Then 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.”
9 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.’[a]” 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. 11 Then I was told, “You must prophesy again about many peoples, nations, languages and kings.” (John 10:8-11)
Here we see a strange scene in John’s vision where he is required to eat a book. The book probably represents a declaration by God of many of the judgments that must take place upon the Earth. Perhaps John is forced to eat it because he is a prophet, and prophets are required to be stewards of God’s words.
Notice that the book tasted “as sweet as honey in my mouth.” I am not exactly sure what this means, but I have always suspected that it means that John got joy out of proclaiming God’s words. God’s prophets are so overwhelmed with a compulsion to speak that it often feels good to get the message out, and it is very difficult for them to keep the words in. Christians who have shared the gospel with others may know this feeling. Jeremiah describes this feeling this way:
his word is in my heart like a fire,
a fire shut up in my bones.
I am weary of holding it in;
indeed, I cannot. (Jeremiah 20:9b NIV)
Therefore the prophet is forced to speak in order to release himself from the pressure and responsibility that he is under. Thus the words taste sweet as honey as they come out of his mouth.
Nevertheless, after John has eaten the book, he notes that “my stomach turned sour.” This is also a common reaction of prophets after they have spoken God’s words to others. Yes, it feels good for them to speak God’s word, but they get a sort of sinking feeling when they see people listen to them, because they know that these people will be under God’s judgment if they do not obey the words they are hearing. True Christians still get this feeling today when we share the gospel with other people. The words feel good coming out of our mouths, but we are pained when we see the reaction of people to our words. It pains us when they take offense at God’s judgment rather than rejoice in his mercy. There rejection is a doubly hard pill for us to swallow, because we love them and we know that they will suffer punishment for rejecting God’s grace. Therefore, we often stop telling people about the gospel because it is depressing to stare into the faces of people who will not repent.
This, no doubt, is part of the reason why Jeremiah was tempted to stop preaching God’s word (Jeremiah 20:9a). Nevertheless we must be faithful. Yes, it is often discouraging to bring God’s words to others, but we must remember that not everyone will reject the message; not all will be condemned. Many will be saved as well.
Then I looked, and I saw a hand stretched out to me. In it was a scroll, 10 which he unrolled before me. On both sides of it were written words of lament and mourning and woe.
And he said to me, “Son of man, eat what is before you, eat this scroll; then go and speak to the people of Israel.” 2 So I opened my mouth, and he gave me the scroll to eat.
3 Then he said to me, “Son of man, eat this scroll I am giving you and fill your stomach with it.” So I ate it, and it tasted as sweet as honey in my mouth. (Ezekiel 2:9-3:3 NIV)