Yesterday’s reading in Revelation ended with the heralding of the 6th trumpet. Today’s reading contains an interlude before the final judgment that the 7th trumpet brings – very similar to the one before the opening of the 7th seal in which John was shown things concerning the church.
Today, we also read the book of Jonah in its entirety, which stands in stark contrast to what we read yesterday. In the book of Obadiah, God proclaimed judgment against the nations, specifically to Judah’s southeastern neighbor, Edom. Conversely, in Jonah, God’s compassion for the nations is on full display as he instructs his servant Jonah to warn the city of Nineveh to repent in order to avert impending destruction!
Again, we are reminded that God’s judgment is exercised in the context of His faithfulness to redeem His people!! And as the story of God’s redemptive history unfolds, we learn (and experience first-hand) that His people are not limited to the physical Israel – rather, His people are represented by ALL nations, tribes and tongues!!
In today’s reading from Revelation, we see Christ’s angelic representative come to earth to deliver a message to His people, the church. Yet, John is not to write its message down. Rather, John was instructed to eat the scroll, and as odd as this instruction sounds, this is not the first time a prophet has been asked to eat a scroll! Ezekiel ate a scroll in Ezekiel 2:9-3:3. As he ate, he took the scroll’s contents to heart. Similarly, John, before he could proclaim God’s message to others, had to take to heart the message for himself.
In verse 7, we can glean a hint of the angel’s message… “The mystery of God will be fulfilled” includes both judgment and salvation – as is represented by the taste of the scroll… “It tasted sweet, for it was a message about the fulfillment of prophecy and about the return of Christ and the protections of God’s people. Yet the message was also sour, for along with the covenant blessings of Christ’s second coming, come all the horrors of judgment and wrath and covenant curses on those who have not repented. John’s task will be to tell about the glory of the second coming and the new heavens and the new earth, but it will include also prophesying about the events heralded by the seventh trumpet.” (P. Gardner, Revelation, pg 147).
John’s prophetic call would be difficult – just like it was for Jeremiah (Jer. 15:16, Lam. 3:14-15). And it will be difficult for all Christians in these last days.
Comparatively, Jonah had an easier calling. For unlike other prophets, Jonah was able to see the fruit of his message in the dramatic repentance of the Ninevites. In the face of their repentance, God relented and did not send the promised destruction. You would think that Jonah would have been glad, but he did not share God’s compassionate heart for the nations.
The book of Jonah ends with God questioning him, for Jonah cared more about the destruction of a plant than he did the destruction of hundreds of thousands of people (Jonah 4:10-11). God’s compassion is in stark contrast to the hard-hearted Jonah.
So often we are quick to assume God’s judgment is harsh and unfair, but God’s compassion is far-greater than our own. God delays His return because of His compassion!