Christianity 201

May 18, 2014

The Word of God is Life

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Ezekiel 2:1 He said to me, “Son of man, stand up on your feet and I will speak to you.” As he spoke, the Spirit came into me and raised me to my feet, and I heard him speaking to me.

He said: “Son of man, I am sending you to the Israelites, to a rebellious nation that has rebelled against me; they and their ancestors have been in revolt against me to this very day. The people to whom I am sending you are obstinate and stubborn. Say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says.’ And whether they listen or fail to listen—for they are a rebellious people—they will know that a prophet has been among them. And you, son of man, do not be afraid of them or their words. Do not be afraid, though briers and thorns are all around you and you live among scorpions. Do not be afraid of what they say or be terrified by them, though they are a rebellious people. You must speak my words to them, whether they listen or fail to listen, for they are rebellious. But you, son of man, listen to what I say to you. Do not rebel like that rebellious people; open your mouth and eat what I give you.”

Then I looked, and I saw a hand stretched out to me. In it was a scroll, 10 which he unrolled before me. On both sides of it were written words of lament and mourning and woe.

Ezekiel 3:1 And he 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 tasted as sweet as honey in my mouth.

We begin our look at this most unique text with the Reformation Study Bible:

Moses had said that God would put His word into the mouths of the prophets (Deut. 18:18), and here that is seen in a graphic way. What food is to the body, so the word of God would be for Ezekiel’s ministry.

The Dictionary of Bible themes states that in some instances, a scroll may represent the word of God (as here) or in others, the revelation of God’s purposes (as Revelation).

Whether the words of lament mentioned here aligns fully with what we would call the canon of scripture, we know that the words came from God and are therefore equal to scripture. It’s hard to imagine Ezekiel’s reaction when being told to eat the scroll.

Today we see two very different extremes in our approach to God’s word, which exists in our time in the form we call the Bible. On the one hand, many of us have a rather casual relationship with the multiple copies of the scripture in our homes. Each year hundreds of Bibles are forgotten and end up in the lost and found box at churches. I have to confess, in the Christian bookstore where I spend some of my week, there are stacks of Bibles with the ones on the bottom lying on the floor, something that would be an abomination in some circles.

On the other hand, there is bibliolatry, where the Bible is elevated to a status it was never intended to hold. For evangelicals, the buck stops at “the word of God alone” (sola scriptura) but we should never reach the point where the phrase, “The Bible says…” supplants the phrase, “Jesus is Lord.” The Bible’s words should never overshadow the One to whom the words refer.

Nate Whitley writes:

The Lord spoke to Ezekiel to eat the scroll. But not only was Ezekiel to eat the scroll, he was to fill his belly with it. Ezekiel didn’t just fill his belly with the scroll, but he also tasted it (Ezekiel 3:1-3). The scroll tasted of honey. Ezekiel enjoyed what he ate. John ate the scroll as well, even though it tasted like honey it was bitter to his stomach (Revelation 10:10). Not everything that tastes good will make you feel good.

Ezekiel and John didn’t just eat part of the scroll. They ate the whole scroll. Partaking of the Word of God is not a buffet picking and choosing what you would like to eat and leaving the rest for others to fight over. You and I are to eat the whole book. From Genesis to Revelation. From creation to consummation. Precept upon precept, line upon line, here a little and there a little (Isaiah 28:10). The Christian is to fill their belly with the Word of God.

Perhaps why few read the Bible in its entirety is that their belly is already filled. They have acquired a taste for “other things” (Mark 4:19). They will sit and eat at the table of social media, sports, television and not have enough room in their belly to partake of divine delicacies.

Larry Thompson writes:

Eat And Speak

God told Ezekiel to eat the scroll, then go speak to Israel. The imagery here is that Ezekiel is to fill himself up with God’s word, his message, and then go tell it to Israel. So, he would hear and absorb God’s message (eat), then go preach this sad word to his people. Ezekiel obeyed and ate the scroll.

Even though the message was a sad one to hear, it was good to Ezekiel. He said it was sweet as honey to his mouth. How could that be? I had to deliver some sad messages this week, and none of them were sweet to me. But this message was God’s word, so it was sweet. God’s word should always be good to us, even when it convicts us of sin. Psalm 19:7-11 speaks of the sweetness of God’s word:

The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul;
the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple;
the precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes;
the fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever;
the rules of the LORD are true, and righteous altogether.
More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb.
Moreover, by them is your servant, warned; in keeping them is great reward.