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When Bitter Becomes Sweet

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
The Truth Network Radio
February 8, 2021 12:01 am

When Bitter Becomes Sweet

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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February 8, 2021 12:01 am

Have you ever read a passage of Scripture that hits so close to home that it brings you discomfort? Today, R.C. Sproul turns to a passage in the book of Ezekiel that shows how even the most piercing verses of the Bible have been given for our good.

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I was moved to teach on the doxology and the benedictions first of all because of what they mean to me in my own devotional. I turned to them in my own private meditations for refocus for worship for self-examination for building up her faith and then as a result of that, I've been looking for opportunities to teach them to our church because I believe they aid to people of God in looking up and seeing the greatness of God in these succinct statements of blessing and/or doxology that are memorable and meaningful. We take them for granted but they are there for blessing, blessing and praise by HB Charles Junior visit Lincoln series to learn more. Have you read a passage of Scripture that it's a little too close to home don't like what it tells you to do or not to do that means one of two things. Either there something wrong with the author of Scripture who wrote those words or what something wrong with my thinking because here I'm being critical of Scripture Scriptures being critical of me that was the point of the Old Testament prophets they proclaim God's message and often were persecuted and killed because the people didn't like what they heard.

This week on Renewing Your Mind. Dr. I see schools going to take a look at several of the difficult things the prophets had to say help us understand what they mean before we get started, though it would be helpful to hear this, Marcy, and that's part of the difficulty of being a pastor in today's world, and at least it's better than having the job that Jeremiah had when God says that Jeremiah I want you got there be a prophet but I want you to do is destroy everything that's out there giving you a negative message that is is politically incorrect as it can be. I'm to tell you not only this, but have you out there ripping everything to shreds down the street from your church to be a whole school false prophets will be preaching to the people everything the people want to hear, nobody's gonna want to hear what you have to say. And everybody's gonna want to hear what the other guys have to say.

But I want to go anyway. What happened to this poor guy. He tries to be obedient to goes out there and he has his belly full of it.

After a while, and he comes back to God and he says I'm an attorney in my prophets car. He said Lord I'm in derision daily. Everybody's mocking me. I quit many said that your word shut up in my bones like a and I couldn't quite there's a guy that had fire in his bones. And that's what the role of the prophet was in the wilderness and that's why they all were hated and persecuted and killed and beheaded in all the rents. So with that in mind. Listen to today's message.

It's titled bitter become sweet, what were thinking about.

Here are those statements that we find in the Scripture that are hard though.

They can be hard for one of two reasons assaying can be called a hard saying because it appears to us, at least at first blush to be severe or harsh in that sense it's hard to swallow because these statements sort of jar son Joel Dawson harm our sensibilities and we recoiled from them. We read, for example in the Old Testament that God instructed the Israelites to institute the Marine which had to do with the wholesale destruction of the Canaanite nation, man, woman and child, and that just seems so far so severe and it seems to cast a shadow on the love of God and on the mercy of God and on the goodness of God. We say how we handle text like that they're difficult there hard because they are severe to our senses. The second way we talk about hard sayings is that they are hard to unravel.

They are hard to understand, not simply because of their harshness but because they're difficult for us to conceive. Much of what the Bible teaches about the sovereignty of God and his sovereign control over human behavior, coupled with the responsibility that we have as volitional agents and being responsible for the choices that we make. I would put those things together that's difficult and so we can call those sayings hard sayings now before we get into this, let me say one other thing, by way of preface. If there is a shortcut to accelerating your understanding of Scripture, the shortcut would be focusing your attention on the hard sayings I say when you read through the Bible and you come upon a tax that bothers you. You don't have to just be paralyzed and stop there and stay there forever and move on. But market and I say if you find a passage you don't understand put a red mark next to and then later on come back and focus on those red marks say here's a portion of Scripture. I don't understand.

I'm going to devote special attention to trying to understand these passages that are difficult. What a great way to learn. If you focus on the obstacles to your progress and remove them one by one. You'll have this augmented understanding, but even more importantly are those taxes that jar your emotions and you read that and you say I don't like what the Bible says here put a big mark next to that one to those passages in Scripture that offend you that at first glance you disagree with those of the ones you really need to put your focus and your attention upon if you want to grow rapidly because one of two things will happen. You may discover that the reason why that text offended you or an eight your sensitivities because you didn't understand. And after you delve into it and examine it. Read the commentaries on it come to a better insight of what it means now your problem is resolved and you can move on. In the meantime you've gained new insight and new understanding, but suppose you check all the commentaries and you're careful in your examination attacks and you find out that you understand it exactly right that still makes you mad and you don't like it lives submit yourself to your husband, like that you say well put three checks next to the because that means one of two things. Either there's something wrong with the author of Scripture who wrote those words.

There something wrong with Paul's thinking and Paul want to change or what something wrong with my thinking because here while I'm being critical of Scripture Scriptures being critical of me and if you want to grow in grace and sanctification find those places where you are critical of God.

It might just be that these are the places you need to change your thinking and change your life. Now I'd like to ask you to turn to the book of the prophet Ezekiel in the Old Testament to the beginning of the second chapter of Ezekiel, you recall that in the first chapter of Ezekiel, there is Ezekiel's description of an incredible visionary experience that he hats that first chapter is kept Old Testament scholars busy for centuries trying to sort it out with this vision of the whirling Mark Abbas and the highly imaginative view of the whirlwind and the likenesses of the strange creatures and the means of conveyance of this thing that has wheels within wheels that some have even tried to identify as an Old Testament appearance of a flying saucer but which we understand in the biblical imagery and literature that Ezekiel is having a vision of the transcendent majesty of God, as he appears in his chariot throne.

His movable throne which is covered with glory and has the ability to shoot out in all different directions and appear here and there and everywhere manifesting the appearance of God in his throne of judgment that having seen that vision in the first chapter. Let's look and see what happens to Ezekiel in the second chapter the first chapter ends with these words. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord. So when I saw it I fell on my face and I heard a voice of one speaking the listen to what the voice says chapter 2 verse one and he said to me, son of man stand on your feet and I will speak to you and then the spirit entered me when he spoke to me and set me on my feet and I heard him who spoke to me and he said Son of Man, I am sending you to the children of Israel to a rebellious nation that has rebelled against me, for they and their fathers have transgressed against me to this very day.

They are impudent and stubborn children.

I am sending you to them and you shall say to them, thus says the Lord God and ask 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 this may not be a hard thing for you but this is a hard saying for Ezekiel, because God says to SQL.

I am going to send you with my word to a room value's house. I'm going to send you to preach to people who don't want to hear your preaching. I am going to send you to minister to people who despise your ministry. That's not an easy thing for any prophet to hear and you Son of Man.

Do not be afraid of them nor afraid of their words though briars and thorns are with you and you dwell among scorpions. Do not be afraid of their words or dismayed by their looks, though they are a rebellious house say that to a young minister who's about to be ordained and has to walk out on Sunday morning and stand before the congregation and say to the young man don't be afraid of their words and don't be afraid of their looks at everybody that's ever spoken publicly knows what a contemptuous look.

Looks like it's coming from the audience or from the congregation. God says don't be afraid to them for you shall speak my words to them whether they hear or whether they refuse, but you Son of Man hear what I say to you, do not be rebellious like that rebellious house open your mouth and eat what I give you to hear what God saying he saying Ezekiel I'm sending you to a rebellious people and they are going to resist everything that you say you will be speaking my word.

They don't want my word, they rebelled against my word, but that's not your responsibility.

Understand Ezekiel that the people who will be angered by this word are really angry at me because it's my word, so don't worry about what they say and don't worry about what they do you worry about Ezekiel don't you be rebellious, don't you join in this post that resists my word, then he says something incredible to him.

He says open your mouth and eat what I give you the when I looked there was a hand stretched out to me, and behold a scroll of the book was in it and then he spread it before me and there was writing on the inside and on the outside and written on it were lamentations and morning and will listen to the hard say God says eat what I give you, and Isaiah looks and he sees this hand stretched out and in the hand is a school and the scroll is written on the front and on the back on the inside and on the outside.

Ladies and gentlemen, the scroll is the word of God. Now it's a wonderful thing. A joyous thing to announce peace to Jerusalem to declare the gospel that people here with great joy to announce the good news of God's promise of mercy and the forgiveness and redemption, and of his love. That's not hard to do but the scroll that God gives to Ezekiel contains what lamentations morning and will it's all loose. It's all hard sayings. That's all. The scroll has is hard sayings. Moreover, he said to me, Son of Man, eat what you find this scroll, and go speak to the house of Israel. So I opened my mouth and he caused me to eat that scroll and then he said to me, Son of Man, feed your belly and fill your stomach with the scroll that I give you. Let's stop right there for second cuts is not just going to put this word in your mouth and have you taste it and spit it out nor my asking you to chew on it for 10 minutes and then discard it. I want you to put it in your mouth to taste it took to it and to swallow it, and to digest it, I wanted in your belly and then I wanted in your bloodstream. I wanted to be pervasive throughout your being. I want you to ingest it and I want you to digest it so that this word of mine becomes a part of you.

What word lamentations will morning and grief is the word that God feeds his profit. Here is where something radical and astonishing takes place so I ate and it was in my mouth like honey in sweetness like the scroll of laments, the scroll of morning the scroll of grief.

The scroll of judgment.

The scroll of the moves of God is taken by easy kill and he eats it expecting an in palatable bitterness, something that will make him choke something that will make him gasp, something that would make him scratch instead takes it and it has sweetness of honey, you could look at that in different ways is that this is one of these prophets who sadistic. He enjoyed place. Being a bearer of the judgment of God. He loves to go around and tell people how bad they are and how mad God is now.

That was the personality of Ezekiel, or any of God's prophets. They were men of compassion and men of immeasurable love and yet God was able to make even his hard sayings taste as sweet as honey. I remember reading Edwards and his own personal struggle as a young theologian with the doctrine of God's sovereignty and of the doctrine of election and how he struggled so violently against this thinking that it indicated that God was arbitrary or capricious or unfair or cool, but he kept on trying to unravel this difficult and complex doctrine and things came to him in stages and and Edward said the first stage was. He finally became convinced in his mind that the Scriptures were really teaching a sovereign doctrine of election side and all I get up but I couldn't gainsay that Scripture was teaching this then he had an experience similar to that of Augustine centuries before when he was reading from the New Testament, and he read the passage you know about the immortal invisible only wise God and as he was reading that passage, the spirit of God so illumined the text that Edwards had this glorious sense of the transcendent majesty of God, and suddenly he saw the whole concept of God's sovereignty and of his election in a totally different light and he said now I was awakened to the sweetness of the doctrine. Boy can I testify that when I went through that same struggle, but now I see one of the sweetest messages of all the Scriptures the message of God's gracious sovereign election, which is an anchor for my soul. And for yours and if we can get past all of the problems that we have to struggle with intellectually with that doctrine and come to rest with the God who is sovereign, that hard saying which we initially recoiled against is now as sweet as honey and we are delighted to swallow it to digest it and to get it into our bloodstream and so I hope it will be for all of the hard sayings of the prophets, and of Christ and of the apostles that though they seem hard at the outset by the work of God's gracious Holy Spirit become for us like the sweetness of honey will be struggle with the command of Scripture were really facing the same question that he did in the garden did God really say that's what the serpent asked. It's the question we face today. Unfortunately so many of the church are falling for the lives we see it happening in alarming rate today and that's why Dr. RC Sproul series hard sayings of the prophets is so important. I hope you'll stay with us and RC will have a final comment about the difficult passages in Scripture. In just a moment featuring the series. All we care on Renewing Your Mind, but would also likely to have a physical copy of it for your own study or as a resource for your church when you contact us today with a donation of any amount will be glad to send you all five lectures on two audio CDs you can give your gift and request the series or you can call us at 800-435-4343. When you have questions about the difficult passages you may read in Scripture and other helpful resources asked Ligon near it's available 24 hours a day, Monday through Saturday and provide you with the opportunity to ask well-trained staff members here at Ligon or about your theological or biblical questions. Check it out. You'll find and before we go today. Here's RC with a final thought we have a word in our language that is the word bitter sweet seems to be an oxymoron is not how can something be both bitter and sweet at the same time will it can't be at the same time and in the same relationship, but even those things that come to us initially closed in bitterness can under the agency of God's Holy Spirit become sweet to us and there is nothing more sweet to the Christian than his word, and so I ask you as we look at these difficult passages throughout Scripture to look for the sweetness to look for the beauty and the glory of God that stands behind because before God is truth is always sweet.

It is always glorious. It is always wonderful.

And when we recoil against it in the spirit of bitterness. It's because we haven't yet tasted to see that the Lord is good, but will continue her study tomorrow and we will learn about a hard prophecy Jeremiah proclaimed over Israel is the message that is a warning for us as well.

So we hope you'll join us for the Tuesday edition of Renewing Your Mind

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