Archive for May 12th, 2015

The Little Book

May 12th, 2015

Then I took the little book out of the angel’s hand and are it, and it was as sweet as honey in my mouth. But when I had eaten it, my stomach became bitter.

Revelation 10:10

The Word of God is shared through people, and whether we call them preachers, pastors, evangelists, or just Christians, the message that brings life is shared by someone who has received the life of Christ. Every Christian who has ever shared a message that God has burned into his heart knows this experience or a bitter-sweet reality in his own heart.

The chapter opens with another mighty angel coming to earth with a “little book” in his hand. He placed one foot in the ocean and one on land, indicating his authority to proclaim a message to the entire world. Seven “thunders” cried out but John was not permitted to share what they said. There are many things that God will reveal to us in heaven that we are not ready to receive here on earth.

The angel announces, “there there should be delay no longer” (Rev 10:6), meaning that the time of the rule and reign of God are now imminent. But first the gospel is to be proclaimed in the whole earth, “about many peoples, nation, tongues, and kings” (Rev 10:11). Note also what Christ said, “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come” (Matt. 24:14).

Both Jeremiah (Jer. 15:16) and Ezekiel (Eze. 3:1) described similar experiences, of eating the prophecy they were given to proclaim. Of course, we use similar language when we say we have “devoured” a book, meaning that we have thoroughly and enthusiastically read it. These references are all idiomatic and not literal. It mean that John was to take the little book and to personally absorb it into his own mind and heart and life, and then to go and proclaim it. This is the rule of God for all who would proclaim His truth – it is first to be personalized and taken to heart, and then proclaimed before others.

It is important to remember that prophecy is often fulfilled in waves, with partial fulfillments being experienced before the complete fulfillment is accomplished. So in this chapter there is revealed the constant work of proclaiming the truth of God for the whole world to hear and turn in faith and trust in Christ. Since John was given something to do, it is clear that this is parenthetical to the revelation to future events and is a message to God for John and for all Christians throughout the Church Age.

But John’s stomach turned sour. In his mouth the book tasted sweet, that is in his own experience the message was uplifting and edifying to him personally. He rejoiced in the grace of God and in the promise of the ultimate victory of Christ. Yet the experience of sharing the message would be difficult. He would face rejection and persecution and ridicule. Many would believe but many also would not believe. Paul said of the apostles:

For I think that God has displayed us the apostles, last, as men condemned to death; for we have been made a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men. We are fools for Christ’s sake…We are weak … We are dishonored. to this present hour we both hunger and thirst, and we are poorly clothed, and beaten, and homeless. And we labor, working with out own hands. Being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we endure; being defamed, we entreat. We have been made as the filth of the world, the offscouring of all things until now.” 1 Corinthians 4:9-13

Yet John’s trouble with the message also seemed to come from the nature of it, the judgment of God upon the nations. “You must prophesy again about many peoples, nations, tongues, and kings” (Rev. 10:11). There is no disagreement with the righteousness of God in judging the world in this matter. God is completely just and will judge with complete and utter justice. The disagreement comes from the reality of the sin of the world and the pain that sin has caused to others. We speak of “man’s inhumanity to man” and to see the panoramic view of sinfulness and the awful legacy it has left leaves John deeply disturbed.

The call of someone to preach the gospel, to proclaim and teach the Word of God, is a call to personalize the message first, to make it your own in knowledge, understanding, and obedience. But then we are to take it out into a world where the spiritual warfare is playing itself out. I understand exactly this experience, that was also mirrored in different words and imagery by Jeremiah 20:7-12. In the passage Jeremiah admitted to being deceived by God, that is he initially received the Word of God and the call of God to preach with great joy, but then he found the task of proclaiming the wonderful message difficult. He faced rejection, ridicule, and sadness of spirit from seeing the effects of unbelief and the stubbornness of some hearts. Yet Jeremiah found an inner motivation in his soul that would carry him on to complete his mission. He said that if he said that he would not longer speak of the name of God, that the Word of God was “in my heart like a burning fire shut up in my bones; I was weary of holding it back and I could not” (Jer. 20:9).

Christians as well as preachers feel this reality. “We cannot help speaking of what we have seen and know” (Acts 4:20). We cannot help but proclaim what we have experienced and know to be the truth of God to the world, and what the Spirit of God has laid on our hearts to do. And this is our task until the Lord returns or calls us home.

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