When Bitter Is Sweet…

In Proverbs 27: 7, King Solomon stated: “A satisfied soul loathes the honeycomb, But to a hungry soul every bitter thing is sweet.”

This ancient proverb is very relevant today, even though its meaning may not be all that clear at first sight. The New Ungers Bible Dictionary explains that the word “honey” is used in the Bible to “denote sweet discourse,” and that the “Word of God is compared to honey and described as spiritually delectable.” Psalms 119:103-104 confirms this, saying, “How sweet are Your words to my taste, Sweeter than honey to my mouth! Through Your precepts I get understanding; Therefore I hate every false way.”

But why would–and how could–a satisfied soul “loathe” honey? And more to the point, could we in the Church of God adopt an attitude of “loathing” the “Word of God”? The answer is simply “yes”–and this is so because of our “human nature.” God was aware of our tendency to forget Him and “loathe” His Word. He inspired Moses to write a warning for ancient Israel, which also applies today to the modern descendants of Israel and to spiritual Israel–the Church of God.

In Deuteronomy 8:11, He says through Moses: “Beware that you DO NOT FORGET the LORD your God by not keeping His commandments, His judgments, and His statutes which I command you today…” He continues in verses 14-19: “… when your heart is lifted up, and you forget the LORD your God… who fed you in the wilderness… [and] you say in your heart, ‘MY power and the might of MY hand have gained me this wealth,’ [then] you shall remember the LORD your God, for it is He who gives you power to get wealth… Then it shall be, if you by any means forget the LORD your God, and follow other gods, and serve them and worship them,  I testify against you this day that you shall perish.”

It is within human nature to forget God and His Word–to “loathe” His Way of life–and to return to sin. Solomon is warning us that it is possible to become so satisfied with our own accomplishments that we can become self-sufficient, instead of relying on God. In the end time, this tendency will be predominant in the church of the Laodiceans. In Revelation 3:16, Christ says that He will vomit luke-warm Church members out of His mouth. Continuing in verse 17, Christ describes the true nature and condition of the “satisfied” and “self-sufficient” soul which “loathes” the Word of God–without even realizing it: “Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’–and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked…” (Compare James 1:22-24).

But Solomon is not only warning those who “loathe” God and His Word, he is also giving encouragement and praise to those who do not fall into this trap. He continues to say in Proverbs 27:7: “…But to a hungry soul every bitter thing is sweet.” When we are hungry for God and His Way of Life, we will consider even “bitter” experiences as “sweet” and necessary; realizing that they are happening to us to help us to become more and more perfect.

Notice how Christ continues with His strong reproof to the Laodiceans, in Revelation 3:18-19: “I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see. AS MANY AS I LOVE, I REBUKE AND CHASTEN. Therefore be zealous and repent.”

Job was self-righteous and thought that he could do no wrong. Without realizing it, he “loathed” and rejected God’s chastening. But after God allowed him to be “put in his place,” he came to comprehend how wrong he was. He had to go through severe tests. He had to reach the point where his soul was hungry for God’s chastisement in his life, understanding that it was necessary for his perfection.

We need to be careful not to exclude God from our lives. Christ is not “in the lives” of the Laodiceans; rather, He is standing outside–at the door; knocking; wanting to be let in (Revelation 3:20). We must never forget that “every good gift” –including tests and trials–comes from above. We need to keep in mind that the bitterness of God’s tests and trials is shaping our character and helping us to grow and to overcome. Revelation 3:21 contains this promise: “To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.”

Our future is right in front of us. Let us never think that we have no need for growth and spiritual perfection. Let us never “loathe” God’s Way and HIS Will for us, and let us embrace the “bitterness” of God’s trials, considering them as “sweet” and counting them as “joy” (James 1:2).

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