The Word of God Is Sweet and Bitter (Part Two)


January 22, 2021

Revelation 10:9-10 (NIV)

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.’” 10 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.


In yesterday’s text, the prophet Ezekiel was commanded to “eat this scroll” (Ezek. 3:3) and upon doing so he found it tasted sweeter than honey. Today we see something similar yet with a key difference, as the revelation given to John unfolds. 

It tasted as sweet as honey in my mouth, but when I had eaten it, my stomach turned sour.

Sometimes, the Word of God can be like this; sweet to the taste yet bitter to the stomach. It can taste sweeter than honey and yet have the effect of medicine in our bodies. We commonly hear from cancer patients how chemotherapy makes them sick before making them better. Are we open to this kind of experience with the Word of God? 

Many of you are aware of the very difficult season in the life of my family over the past several years. Early this past summer I was sharing with a group of college students, asking them to share particular scriptures that were presently living and active in their lives. One of them shared this word from the prophet, Habakkuk:

Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.
The Sovereign Lord is my strength;
he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
he enables me to tread on the heights. (Hab. 3:17-19)

I had heard the text before but it struck me differently this time. It whispered hope to me in the midst of my despair, particularly the closing verses about ascending to the heights. For the next several days I ruminated on the text, writing it each morning in my journal. Soon I had it rememberized. I started researching Habakkuk to learn more of how it fit within the larger biblical story. 

About midway through the summer, as I engaged these verses, I sensed the Lord speaking to me. The Holy Spirit made me aware of my failure to rehearse this word from the Lord. If you were to peruse my summer journal you would see how I began to abbreviate the Scripture: “No figs. No grapes. No olives. No grain. No sheep. No cows. Yet I will rejoice in the Lord.” While the the nos gripped my sense of reality, the invitation to rejoice eluded my experience. I would read the words but they rang hollow in my soul. I sensed the Lord inquiring of me, “You are waiting for things to get better, aren’t you? You are waiting to rejoice in me until your circumstances and conditions improve and you get past this dark valley.” 

It tasted as sweet as honey in my mouth, but when I had eaten it, my stomach turned sour.

Indigestion was setting in. I was comfortable commiserating with the prophet in his despair yet I resisted the move to rejoice in the Lord in the midst of it. I would rejoice when the Lord lifted the pain. The leading of the Spirit impressed upon me, “Now is the time to rejoice, in the midst of the ruins; not after they are somehow repaired. This is that moment for you, John David. Rejoice in the Lord in the ruins. Do not miss this moment.” 

It tasted as sweet as honey in my mouth, but when I had eaten it, my stomach turned sour.

Talk about a sour stomach. My heart, mind, and spirit were in unfamiliar, very difficult terrain. This was gut-level pain. I was comfortable with a despairing response to despairing conditions. Rejoicing in God in the face of them was utterly foreign to me. I would rejoice when he lifted them. “No,” he said, “now is the time.”

“I will rejoice in the Lord. I will be joyful in God my Savior” (Hab. 3:18). The words themselves began to train my will. As I obeyed, I began to discover the next verse in my experience, “The Sovereign Lord is my strength” (Hab. 3:19). I was ready to move on to the last two verse about him making my feet like the feet of a deer and taking me back to the mountaintop. The Lord chided me to stay with rejoicing at the bottom. The rest would come in his timing, not mine. 

I would like to tell you I am back on top, with bumper crops and mountaintop joy now. I am not. I am still learning the lesson of the valley—to rejoice in the ruins. It continues to be the hardest learning of my life so far. Every single day, in the bitterness of loss, like the dripping medicine of a chemotherapy IV, he infuses me with the invitation, “Yet I will rejoice in the Lord. I will be joyful in God my Savior.” Slowly, I sense the malignant cancer of a despairing spirit begin to dissipate. I am growing stronger in the Lord. I will ascend in his time, not by clawing and climbing my way out, but as he lifts me up to himself. 

It tasted as sweet as honey in my mouth, but when I had eaten it, my stomach turned sour.

First Word. Last Word. God’s Word.


Father, thank you for your Word, which endures forever. Thank you for making it like medicine when we most need it. You graciously coat the bitter pill with sugar that we might swallow it, and yet you do not spare us of the souring effects of its healing. Lead me to these kinds of words that I might eat them, without fear of the side effects, because I know you are making me well, ridding me of the sickness of sin and death and imbuing me with your very nature. I pray in the name of your Son, Jesus. Amen.  


Can you think of a time when you experienced the Word of God like medicine? Perhaps sweet to the taste yet sour in the stomach? Do you sense this need in your life now? Ask him for such a Word.   

For the Awakening,
J.D. Walt

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Comments and Discussion

6 Responses

  1. The sweet and sour of following after the Lord. Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good. In this world we will have tribulation. Love those who persecute you and say wrongs about you. His mercies are new every morning, but testing will come. A friend of mine once said, it isn’t easy to love the Lord, look how he treats his friends. To be friends with Jesus means to be pruned, cut and polished. God wants us to be a reflection of his Son. Most followers want the same, but the price! Our walk is to love our enemies, to go the extra mile and turn our cheek, exhausting. Yet, when you are able, to hear your father say- well done my child! To know that more of him now resonates in you is unfathomable. The worst of times, the best of times was when I had to love my enemies and bless them. Not at all easy but it is the power of God to perform! My greatest experience with God was when he loved my enemies through me. Although painful, they were most fruitful and glorious.

  2. This is one unusual and far-reaching insight from God’s word.

    I’m enlightened, I’m hooked!

    Thank you J.D

  3. Thank you for the enlightenment of God’s word. Thanks, praise and glory to our Most High and Holy God for such wonderful word of exhortation.

    God bless you and may Yeshua’s love, peace, joy and wisdom be upon you.

  4. This has been one of my favorite verses for the past 42 years. I am amazed how in the midst of sorrow, despair, we can see God’s character so clearly. But what I didn’t expect was to also see my own. I have always said God is good. But would He seem “good” when life was not. It’s easy when life is calm to praise Him. However, it is in the fire that our praise is refined, proven, real. My prayers are for you tonight. May you find yourself jumping across the mountain tops carried and your burdens lifted.

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