“Eat my words…”
It’s an idiom we use when we need to retract something we’ve said, to admit we were wrong, to ‘take it back.’ Interestingly, though, once words have broken through the barrier of our lips; we can’t ever really retrieve them. Words are forever.
Even if you eat a scroll that no one else had read…
Let’s be real, friends… Prophecy is difficult to exegete, difficult to understand. This may become more real during the Lenten season than at any other time. “I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope… Israel, put your hope in the Lord, for with the Lord is unfailing love and with him is full redemption. He himself will redeem Israel from all their sins.”[i] This reads like a Scripture for Advent, not Lent… not Holy Week… well, maybe Easter…
And Israel waits in eager expectation for a Savior who is going to die.
Prophecy. It doesn’t make sense.
But, I think Ezekiel might ‘get it.’ In his very first prophetic vision, he has to eat a scroll filled with “written words of lament and mourning and woe.”[ii] Well, that seems appalling. Yet, “it tasted as sweet as honey in [his] mouth.”[iii] Something about that is just bizarre. Please, eat these awful words. They taste good.
The author of revelation takes it even a step farther. In his vision, John is instructed regarding a scroll, that he must, “Take it and eat it. It will turn your stomach sour, but ‘in your mouth it will be as sweet as honey.’”[iv] Like Ezekiel, he does this, and true to the word of the angel; the words taste good and make him want to vomit. He responds with, “Then I was told, ‘You must prophesy again about many peoples, nations, languages and kings.’”[v]
It’s basically the same story. Eat these words, but recognize that they cannot actually be erased. You’re going to have to spit them back out, and nothing is as you thought it might be, as you hoped it might come to pass.
This, of course, is exactly what the disciples are about to learn as we march toward Maundy Thursday, toward the last supper, toward another moment during which the people of God are asked to consume ‘the Word,’ if not ‘the words.’ It’s another sweet meal that makes us at least a little bit sick, if we stop to think about it deeply. It’s fascinating how this all works. What an upside-down world.
The words (Word) we eat become a part of us—become us—and we become them. The way of Jesus is not easy. Clearly, this becomes more and more evident as we travel through the Lenten story, through Jesus’ life and ministry, through Holy Week, toward the cross. To eat the words (and the Word) is both salvation and sacrifice… Sweet and sour… What we hoped for and what we never wanted.
Meet Today’s Author…
Lisa Michaels is a follower of Jesus, theology student, author, blogger, editor, educator, wife, mom, and aspiring peacemaker. She has a B.S.M. (business management) from Indiana Wesleyan University and an M.A. and M.Div. (both in theology/spiritual formation) from Northwest Nazarene University. Lisa writes about theology, the sacraments, and ministry to the least of these at Flip Flops, Glitter, and Theology. She has also been featured on the podcast, “Voices in My Head,” at, “A Plain Account” (a Wesleyan Lectionary Commentary), and at, “Uncontrolling Love” (essay responses to Tom Oord’s book, The Uncontrolling Love of God). In her spare time, Lisa sings and dances with babies (AKA teaches early childhood music), plans outlandish vacations, drinks voluminous amounts of Peppermint Bark Mocha (preferably at local coffee shops), and masquerades as Catholic, so she can participate in the Eucharist more often.
[i] Psalm 130:5, 7-8 (NIV).
[ii] Ezekiel 2:8
[iii] Ezekiel 3:3
[iv] Revelation 10:9
[v] Revelation 10:11