Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Revelation 10:8-11 Sweet and Bitter Word

KEY TEXT: Revelation 10:8-11 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." 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." 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. And I was told, "You must again prophesy about many peoples and nations and languages and kings." 

KEY THOT: God's word is always sweet as honey when eaten, a delight to our spirit and soul. As the psalmist writes in Psalm 19:10, God's word is "more to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb." However, the psalmist also adds that God's word can churn our stomach because of the bitterness of its warning: "Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward" (Ps. 19:11). In other words, God's word is both good news and bad news. It's good news like sweet honey to those who eat it (obeys it). But, it also contains bitterness for those who chose to ignore it when it is properly ingested and digested. Before we can prophesy to "many peoples and nations and languages and kings", we must let the full message sinks it--the Good News as well as the Bad News. We cannot just accept the sweetness and ignore the bitterness if we want to qualify ourselves as God's spokesperson.

"Positive" preaching that is all honey and sweetness is not the Gospel. The Gospel is Good News only because there is first the Bad News of divine judgments and wrath against sins. If there is no wrath, then there is no need for the Cross and therefore no Gospel. Preaching that is focused only on the Bad News of divine judgment and wrath will leave God's people feeling condemned and living in fear instead of hope. Preaching that is focused only on the Good News of the Gospel without addressing the Bad News of divine wrath will leave people living in a make-belief world that ignores and rationalizes God's warnings against them, just as the Jews of Jeremiah's days did to his prophecy concerning God's impending judgment:

  • Ezekiel 33:31-33 "My people come to you, as they usually do, and sit before you to listen to your words, but they do not put them into practice. With their mouths they express devotion, but their hearts are greedy for unjust gain. Indeed, to them you are nothing more than one who sings love songs with a beautiful voice and plays an instrument well, for they hear your words but do not put them into practice. When all this comes true — and it surely will — then they will know that a prophet has been among them." (NIV)
In order that we can be God's spokespersons, we ourselves need to first experience both the sweetness and bitterness of God's word. We must not pretend our lives have been a bed of relentless roses without thorns. We must admit our own experience of divine discipline because of our disobedience so that others may learn from it. There is a tendency for preachers and hearers alike in our entitlement culture to go only for the sweet portions in God's word and ignore the bitter parts. But such spiritual diet will leave a generation of hearers who only want milk but not meat--and they remain perpetual spiritual infants, unable and unwilling to be weaned from their milk:
  • Hebrews 5:12-14 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food [KJV: meat], for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food [KJV: meat] is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil
May God help us not only to taste the sweetness of His word to the obedient but also to digest the bitterness of its warnings and judgments against the disobedient and wayward.

Abba-Father, thank You that Your word contains both sweet and bitter parts. For the sweetness of Your Word delights our souls while the bitterness of Your Word detox our inner being. Amen.  

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