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 3.3)
Nothing Like It Looks
Blogger informs me this is Straight-Friendly’s 500th post. While that includes reposts and updates, the lion’s share is comprised of original reflections that, until the recent pullback to three per week, appeared daily. Had I known what a new post each day would ultimately demand, I’d have dismissed the idea out-of-hand. Yet this milestone reminds me how much I would have lost by not setting such an ambitious pace. The daily obligation to deliver something hopefully worth reading and useful necessitated digging ever deeper and wider into God’s Word. Since my youth, I’ve tried to devote time each day to reading and/or meditating on Scripture. This experience, which I admit was driven by stubbornness to keep up as much as anything, turned into something else entirely. For the past 18 months, I’ve feasted on God’s Word, finding flavors and textures I’ve never tasted. With more conviction than ever I can testify: God’s Word is sweet.
Ezekiel also learns this, albeit in a less rigorous, time-consuming manner that, well frankly, makes me a little envious. He’s swept into a trance, where he surveys the vast beauty of God’s creatures and beholds the Creator’s glory. He falls facedown as a voice calls him to speak to Israel—which at the moment appears to be in a sorry state. “Do not be afraid of them or their words,” the voice says in Ezekiel 2.6. “Do not be afraid though briers and thorns are all around you, and you live among scorpions.” The calling ends with the voice offering Ezekiel a scroll, commanding him to eat it. “On both sides of it were written words of lament and mourning and woe,” he reports in verse 9. Ezekiel stands up, opens his mouth, and discovers the parchment tastes nothing like it looks. “It tasted as sweet as honey in my mouth,” he writes.
Trapped Between the Lines
As Ezekiel finds out—and something I’ve come to recognize—the sweetness of God’s Word is often trapped between the lines. The riches and rareness of its flavor aren’t always evident at a cursory glance. To experience its full taste, we go beyond looking at it and look into it, searching for pockets of honey, where God’s love and grace hide beneath harsh judgments and reactions to our weakness and disobedience. It’s entirely possible to read the Bible, observing how God deals with us—from the Garden eviction in Genesis to the bloody vengeance described in The Revelation—and come away with a bitter taste in our mouths. That’s because we’ve only skimmed the surface. When we open it up, however, and open our minds to what it’s actually depicting, its amazing sweetness springs to the surface.
The undiscriminating eye sees exactly what Ezekiel does at first glance: pages spread thick with lament, mourning, and woe. But reading the Bible has a completely opposite effect when we discipline ourselves to look beyond what happens to see why God speaks and behaves as He does. Even in the most brutal, seemingly merciless instances—e.g., the Flood, or the savage torture and execution of Christ—we detect the sweetness of God’s undying love and determination to restore our relationship with Him. The extraordinary lengths He goes to and the enormous risks He takes to return our attention to Him fill us with awe.
The Good Parts
It’s a good guess the majority of Bible readers fall somewhere between the skimmers and the searchers. Like people who stick with what they liked as kids and avoid unfamiliar or challenging flavors, they spend their lives ignoring much of God’s Word to get to “the good parts.” And it’s likely “the good parts” are indeed the best parts—passages where God’s love and grace are easily found and absorbed. But there are liabilities to confining our exposure to what suits our tastes. First, we stunt our growth by not gaining insights and strength only found in tougher portions that bury their sweetness. Second, we’re left to rely on others’ opinions regarding unfamiliar passages. This is especially true for gay believers who continue to trust people who rip scriptures out of context to condemn and discourage them. If they explored the texts for themselves, they could be following Christ in full confidence. Finally, a limited diet—no matter how sweet it is—will eventually turn bland. Believers who restrict their tastes to what they already like return less frequently the table. Their hunger to know more of God withers under the misconception all His Word offers is more of the same.
When Ezekiel is given the scroll, he’s told, “Eat this scroll and fill your stomach with it.” In other words, he’s instructed to eat everything—much like parents tell finicky children to stop picking at their food and clean their plates. Had he combed through the scroll for its most tasty or digestible nibbles, he never would have known its full sweetness. Nor would he have been strengthened for the opposition he was due to face as he obeyed God’s call. We need God’s Word, all of it, to know God in His fullness and sweetness. Only by delving beneath its sometimes harsh, off-putting surface can we discover the sweet scroll it truly is.
Skimming the surface or skipping to "the good parts" hides the sweetness trapped between the lines of God's Word.
(Next: Making the Most)