It’s always a good idea to collate biblical references to a topic/word/subject, in order to get a full picture of the significance of the matter, especially if it is about prophecies and/or visions. A sound hermeneutical approach does this. Then similarities and differences can be spotted, and when context is taken into account, the understanding becomes more clear. There absolutely is significance with this symbolic eating of scrolls by God’s prophets both in the Old and New Testaments.
With Ezekiel, he’d just had an astounding vision which included seeing four living creatures, then wheels within wheels, full of eyes. Above all that, he then saw the throne of God – amber, fire, a rainbow – and “the likeness of the glory of the Lord”. He fell, prostrate. The Spirit lifted him up, instructing him to give a message to the rebellious children of Israel. A hand appeared before him, holding a roll of a book, writing of lamentations on both sides. He was told to eat it, then go to the house of Israel to speak to them that message of lamentations.
“Then did I eat it; and it was in my mouth as honey for sweetness…
Then the Spirit took me up, and I heard behind me a voice of a great
rushing, ‘Blessed be the glory of the Lord from this place, also the
noise of the wings of the living creatures... and I went in
bitterness, in the heat of my spirit; but the hand of the Lord was
strong upon me.”
Parallels with John’s visions and commission are staggering. The book of the Revelation describes four living creatures before the throne of God in heaven – amber, fire, a rainbow – and all the others in and around that glorious throne. John fell prostrate before the glorious resurrected Son of Man but was lifted up and told what to write regarding the judgments to come (starting with that on the Household of God) leading up to more and more dreadful plagues poured out on the earth upon the ungodly. He, too, was told to take a scroll from the hand of an angel, eat it, and find it sweet as honey in his mouth, yet bitter in his belly.
Other parts in the Bible show points of interpretation that are significant. In Jeremiah 15:16-21 that prophet wrote, “Thy words were found” [prophecies about the Babylonian captivity and promised release after 70 years] “and I did eat them; and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart; for I am called by thy name, O Lord God of hosts… I sat alone because of thy hand: for thou hast filled me with indignation…” Then he spoke of his pain and his wound, God assuring him that he was with Jeremiah, to save and deliver him.
Jeremiah did not literally eat the words he found. He mentally assimilated them and believed them.
Ezekiel did not literally eat the words on the scroll given to him. He mentally assimilated and believed them.
John did not literally eat the words on the scroll he took. He mentally assimilated, believed them, then wrote it all down (as did Jeremiah and Ezekiel) to pass on to others, even down till this very day.
Their prophetic warnings resound throughout the centuries following, and provide harmonious links with John’s vision as even now the plagues build up to Christ's sudden appearing. We need such visionary strength and sustenance to be prepared for that day.
In Psalm 119 we read of longing after God’s written precepts, meditating upon them, remembering God’s word to his servant, being comforted in affliction due to God’s word enlivening one, hoping in God’s word. We are also told (vs. 11) “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee’, and (vs. 89), “For ever, O Lord, they word is settled in heaven”. And here is the ultimate link with the words of the prophets:
“How sweet are thy words unto my taste! Yea, sweeter than honey to my
mouth” Through thy precepts I get understanding: therefore I hate
every false way. Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my
path.” (vss. 103-105)
It’s now clear what all those words on visionary scrolls mean, both to the prophets who imbibe them (spiritually), and impart them to us (literally). Now we too can agree that those biblical words of God are as sweet as honey in our (symbolic) mouths. But what about the bitterness that follows?
That speaks of some of the consequences of God’s people believing and obeying those heavenly words. Hatred and persecution were always the portion of the prophets of God when they obediently proclaimed God’s warnings to the wicked. Even within the Household of God (ancient Israel in the Old Testament, and the Church of the New Testament), many turn on those who will not keep silent about God’s word (as Jeremiah, who couldn’t keep silent as God’s word in him was like a fire in his bones and fire in his mouth (Jer. 20:9 & 1:9 with 5:14). How Jeremiah suffered, and Isaiah, and Ezekiel and John, all because they were faithful to the vision and the word. Yet their affliction was momentary and light, compared with the joy of the Lord that remained their portion while in the flesh, and eternally.
But the Revelation shows most clearly the hatred of the ungodly, stirred up by the symbolic red dragon that failed in trying to destroy the seed of God’s symbolic ‘woman’ (Christ), only to turn on the remnant of her seed left on the earth. Such vitriol is hard to bear; it is a bitter thing. This has been happening ever since the first century A.D., through every century to this very day, and will continue until the first reaping of the harvest of the earth – when the firstfruits to God and Christ are gathered in before the reaping of the vine of the earth, for crushing and destruction. Bitter hatred is poured out on all those imbibing God’s words of truth and life, but the promise holds good to all who keep the sayings of this book: “Blessed is he that keepeth the sayings of the prophecy of this book… Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.” (Rev. 22:7, 9, 14) All of this shows the need to assimilate, believe, and do the words of the scolls of prophecy in the Bible, as they apply to us in this day and age. The situations may have their differences in different centuries, but the principles remain the same. Hear, believe and do – in faith. The sweetness of God’s word will sustain us and remain in us eternally, no matter what brief bitterness in this ungodly world initially results.