Feasting on the Word

It seems evident that most Americans do not eat what is best for them.  Our diets have changed from the diet of our parents and grandparents. Consider this:

  • Prior to the 1900’s, the average American ate about 5 pounds of sugar per year. According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest, the average American in 1999 ate       158 pounds of sugar.  (Avg of 2-3 pounds a week)
  • In 1942, the average American consumed 60 12-ounce colas. However, in 1997, the average was 576 12-ounce servings.
  • In the 1950s, the average American ate 4 pound of French fries per year. In 2001, we ate an average of 30 pounds of French fries. 
  •  Today, less than 28% of Americans meet the USDA guidelines for daily fruit consumption.       Only 32% meet the USDA guidelines for vegetable consumption.
  • Do you think that this change is diet has had any effect on the health of Americans?

 

I.  Accessing Our Spiritual Diet.  What about our spiritual diet?  Unfortunately we do not fare any better. The majority of Americans (even religiously conservatives) are not taking in much spiritual sustenance. In the words of author Edwin Crozier, “We like our religion like we do our food – fast, easy, tasty, low on nutrients and sugar-coated.”   There are many who attend a worship assembly somewhere every week, but do not get much of what they need.

 II.  A Famine of God’s Word:  The prophet Amos prophesied  to the northern kingdom of Israel about 750 years before Christ. It was during a time of prosperity for Israel, and the future looked promising. But Amos describes it to us from a spiritual perspective. Amos 8:9-12 – 9 “And it shall come to pass in that day,” says the Lord God, “That I will make the sun go down at noon, And I will darken the earth in broad daylight; 10 I will turn your feasts into mourning, And all your songs into lamentation; I will bring sackcloth on every waist, And baldness on every head; I will make it like mourning for an only son, And its end like a bitter day. 11 “Behold, the days are coming,” says the Lord God, “That I will send a famine on the land, Not a famine of bread, Nor a thirst for water, But of hearing the words of the Lord. 12 They shall wander from sea to sea, And from north to east; They shall run to and fro, seeking the word of the Lord, But shall not find it.  God’s people would suffer from spiritual malnutrition as God would allow them to suffer a famine of hearing God’s word.

A.  This does not indicate that God would deny them the food they needed. In fact, it was the contrary. God was even then sending His prophets (such as Amos, Isaiah) to them, but they would not heed their words.  Amos 5:1010 They hate the one who rebukes in the gate,And they abhor the one who speaks uprightly.  Israel rejected God’s counsel and Amaziah, the false priest of Bethel, even forbid Amos from speaking the truth in the city. (Amos 7:10-17) If one refuses to eat what God provides, he may go hungry!

 III.  Ezekiel’s Commission: Consider the prophetic calling of Ezekiel. He was called to speak for God while living as an exile in Babylon, serving as a priest. He revealed several visions concerning the coming judgment on Judah, and the coming of God’s kingdom.  Ezekiel’s job is to save the remnant that remained faithful to God. But Judah was corrupt, and the words of God would not be well received.

A.  Read Ezekiel 2:1 – 3:4 – Despite the fact that the people will not listen, Ezekiel is commanded to not be afraid or intimidated by their rebellious ways. He was to continue to speak, whether they accepted or rejected his preaching. Ezek 2:4-5 –  For they are impudent and stubborn children. I am sending you to them, and you shall say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God.’  5 As for them, whether they hear or whether they refuse — for they are a rebellious house — yet they will know that a prophet has been among them.

 IV. “Eat this scroll”  (3:1)– Consider this unusual request of God to Ezekiel. Why would God require this?  It was imperative that the prophet first digest the word before attempting to take it to others. Jameison says… “God’s messenger must first inwardly appropriate God’s truth himself, before he “speaks” it to others”  (from Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary)

  • What does this unusual request teach us about the relationship between the word of God and those who would teach it? Have you eaten any scrolls lately? Maybe God wants you to develop an appetite for His words.

 A.Eat what I give you” (2:8) – Ezekiel is commanded to open wide (literally, to gape) and eat what God will provide. Are you a picky eater? Some folks can eat anything, while others struggle to accept another’s palate. Those who would proclaim God’s message are not free to develop the menu. We must be willing to eat what God provides.

1.  1 Peter 4:1111 If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God. If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.  Peter was not ashamed to command Christians to speak only as God speaks. As an apostle he had taken that principled course, even when commanded to do otherwise:  Acts 4:19-20Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge. 20 For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.”

2.  Why would we refuse to eat what God provides?  Consider at least 3 reasons:

  • We do like the taste – It confronts our sensibilities of what we want.
  • We are not hungry – As materialists we see no value in spiritual truth.
  • We want something else – something sweeter, that is not good for us. We find what we seek here.

3.   God calls on us to develop an appetite for what God provides. This comes through the application of God’s words to our lives, which may involve suffering. Matthew 5:66 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,For they shall be filled.

 B.  “There was writing on the inside and on the outside, and written on it were lamentations and mourning and woe.”  ( 2:10) How much of the scroll was Ezekiel to eat. All of it. That did not sound very appetizing considering that the scroll was written on both sides and was full of lamentations and woes.

1.  John was given a similar command in Revelation 10:8-128 Then the voice which I heard from heaven spoke to me again and said, “Go, take the little book which is open in the hand of the angel who stands on the sea and on the earth.” 9 So I went to the angel and said to him, “Give me the little book.”And he said to me, “Take and eat it; and it will make your stomach bitter, but it will be as sweet as honey in your mouth.” 10 Then I took the little book out of the angel’s hand and ate it, and it was as sweet as honey in my mouth. But when I had eaten it, my stomach became bitter. 11 And he said to me, “You must prophesy again about many peoples, nations, tongues, and kings.”

a.  This similar request was for the same purpose. John was to recognize that the words of God were not always appealing. It tasted good, but it made his stomach bitter (upset). It is appealing to be the preacher of the word, but when one personally applies that word (eats it himself) it can be a bitter experience. Eli was passionate proclaiming the word of God to rebellious Israel, but that same word condemned his evil sons.

b.  The word may be easy to eat at first, but lose its taste when persecution begins or the application brings suffering. (like chewing gum when the sugar is gone)  Parable of the soils –  Matthew 13:20-22 –  20 But he who received the seed on stony places, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy;  21 yet he has no root in himself, but endures only for a while. For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles.  22 Now he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful. 

c.  “written within and without”; What does this mean?  The scroll contained all that it could. There was no room for Ezekiel to write more.  I must not only accept all that God says, but I must accept only what God says. 

d.  What about the menu is hard to eat? 

          – “Loving our enemies” (Matt 5:44)

          – “Submitting to others” (Eph 5:21)

– “Carrying our crosses” and “losing our own lives” (sacrifices)  (Matt 10:28-39)

– “To the weak, become weak” (giving up personal liberties) ( 1 Cor 9:21-22)

– Women must be submission “keepers (workers) of the home” (Titus 2:5)

– Fathers must provide (1 Tim 5:8)

1 Peter 2:1-3Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, 2 as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby, 3 if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious.

 C.  “Go speak to the house of Israel” – This was the force of Ezekiel’s commission. He had to eat the scroll in order to speak the words that he had eaten. So we too must not eat just for ourselves, but others.  2 Timothy 2:2 – 2 And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.

1.  Many of those who have been given the responsibility to preach the word have voiced the compelling.  

  • 1 Corinthians 9:16 – 16 For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for necessity is laid upon me; yes, woe is me if I do not preach the gospel!

 Conclusion:  What are you hungry for?  Will you eat what  God provides?