Bitter-Sweet Proclamation

Revelation 10:8-11

8 Then the voice that I had heard from heaven spoke to me again, saying, “Go, take the scroll that is open in the hand of the angel who is standing on the sea and on the land.” 9 So I went to the angel and told him to give me the little scroll. And he said to me, “Take and eat it; it will make your stomach bitter, but in your mouth it will be sweet as honey.” 10 And I took the little scroll from the hand of the angel and ate it. It was sweet as honey in my mouth, but when I had eaten it my stomach was made bitter. 11 And I was told, “You must again prophesy about many peoples and nations and languages and kings.”

What is it like to bring the word of God to bear? Bitter-sweet is a fair answer. It is probably wise not to expect it to be different.

In Revelation 10, John is tasked with consuming the word of God that he would then take and speak to the peoples and nations. This parallels Ezekiel 3, where the Lord gives the prophet Ezekiel a scroll to eat. Both prophets find the word sweet in their mouths. Both, before the end of their chapters, also find bitterness.

Why bitter? Why does the word that John eats make his stomach bitter? Perhaps it is because he knows the hard things he will have to say. John will communicate that the coming wrath of God will bring death and destruction on a rebellious world. Ezekiel certainly endured the bitter experience of watching the people rebel against God and harden their hearts rather than repent under the proclamation of the word.

Do you assume that proclamation is easy? Do you assume that it will always be a treat? You should not. Just consider how easily you repent. More than likely, when you are in sin, there will be a stubbornness or a blindness to your sin. Most of us do not like it when we are reproved. We ought not expect a sweet experience to be the norm when we have to use the word of God to bring conviction to bear on others.

But do not miss the sweetness. Both when John and Ezekiel ate their scrolls, the word was sweet as honey in their mouths. These men new that the word of God is good. It is sweet. Whether proclaiming grace or judgment, whether pointing out our sin or God’s loving kindness, god’s word is good. And no amount of bitterness in experience can remove the goodness of God. God’s word is always true, always right, always trustworthy, always reliable, always sufficient. God’s judgments are always just, straight, solid, unwavering, and perfect. And these things are sweet.

So, dear Christian friend, love and proclaim the word. Take the word into the depths of your life. It may walk you through times of bitterness. But God’s word will always, absolutely always, prove perfect and sweet in the end.