Sweet Little Scroll
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43. Sweet Little Scroll
Revelation 10.8-11

"Then the voice that I had heard from heaven spoke to me once more: 'Go, take the scroll that lies open in the hand of the angel who is standing on the sea and the land.' So I went to the angel and asked him to give me the little scroll. He said to me, 'Take it and eat it. It will turn your stomach sour, but in your mouth, it will be as sweet as honey.' I took the little scroll from the angel's hand and ate it. It tasted as sweet as honey in my mouth, but when I had eaten it, my stomach turned sour. Then I was told, 'You must prophesy again about many peoples, nations, languages, and kings.'" (Revelation 10.8-11)✞

Dead Sea Scrolls

ScrollThe Greek word for "little scroll" is "Biblaridion" or "little book." The prophet Ezekiel speaks of a similar scroll in Ezekiel 3.1-3, "And he (God) said to me, 'Son of man, eat what is before you, eat this scroll; then go and speak to the people of Israel.' So I opened my mouth, and he gave me the scroll to eat. 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 tastes as sweet as honey in my mouth." John of Patmos describes Ezekiel's experience when he eats the lovely little scroll filled with judgments. "Little book" is an unusual word only occurring in Revelation 10.2,9-10, "He was holding a little scroll, which lay open in his hand." and "So I went to the angel and asked him to give me the little scroll." This small scroll was open for all to read its contents. It reminds me of the "Dead Sea Scrolls" exhibited in "The Shrine of the Book" in Jerusalem, where one scroll is stretched out in a circular viewing case for all to see. After displaying a scroll for 3–6 months, it is removed from its showcase and placed temporarily in a special storeroom, where it "rests" from exposure to light and people. The fragility and quantity of the scrolls make it impossible to display them all continuously. The Isaiah scroll dates from the second century BC and is the most complete and proves beyond doubt the authenticity of Isaiah's Book. Shepherds found the Dead Sea Scrolls in the "Qumran Caves." They were written as early as the 8th century BC and contain a virtually complete set of Old Testament Books almost identical to those we read today. Revelation's special scroll contains the final unfolding of judgment with comforting prophecies, which are initially as sweet as honey in his mouth. Still, disturbing clues fill it to come, which tastes sour to his stomach."

Sweet and Sour

The Great ScrollThe voice from Heaven tells John of Patmos to take a scroll, which would typically have been a roll of papyrus, parchment, or animal hide containing writing, and eat it! God's word is sweet to believers because it brings encouragement. Still, it sours their stomachs because of the coming judgments it also contains. If we knew the future today, it might seem initially sweet, but it would also have bitterness for us. God knows our needs better than we know them ourselves, so it is wise not to see the future.

Prophet Ezekiel

Prophet EzekielHere, we note how John of Patmos is told by Heaven's voice not once but twice to "Take the scroll." It is not handed to him, even when he asks the angel to give it to him, but he has to take it himself. The inference is that God never forces his revelation on anyone, but they must take the scroll of life. God also tells Ezekiel to eat the little scroll and to fill his belly with it. In both pictures, the idea is the same. The messenger of God has to take God's message into his or her very being with both negative and positive consequences. Such is the responsibility of all messengers of the Good News!

Honey on a Slate

Slate Used for WritingThe sweet honey scroll from the angel's hand to the Apostle John turns from sweet to bitter in his mouth and stomach. Honey is a recurring thought in Scripture. In Psalm 19.10, the Lord's decrees are "more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey than honey from the honeycomb." Later in Psalm 119.103, we read, "How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!" Behind the words "Sweet as Honey" lies a pleasant Jewish educational custom. A Jewish boy learning his alphabet writes his letters in a mixture of flour and honey on a slate. He understands what the characters are and how they sound.

Lick the Slate

Honey PotThe teacher would then point at a letter and ask, "What is this, and how does it sound?" If a boy could answer correctly, he could lick the honey off the slate as a reward! When the prophet and the psalmist spoke about God's words and judgments being sweeter than a scroll, it may well be that they were thinking of this quaint and unusual Jewish custom.

Bitter Aftertaste

Bitter and SweetTo John of Patmos, the scroll is sweet and painful at the same time. A message of God may be to a servant of God at once a sweet and bitter thing. It is precious because it is a great privilege to be chosen as the messenger, but the message itself may be a foretelling of doom and, therefore, a painful thing. For John of Patmos, it is a great privilege to be admitted to the secrets of Heaven, but at the same time, it is bitter about having to proclaim a time of terror, even if triumph lies at its conclusion.

"Sweet Little Scroll"
by Ron Meacock © 2021

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