Reading as Eating
If my daughter had her way every time she was hungry, she would eat those juice-filled fruit snacks called Gushers that explode with flavor when you bite into them. “But those won’t fill you,” we try to reason. “They don’t have any nutrition.” But the prophet Ezekiel discovered that God’s Word can be both sweet and satisfying.
“Eat this scroll,” the thunderous voice commanded him in Ezekiel 3. He tilted his head back, closed his eyes, and opened his mouth. “Fill your stomach with it,” the voice said as Ezekiel felt the scroll’s rough parchment grate against his tongue. But when he chewed, the texture transformed from tough to tacky to soft. Then a sudden burst of smooth sweetness slid across his tongue. An explosion of honey! He savored the taste and felt full. When he opened his eyes, nothing seemed the same. He had changed.
Everyone should experience a meal like that. In a culinary sense, mine came in Rome when I devoured an entire fourteen inch pizza. It served as a fitting conclusion to a long trip of learning how to “eat this scroll.” Spiritually, it happened a week before that as I cruised across the Mediterranean towards Ephesus.
But years earlier, I had a junior high Bible teacher serve a lavish, five-course feast called the Pentateuch. Without any guidance or utensils, I fumbled with the raw, ungarnished banquet. At first, Genesis whetted my appetite as I wolfed through its appetizers of creation and flood and patriarchal drama. But halfway through Exodus, I couldn’t digest the dense and meaty ribs of the tabernacle. By Leviticus, I moaned in a comatose state, holding my bulging stomach. Poor Numbers and Deuteronomy never made it to my mouth. The meal was filling——too filling——but not sweet; it was hard and stale. Turns out the Bible, like food, tastes best when well prepared.
“When we dock in Turkey, we will see Ephesus,” my parents told my excited and overwhelmed sophomore self. Ephesus? I had heard of the ancient city in the Bible, but what did it actually say? Before seeing it in person, I determined to know it in Scripture. So I began to read Ephesians one chapter at a time.
The first couple chapters didn’t strike me as significant. But midway into chapter three, the words slid onto my tongue and burst with flavor. I was Ezekiel, head tilted back, honey dripping down my throat, filling my stomach. The Bible had never tasted like that before. By the time I read chapter four, I slowed to reading a single verse at a time.
A local guide led us through the hot, Turkish afternoon. I only half-listened while he demonstrated the beauty of Turkish carpets. My attention sipped a bottle of Coca Cola in one hand (made with real sugar!) and nibbled on a rolled flatbread dripping with goat butter in the other. The sweet, satisfying combination revived my travel-worn energy. The location of Ephesus lay somewhere in tomorrow’s plans; its letter lay somewhere in my soul, stretching out its sweet and filling message.
Walking Ephesus was like walking the kitchen of a five-star Michelin-rated restaurant. Rather than sitting at a table draped with white linens, I observed the craft of world-class chefs bent over their culinary creations. The heat of stoves boiling enormous pots of savory soups and sauces, the sound of salmon searing in an oiled pan, the smell of ovens transforming dough into delicate treats. Sights, sounds, and smells like these always enhance a meal, like the perfect pinch of pink sea salt on garlic green beans.
I desire you eat Scripture the way Ezekiel did, that the words burst like honey in your soul, sweet and satisfying. So over four articles, we will explore how to eat the Bible. First, we will learn how to bite; the Bible is not a menu to be read, but an entree to be eaten. Second, we will practice proper chewing techniques so we can extract its complex layers of texture and taste. Third, we will swallow so, fourth, we can digest and metabolize it into the fibers of our soul. The Bible sits on a plate, steaming with anticipation for your satisfaction.
Pastor Brandon McCulloch