Scrumptious Scrolls, Sweet Lips, and Sour Stomachs
“8Then the voice that I had heard from heaven spoke to me once more: “Go, take the scroll that lies open in the hand of the angel who is standing on the sea and on the land.”
9So I went to the angel and asked him to give me the little scroll. He said to me, “Take it and eat it. It will turn your stomach sour, but in your mouth it will be as sweet as honey.” 10I took the little scroll from the angel’s hand and ate it. It tasted as sweet as honey in my mouth, but when I had eaten it, my stomach turned sour. 11Then I was told, “You must prophesy again about many peoples, nations, languages and kings.” Revelations 10:8-11 NIV (emphasis mine)
I know that Revelations can be a bit confusing at times but I must admit that when John speaks about having to take and eat a scroll, it throws me off even more.
These passages are talking about more than eating old parchments, but are about taking in, consuming, and digesting the word of God. I believe that the lesson to be learned is that John the Apostle can only proclaim the word of God after he has first taken it in. It is clear that the same can be said for me and anyone else who speaks or teaches the word of God. I can only speak for Him if I am spending time with Him in His word. By the way, that is what biblical parenting entails as well. Being sure that I am taking in the word of God before I give it out.
I think it is also very significant to notice that the scroll was not given to John, he had to take it. Why is that significant? It is significant because God’s word is put before us in the form of a bible, a sermon, or maybe from a silent time in prayer. Still, He doesn’t magically download or sync it into my brain or my heart (although He could). Instead I, like John, must take it and put it in manually myself. There are some things that I need to do myself; some things that no one else can do for me. God will not give me a magical insight into His word. I must take it in myself. I must sit down, and spend time reading, studying, and meditating on His Word individually.
By the way, a great danger comes when God’s people do not fully take God’s word in, and we presume to give it out and teach it to the world around us (and to our kids).
After John takes in the word of God, it starts off tasting as sweet as honey and then becomes sour in his stomach. After it churns in his stomach, John is called to go out and to prophesy.
Why not just prophesy the sweet stuff? After all, surely those will be the popular messages to share. Those will be the sermons that people can relate to and will enjoy hearing about. Why prophesy and speak the stuff that sours peoples’ stomachs? That doesn’t sound very “seeker sensitive”, or “seeker friendly.”
John initially says that the scroll, “tasted as sweet as honey in my mouth…”. Of course! It is sweet to know the love and grace of God. It is sweet to know that one day, Jesus will return. It is sweet to know that in the end, there is and end, and there will be no more pain or suffering. It is sweet to know that God loves me, period; no matter what. Is that what John tasted in the scroll? I’m not sure. I can only speculate. But I can ask another question. Why not end the message here? Why must I continue on? Perhaps it is because I can only really know the grace of God, if I have a real understanding of the judgment of God as well.
John continues on and says that when he had eaten the scroll, “my stomach turned sour.” Is there anything in the Word of God that will sour my stomach? After years of walking with Jesus, it still sours my stomach when I remember that although Jesus will return, there is still a coming judgment. It sours my stomach to think about all of those who reject Jesus and His word today. It sours my stomach that there are so many people out there who twist the truth and try to add in their own ideas and philosophies and that these ideas will actually cause so many people to reject the Savior and be eternally separated from our His grace. Again I am not sure that that is exactly what John tasted that caused his stomach to churn, but I do find it interesting to note that it was only after his stomach had turned sour, that God told him, “You must prophesy again about many peoples, nations, languages and kings.”
Maybe the point here is that oftentimes, I need to endure those sour stomachs so that I can earn the privilege of speaking to many peoples, nations, languages, and kings. Perhaps it is the scars I have, more than the words I speak, that will minister to those around me.
God’s Word, both sweet and sour, must be taken in, in its entirety, if I am to be a faithful follower of Him and steward of His word. When I have been faithful in His Word, God calls me to take it to His people. No matter the cost. How do I know? The sourness in my stomach swells if I don’t share the sweetness of His message.
Forgive me the times that I have been too short in Your word, and too long winded on my own. It is Your word that brings life, not my stories, not my clever (or not so clever) thoughts and ideas. It is Your word that brings transformation, joy, peace, love, and hope, and it is Your word that I depend upon. Amen.