And I went unto the angel, and said unto him, Give me the little book. And he said unto me, Take it, and eat it up; and it shall make thy belly bitter, but it shall be in thy mouth sweet as honey.  And I took the little book out of the angel’s hand, and ate it up; and it was in my mouth sweet as honey: and as soon as I had eaten it, my belly was bitter. (Revelation 10:9-10)
I firmly believe there is no greater calling than the one God gives to ministers of His word. It is always a joy and privilege to stand in the pulpit and open the precious word of God to preach the great salvation we have in Jesus Christ. Preachers have an awesome responsibility when handling the word of life because the eternal destiny of the soul depends on the truths that are preached and believed. It scares me to think there are pastors that spend little time studying the word and yet they approach the pulpit with confidence that their personal wisdom is sufficient to feed the flock of God. Some years ago I was in the office of a pastor in a nearby town and as we were discussing the church he suddenly remembered he did not have a sermon for Sunday morning. He opened his desk drawer and pulled out a few pages of notes and said, “This one looks like it will do.” Without any thought, prayer, or preparation, he was ready to stand before his congregation and deliver a sermon. When I think how often this scenario goes on in many churches, I am reminded of John’s experience when the angel told him to take the little book and eat it. John said, “And it was in my mouth sweet as honey: and as soon as I had eaten it, my belly was bitter.”
Revelation is rich with symbolism and none is more important than the one we read in this text. The book John was told to eat was the seven sealed scroll which is emblematic of the word of God. When he ate, the scroll was sweet to the taste which symbolizes the wonderful message of salvation contained in its pages. The gospel of Jesus Christ is sweet to the ears of the person plagued by his sins and weighed down by an insufferable burden of guilt. Isaiah wrote, “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth!” (Isaiah 52:7). What a joy it is to be a preacher that gives the good news to dying sinners. I would never want to come to the pulpit with no thought over a message that contains as much hope as this!
John tasted the word and it was sweet, but when it reached his stomach he said, “As soon as I had eaten it, my belly was bitter.” This statement tells us the word of God has another side. For those that respond to it in faith, it is sweet. The other side is the effect it has on those that do not believe. For these, the word contains bitter judgment. On one side there is salvation; on the other there is condemnation. On one side there is heaven; on the other side is hell. It is as much the responsibility of the minister to preach the judgment of God as it is to preach the salvation of God. What preacher could approach the pulpit with such an awful message of doom and not be heavily burdened for the seriousness of the warning and the hopelessness of its hearers? Preaching requires much thought and preparation because both sides of the message are too profound to approach lightly.
I feel the sense of this great responsibility so I promise not to come to the pulpit of Berean unprepared and without careful consideration of the duty of ministers. I intend to preach the whole counsel of God’s word. You will receive both sides of the message and I make no apologies for preaching it all. I love to preach the sweetness of salvation but I must also preach the bitterness of condemnation. I only hope and pray you are able to receive the word with joy and know in your heart the salvation found only in Jesus Christ.
Pastor V. Mark Smith