anticipating that someone will take it and proclaim its contents. John is instructed to take it and he complies with the instruction. In doing so, John says, “And he said to me, ‘take and eat it.’” This is what happened to Ezekiel as well. Ezekiel saw a hand with a scroll in it. On the scroll were writings of lamentations, mourning, and woe. When he saw it, the account then says –
“Moreover He said to me, ‘Son of man, eat what you find; eat this scroll, and go, speak to the house of Israel.’ 2 So I opened my mouth, and He caused me to eat that scroll.
3 And He said to me, ‘Son of man, feed your belly, and fill your stomach with this scroll that I give you.’ So I ate, and it was in my mouth like honey in sweetness.” Ezekiel 3:1-3
Like Ezekiel, John is instructed to take the book and eat it. For Ezekiel, there was the effect of it filling his stomach, but first was the effect of it being like honey in sweetness. The taste of honey represents the sweetness of the word of God –
“The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul;
The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple;
8 The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart;
The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes;
9 The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever;
The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.
10 More to be desired are they than gold,
Yea, than much fine gold;
Sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.
11 Moreover by them Your servant is warned,
And in keeping them there is great reward.” Psalm 19:7-11
“How sweet are Your words to my taste,
Sweeter than honey to my mouth!” Psalm 119:103
For John, there are two effects to be realized. Quoting the words of the Angel, he says, “and it will make your stomach bitter, but it will be as sweet as honey in your mouth.”
Nothing is said of the bitter stomach in Ezekiel, but it is surely implied because the words on the scroll are of “lamentations, mourning, and woe.” In other words, the taste of the word of God is sweet, but there is also the responsibility of conveying the word to others. It is a sobering and difficult responsibility. For Jeremiah, both effects can be seen. First, from Jeremiah 16 –
“Your words were found, and I ate them,
And Your word was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart;
For I am called by Your name,
O Lord God of hosts.” Jeremiah 15:16
However, Jeremiah also says –
“O Lord, You induced me, and I was persuaded;
You are stronger than I, and have prevailed.
I am in derision daily;
Everyone mocks me.
8 For when I spoke, I cried out;
I shouted, ‘Violence and plunder!’
Because the word of the Lord was made to me
A reproach and a derision daily.
9 Then I said, ‘I will not make mention of Him,
Nor speak anymore in His name.’
But His word was in my heart like a burning fire
Shut up in my bones;
I was weary of holding it back,
And I could not.” Jeremiah 20:7-9
Jeremiah ate the words and they blessed him, but in conveying them to others, he found that the mission was painful and a burden. But he bore the commission and found himself unable to withhold the words he had eaten. John is being given a commission in his taking of the book. He too must proclaim the word, even if it makes his stomach bitter.
Life application: When we meditate on God’s word, we can compare ourselves to what it says. In this, we find that God is infinitely greater than we are, and we can never compare to what His word proclaims – absolute holiness and complete purity. Because of this, it makes our stomach bitter, knowing our fallen state. And even more – when we share it with others, knowing that we are sharing God’s truth, we can expect those who hear it will often shun us and revile us.
Many people want nothing to do with holiness and purity. They will accuse those who proclaim the word of being “holier than thou.” And when we proclaim God’s judgment for rejecting His word, the accusations and hatred only grow more intense.
The world is at war with God and His word, and this brings about bitterness and strife. But let us never compromise God’s word for the sake of tolerance or non-confrontation. We are in a spiritual war and all wars contain bitterness, lamentation, and woe. But there is also great reward for those who proclaim the word, and for those who hear it and respond. That reward is JESUS!
Lord, fill us with Your word. Surely it is sweeter than honey to the mouth. In tasting its sweetness, may we never withhold its truth or diminish the lessons it teaches us, even though they can be hard to stomach, even causing bitterness of soul. And, Lord, give us the desire, stamina, and fortitude to stand fast on Your word and to proclaim it to the people of the world. It is a message the world simply cannot do without. Amen.