Our modern world is quite focused on eating. Food is culture, part of that which defines and determines our everyday. I once read that 95 percent of conversations in France centre on food (and the other five percent on how to avoid taxes!). It might not be true, though – it is not official statistics! Food and the art of dining are dominant cultural factors, exported to and fro between countries. Famine and hunger dominate parts of the world where the lack of food causes heartbreaking human catastrophes.
Food is life. We need food so often that it should be a constant source of thanksgiving when we have the privilege to live in certainty of our next meal. Here in chapter 10 of Revelation we learn the beautiful metaphor of eating the Word of God. It is indeed our daily bread to keep us alive. We have the honour to know the Bread of Life who gave His body on the cross. It is the perfect symbol of our focus in the Holy Communion. John calls Jesus the Word, in his Gospel and in this chapter he is commanded to eat the scroll. To be filled with Jesus, to be fed by Jesus himself is just as much the command to us, as to John in the midst of the vision.
Psalm 119 is the longest psalm as well as the longest chapter in the Bible. It is one of the alphabetic poems in the Bible. Its 176 verses are divided into twenty-two stanzas, one stanza for each letter of the Hebrew alphabet; within each stanza, each of the eight verses begins (in Hebrew) with that letter. The whole Psalm is about the joy and worth of the Word of God, the Scripture that reveals God’s love and goodness, His purposes and salvation. This is what we need daily.
The Word is our food. It is what we should feed on to fulfill God’s purpose for us, which is the way to live a life of excellence. In the words of CS Lewis:
He who has God and everything else has no more than he who has God only. (The Weight of Glory)
Again the scene in the unseen is dramatic and tense. An angel with a face like the sun, just like the face of Jesus shone on the Mount of Transfiguration (Matthew 17:2) and legs of fire, descends with a rainbow over his head – the authority and promise of the Covenant and the glory of the Throne (Ezekiel 1:28). It is clear that he comes from the Presence of God. He is clothed by a cloud.
… Who makes the clouds His chariot,
Who walks on the wings of the wind, (Psalms 104:3)
Chapters 10:1-11 and 11:1-14 are a kind of interlude between the sixth and seventh trumpet. The sixth has already been sounded and the seventh is sounded only in chapter 11:15.
In this interlude the mystery of God is revealed – the mission of the church.
…he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ. (Ephesians 1:9-10)
The angel stands with his one foot on the sea and the other on the land to illustrate authority over the whole earth. God’s power is not limited – it is everywhere. He speaks with the voice like the roar of the lion. This lion-voice is well known throughout the Bible – Joel 3:16, Hosea 11:10, Amos 3:8. Some commentators are of the opinion that this angel is the glorified Christ Himself. His voice compels attention and inspires awe. His voice is the voice of God. Psalms 29:1-11 is a beautiful description of the voice of God. An example in verse 3:
The voice of the Lord is upon the waters;
The God of glory thunders;
The Lord is over many waters.
The message is spoken and cannot be ignored.
The roll is unopened and small, which depicts a limited revelation for a time. John is ordered not to record the revelation. It is not to be passed on. This is a wonderful submission to God’s timing. He reveals just the right thing at the right time. In 2 Corinthians 12:4 Paul describes his own vision of heaven and makes is personal and specific, not to be revealed to everyone. It was more than his generation could take or understand.
We are warned not to talk about everything. God is the only one worthy of secrets. Secrets with others can destroy and disappoint. Gossip and a lack of trust are ruling the realm of the Father of lies, our enemy. A lying spirit inhabits gossip. Just an exaggerated tone of voice can change the quality of a story. Let our words be truthful and kind.
God orders secrecy. There is power in keeping quiet. There is a reason. Just as our enemy would like to keep sin secret to keep as captive, so the secrets of God in our life make us strong.
“The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law. (Deuteronomy 29:29)
It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, but the glory of kings is to search out a matter. (Proverbs 25:2)
To us some things are not clear. We live without full revelation. It is God’s glory to conceal and reveal to meet our need.
For now we see in a mirror, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know fully even as also I was fully known. (1 Corinthians 13:8-12)
The command to be quiet could also refer to the Gospel of John to be written after John returned to Ephesus.
The mystery of God is a theme throughout the Bible. God has a plan and He reveals the plan as He chooses. (Romans 16:25,26. Ephesians 1:9,10 & 3:1-11), also regarding Israel (Daniel 9:24, 26).
The angel makes an announcement, affirmed by an oath. He declares that there shall be delay no longer. It could mean that the time is limited until the seventh trumpet. It is more likely that there is no time left to avoid the destruction of the Antichrist. (Hebrews 10:37)
The hour for sin to be revealed has come – 2 Thessalonians 2:3. The scene is set for the final conquest. The mystery of God is to be fulfilled. The full purpose of God with humanity will stand revealed. The mystery of God is Jesus. He was heaven’s secret until His life on earth, death and resurrection.
Life is difficult; evil holds sway, but the guarantee is total victory. All the wrongs will be righted and all the questions answered. Though evil may flourish, it cannot and will not be triumphant.
John has a choice to take the scroll. He is ordered twice, but he had the option to refuse. Revelation is never forced. It is always a choice to receive. He asked the angel to give it (10:9).
He eats and describes the consequences.
To eat something, is to allow it to become part of your inner being. God is not an accessory to be worn when the mood dictates. Ezekiel had to eat the scroll.
Moreover 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 caused me to eat that scroll. And He said to me, “Son of man, feed your belly, and fill your stomach with this scroll that I give you.” So I ate, and it was in my mouth like honey in sweetness. (Ezekiel 3:1,3)
The description of sweetness as we “eat” the Word of God, echoes throughout Scripture.
The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.
More to be desired are they than gold, Yea, than much fine gold;
Sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. (Psalm 19:10,119:103)
In the Jewish educational it was custom to learn the alphabet, while the letters were written in a mixture of flour and honey on a slate. If the students answered correctly, they were allowed to lick the slate.
For John the message of the vision is bitter and sweet. It is sweet to be chosen to proclaim God’s love and goodness, but bitter to see the consequences of man’s hard-heartedness and sin. It is always an infinite privilege to know the secrets of heaven, but the forecast of doom and terror is heartbreaking, even when ultimate triumph is promised.
The gospel is sweet in love, grace and mercy, but it also brings inevitable judgment, which is bitter.
Your words were found, and I ate them,
And Your word was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart;
For I am called by Your name,
O Lord God of hosts. (Jeremiah 15:16)
But you, son of man, hear what I say to you. Do not be rebellious like that rebellious house; open your mouth and eat what I give you.” (Ezekiel 2:8)
In the words of this great prophet who are experiencing and recording the ultimate revelation of a triumphant Jesus:
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. (John 3:17)