Sometimes God will use striking physical metaphors to illustrate a spiritual truth. When He called Ezekiel to prophesy to the house of Israel, He presented the prophet with a roll (a small scroll of paper) and told him to eat it.
“Moreover he said unto me, Son of man, eat that thou findest; eat this roll, and go speak unto the house of Israel.” (Ezekiel 3:1)
In the Book of Revelation, the apostle John had a similar experience:
(9) And I went unto the angel, and said unto him, Give me the little book. And he said unto me, Take it, and eat it up; and it shall make thy belly bitter, but it shall be in thy mouth sweet as honey.
(10) And I took the little book out of the angel’s hand, and ate it up; and it was in my mouth sweet as honey: and as soon as I had eaten it, my belly was bitter.
These, of course, are prophetic visions. They did not literally happen. These visions were given to these men to emphasize the importance of making their message personal because you can only be passionate about something you truly believe in. In Ezekiel’s vision, the roll was opened and he saw that “it was written within and without” (Ezekiel 2:10), meaning it was covered on both sides. It conveyed to the prophet the urgency of the message, God had so much to tell His people that he filled the scroll to the fullest; the completeness of the message, erasures would have been obvious and there was no room for additions; and the authority of the message, nothing could be added or removed from the scroll.
For both Ezekiel and John, the message they had to preach was a difficult one. Ezekiel said his scroll was full of “lamentations, and mourning, and woe” (Ezekiel 2:10) John’s message in Revelation was not much different. Yes, it contained glorious messages of Heaven, but it also contained terrible prophecies regarding the fate of Israel and mankind in general.
In Revelation, the angel added extra detail about what would happen when John ate the little book he received: “it shall make thy belly bitter, but it shall be in thy mouth sweet as honey.” The angel told him about the bad before he told him about the good. In obedience, John ate the little book anyway and he confirmed that the book did indeed taste good, but it made his belly bitter. Why would God’s Word do that? Because God’s Word is always good; it’s just not always easy to stomach. Paul makes a similar observation when he speaks of the convicting power of God’s law:
“What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, ‘Thou shalt not covet’” (Romans 7:7).
In other words, all of God’s Word is good regardless of its message. The Bible is good because its author is good. We are the ones with the problem, and we are the ones in need of change when it points out sin in our lives. When we give the message of God’s Word to others, we can expect resistance. God said as much to His prophets. No one wants to hear that they’re a sinner, but everyone needs to hear it because recognizing that helps them to recognize their need of a Savior. As believers, we need to consume the truth of God’s Word so that it consumes us and moves us to deliver the good, although difficult, news of the gospel.