Perhaps you’ve heard the expression, “I devoured that book,” or someone illustrate the process of assimilating the contents of a book through reflection as “digesting.” Two men in the Bible were told in visions to eat a book, though their historical situations differed.
Ezekiel was commissioned, “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. Now when I looked, there was a hand stretched out to me; and behold, a scroll of a book was in it. Then He spread it before me; and there was writing on the inside and on the outside, and written on it were lamentations and mourning and woe” (2:8-10). When Ezekiel ate the scroll, he said, “it was in my mouth like honey in sweetness” (3:3). Ezekiel was to tell the house of Israel God’s message of impending doom if they did not repent. The lamentations, mourning, and woe he had to deliver to this rebellious house so that they would “know that a prophet has been among them” (2:5; cf. 33:33). Ezekiel took on the task and made God’s message part of him because he wanted to do God’s will, but he was also in bitterness of spirit (3:14).
In Revelation 10:9-11, John wrote, “So I went to the angel and said to him, ‘Give me the little book.’ And he said to me, ‘Take and eat it; and it will make your stomach bitter, but it will be as sweet as honey in your mouth.’ Then I took the little book out of the angel’s hand and ate it, and it was as sweet as honey in my mouth. But when I had eaten it, my stomach became bitter. And he said to me, ‘You must prophesy again about many peoples, nations, tongues, and kings.’” John delighted in God avenging His people (Rev. 6:10; 18:20), but he would have to relate this message of doom that was soon to come on those who persecuted God’s people. This would bring about persecution, as John was already experiencing for the word of God; he was exiled to Patmos and was a brother in tribulation to the seven churches of Asia to whom he wrote (1:9).
The Bible is a delight to those who want to draw closer to God; it is “sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb” (Psalm 19:10). We can join in with the psalmist and say to God, “How sweet are Your words to my taste, Sweeter than honey to my mouth!” (Psa. 119:103). Yet there are tough words in the Bible that often elicit a bitter response. Whether it is the prophet Ezekiel speaking to unfaithful Israel of old, John giving warning and hope to first-century churches, or the faithful Christian who stands with the Bible today, bitterness is part of proclaiming God’s judgments to a rebellious world.
Though we do not receive inspired visions as Ezekiel and John did—since the Bible is complete (1 Cor. 13:8-10; Eph. 4:7-13; Heb. 2:3-4)—we must still in a sense ingest God’s word. In resisting the devil’s temptation, the Lord Jesus quoted from Deuteronomy 8:3 and said, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Mt. 4:4). If we are to grow as Christians, we must desire the pure milk of the word of God (1 Pet. 2:2). Then we should grow to full age so that we can handle the meat of God’s word (Heb. 5:12-14; 1 Cor. 3:1-2). Consume God’s word. Absorb it. Make it a part of your being, so that you are thoroughly prepared to teach it to others.