And the voice which I heard from heaven, I heard again speaking with me, and saying, “Go, take the book which is open in the hand of the angel who stands on the sea and on the land.” And I went to the angel, telling him to give me the little book. And he said to me, “Take it, and eat it; and it will make your stomach bitter, but in your mouth it will be sweet as honey.” And I took the little book out of the angel’s hand and ate it, and it was in my mouth sweet as honey; and when I had eaten it, my stomach was made bitter. And they said to me, “You must prophesy again concerning many peoples and nations and tongues and kings.”
We will stay this week in Revelation chapter ten as the next allusion to an Old Testament passage is made in the closing verses of this chapter. As John’s vision continues, the angel instructs John to take the little book in his hand and eat it. The allusion here is to a similar Old Testament incident involving the prophet Ezekiel commanded to do the same concerning a scroll.
Here is the context to which the Spirit alludes: “Now you, son of man, listen to what I am speaking to you; do not be rebellious like that rebellious house. Open your mouth and eat what I am giving you.” Then I looked, behold, a hand was extended to me; and lo, a scroll was in it. When He spread it out before me, it was written on the front and back; and written on it were lamentations, mourning and woe. Then He said to me, “Son of man, eat what you find; eat this scroll, and go, speak to the house of Israel.” So I opened my mouth, and He fed me this scroll. And He said to me, “Son of man, feed your stomach, and fill your body with this scroll which I am giving you.” Then I ate it, and it was sweet as honey in my mouth. Then He said to me, “Son of man, go to the house of Israel and speak with My words to them.” Ezekiel 2:8-3:4.
The first three chapters of Ezekiel communicate the call of Ezekiel as the LORD’s prophet. In Ezekiel’s vision of the angel and the eating of the scroll, several concepts are conveyed of which we should take notice.
The spokesman of God’s word should be obedient, not rebellious, to the commands and instructions of God. Ezekiel was being sent to a “rebellious house”, “a stubborn and obstinate people” (Ezek. 2:4). His obedience in carrying the commands of God were critical to the effectiveness of the message and Ezekiel proved to be an exemplary servant.
The lesson being communicated regarding the scroll being written on front and back is that all the words of the LORD that needed to be communicated to the house of Israel were on it.
Ezekiel was told to eat what he found upon the scroll. Notice he didn’t have the option of cafeteria-style obedience where he picked and chose what he liked while discarding what wasn’t appealing. The particular message on the scroll for Ezekiel was comprised of “lamentations, mourning and woe.” Not necessarily a “sweet” message. Yet when the scroll was extended to Ezekiel to eat, Ezekiel willingly did as he was told and found the words of God, even the ones folks will deem “negative”, to be sweet. What a great example to all future spokespeople of God!
The word of God was to go into his stomach, his very inner being to be fed by the word of God. To be an effective messenger, the message must be digested and assimilated within before it can go effectively out to others. God’s word, it’s what’s for dinner!
John’s Vision – heavenly edition
Notice that John’s heavenly edition of the scroll (alternate translation for “book’) for dinner vision is very similar to Ezekiel’s. However, there is one distinctive difference. For John, this book of God’s words would be sweet in his mouth but once inside of him, would make his stomach bitter. So what’s being imparted here?
The gospel message of Christ Jesus had gone into all the world by the time John had this vision on the Isle of Patmos. As an eyewitness of Jesus’ ministry, suffering, death, resurrection and His ascension to glory, John had personally carried the message of the gospel to the Lord’s target audience—the world —and had been a faithful spokesman in his mission. He had the opportunity to savor the sweet taste of the gospel and its eternal “aftereffects” personally, and witnessed those who had appraised and supped upon the message of salvation in Christ Jesus for its true eternal worth carried by him and other faithful spokespeople of the Lord. Like Ezekiel before him, the message John helped carry into all the world was going to a stubborn and rebellious people.
In his exile to Patmos John was currently tasting the “bitter” side effects of the persecution that comes with the proclamation of the glad message to a rebellious people. Many before him and many after him would partake in this same persecution for desiring “to live godly in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 3:12) and preach the glad message—all of it—including the not so appetizing parts.
God’s word is sweet—it contains the means by which we are saved, become partakers and joint heirs with the King of Kings, and gain entrance into that eternal home in heaven. But it also carries the pictures of woe, mourning, lamentations and persecution on earth that will occur before we get there. To be able to face down the persecution that will be steadily ratcheted up until the progress of the gospel is stopped as pictured in Revelation chapters 11 and 20, we must feed upon the word of God. Implanted, it will help us stand and take it from the world as we faithfully and effectively deliver it, confident of the Lord’s guarantee of participating in the promised spiritual blessings to be realized in the heavenly places. Take the book brethren and eat it! Amen.