Eating the word of God daily is essential for our spiritual growth. As the Lord said to Ezekiel here: “Son of man, listen to what I say to you. Do not join them in their rebellion. Open your mouth, and eat what I give you.” Then I looked and saw a hand reaching out to me. It held a scroll, 10 which he unrolled. And I saw that both sides were covered with funeral songs, words of sorrow, and pronouncements of doom.
The voice said to me, “Son of man, eat what I am giving you—eat this scroll! Then go and give its message to the people of Israel.” So I opened my mouth, and he fed me the scroll. “Fill your stomach with this,” he said. And when I ate it, it tasted as sweet as honey in my mouth. ~ Ezekiel 2:8-3:3 (New Living Translation)
The Bible often tells us that we should feed on the Word of God. It is spiritual nourishment for our souls, and necessary for our development as Christians as we journey on towards the prize awaiting us in Heaven.
For Ezekiel, the experience of eating the scroll containing the Word of God was a pleasant one – he compares the taste to that of sweet honey. The fact is, though, even though God’s Word should taste as sweet as honey when we feast on it, all too often, it doesn’t.
There’s that old, familiar saying, “it left a bitter taste in my mouth”. In life, experiences that we have often do leave a bitter taste in our mouths. Arguments with friends and family, work disputes, events that happen that we feel really shouldn’t happen, they all have the potential to leave bitterness in their wake.
But when we turn to the Bible, when we look to the Word of God for comfort and advice, we expect the sweetness that Ezekiel experienced. Why, then, does the Word of God sometimes feel like a bitter pill to swallow? Where is the reassurance we were looking for?
Have you ever experienced that disconcerting sensation of something familiar tasting very, very wrong? This morning, I made the mistake of plucking a strawberry out of the punnet in the fridge and popping it into my mouth, after I’d cleaned my teeth.
I was expecting a burst of sweetness to explode against my taste buds. What I got was a bizarre mixture of acid and mint that was just plain wrong. However, I understood the problem.
I didn’t consider that there was something amiss with the batch of strawberries purchased from the supermarket. I didn’t assume that the farmer who had grown them had somehow cultivated a strawberry that tasted of mint. I’d brushed my teeth – the disconcerting taste was not the fault of the strawberry.
The same is true of the Word of God. When reading Scripture isn’t as comforting or reassuring as we would like it to be, is there a lesson to be learned? I know that I am often guilty of blaming the Word, effectively accusing the strawberry of being minty, when the problem is within me.
2 Timothy 3:16 reminds us that “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right” (NLT).
I don’t like admitting it when I’m wrong. I don’t like being corrected. The fallenness of man has bred in us a discomfiture with correction and discipline. It makes us uncomfortable.
When Scripture points out the parts of our lives that aren’t quite right, the areas in which we need to change and grow, then the Word of God loses its sweetness and takes on a more bitter taste. We don’t like it. We regard those passages as if they’re a minty-tasting strawberry.
But the bitter taste doesn’t come from the Scripture. The Scripture is just as pure and sweet as the passages that we do like. The bitterness comes from our sinful nature. The bitterness comes from our resistance to change. The bitterness comes from our stubbornness.
Our life experiences and the things in our lives are the source of the bitter taste. Like the lingering taste of toothpaste, the things that we cling to long after we begin our Christian walk have an effect on the way we taste the Word of God.
But, just as the toothpaste taste gradually fades away, we have the opportunity to allow the bitter-tasting aspects of our lives to fade away, too.
Even when the Word of God tastes bitter to our sinful palate, it’s important not to spit it out. Perseverance is the key.
A child might gag at the taste of spinach, but her mother knows that the benefits of the food far outweigh the temporary discomfort and distress the child experiences. The Word of God is the most nutritious food a man (or woman, or child) can ever consume.
The more we consume it, the more we grow. If we respond to the bitter taste by spitting it out and refusing to consume any more, then we will starve. The discipline and correction received through Scripture that tastes bitter is often painful but always beneficial.
The writer of Hebrews reminds us: “My child, don’t make light of the Lord’s discipline, and don’t give up when he corrects you. For the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes each one he accepts as his child” ~ Hebrews 12:5-6 (NLT). As we grow in faith and spiritual maturity, the sweetness will gradually overcome the bitterness, and the benefits will far outweigh the unpleasantness.
I’m not going to stop eating strawberries because of this morning’s experience. It wasn’t the strawberry’s fault – and neither is it God’s fault when my sin makes His Word take on a bitter taste. I press on, confident that, now the toothpaste-taste has left my mouth, the next strawberry will be as sweet as it should be, and certain that, as God corrects my mistakes, His Word will taste as sweet as honey again and I will be one step closer to being the person He made me to be, so I will continue eating the word of God daily.