The Word of God Is Sweet and Bitter (Part II)

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January 24, 2020

Revelation 10:9-10 (NIV)

So 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.’” 10 I 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.

CONSIDER THIS

In yesterday’s text, the prophet Ezekiel was commanded to “eat this scroll” and upon dong so he found it tasted sweeter than honey. Today we see something similar yet with a key difference, as the Revelation given to John unfolds. 

It tasted as sweet as honey in my mouth, but when I had eaten it, my stomach turned sour.

Sometimes, the Word of God can be like this; sweet to the taste yet bitter to the stomach. It can taste sweeter than honey and yet have the effect of medicine in our bodies. We commonly hear from cancer patients how chemotherapy makes them sick before making them better. Are we open to this kind of experience with the Word of God? 

Many of you are aware of the very difficult season in the life of my family over the past several years. Early this past summer I was sharing with a group of college students, asking them to share particular scripture texts that were presently living and active in their lives. One of them shared this word from the prophet, Habakkuk:

Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.
19 The Sovereign Lord is my strength;
he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
he enables me to tread on the heights. Habakkuk 3:17-19

I had heard the text before but it struck me differently this time. It whispered hope to me in the midst of my despair; particularly the closing verses about ascending to the heights. For the next several days I ruminated on the text, writing it each morning in my journal. Soon I had it rememberized. I started researching Habakkuk to learn more of how it fit within the larger biblical story. 

About midway through the summer, as I engaged these verses, I sensed the Lord speaking to me. The Holy Spirit made me aware of my failure to rehearse this word from the Lord. If you were to peruse my summer journal you would see how I began to abbreviate the Scripture: “No figs. No grapes. No olives. No grain. No sheep. No cows. Yet I will rejoice in the Lord.” While the the “No’s” gripped my sense of reality, the invitation to rejoice eluded my experience. I would read the words but they rang hollow in my soul. I sensed the Lord inquiring of me, “You are waiting for things to get better aren’t you? You are waiting to rejoice in me until your circumstances and conditions improve and you get past this dark valley.” 

It tasted as sweet as honey in my mouth, but when I had eaten it, my stomach turned sour.

Indigestion was setting in. I was comfortable commiserating with the prophet in his despair yet I resisted the move to rejoice in the Lord in the midst of it. I would rejoice when the Lord lifted the pain. The leading of the Spirit impressed upon me, “Now is the time to rejoice, in the midst of the ruins; not after they are somehow repaired. This is that moment for you, John David. Rejoice in the Lord in the ruins. Do not miss this moment. 

It tasted as sweet as honey in my mouth, but when I had eaten it, my stomach turned sour.

Talk about a sour stomach. My heart, mind and spirit were in unfamiliar, very difficult terrain. This was gut level pain. I was comfortable with a despairing response to despairing conditions. Rejoicing in God in the face of them was utterly foreign to me. I would rejoice when he lifted them. “No,” he said, “Now is the time.”

“I will rejoice in the Lord. I will be joyful in God my Savior.” The Words themselves began to train my will. As I obeyed, I began to discover the next verse in my experience, “The Sovereign Lord is my strength.” I was ready to move on to the last two verse about him making my feet like the feet of a deer and taking me back to the mountain top. The Lord chided me to stay with rejoicing at the bottom. The rest would come in his timing, not mine. 

I would like to tell you I am back on top, with bumper crops and mountain top joy now. I am not. I am still learning the lesson of the valley—to rejoice in the ruins. It continues to be the hardest learning of my life so far. Every single day, in the bitterness of loss, like the dripping medicine of a chemotherapy IV, he infuses me with the invitation, “Yet I will rejoice in the Lord. I will be joyful in God my Savior.” Slowly, I sense the malignant cancer of a despairing spirit begin to dissipate. I am growing stronger in the Lord. I will ascend in his time, not by clawing and climbing my way out but as he lifts me up to himself. 

It tasted as sweet as honey in my mouth, but when I had eaten it, my stomach turned sour.

First Word. Last Word. God’s Word.

THE PRAYER

Father, thank you for your Word, which endures forever. Thank you for making it like medicine when we most need it. You graciously coat the bitter pill with sugar that we might swallow it and yet you do not spare us of the souring effects of its healing. Lead me to these kinds of words that I might eat them, without fear of the side effects, because I know you are making me well, ridding me of the sickness of sin and death and imbuing me with your very nature. I pray in the name of your Son, Jesus. Amen.  

THE QUESTION

Can you think of a time when you experienced the Word of God like medicine? Perhaps sweet to the taste yet sour in the stomach? Do you sense this need in your life now? Ask him for such a Word.   

For the Awakening,
J.D. Walt
Sower-in-Chief
seedbed.com

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Farmer. Poet. Theologian. Jurist. Publisher. Seedbed's Sower-in-Chief.

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