I think what really stuck out to me today was when the angel told John to eat the scroll. I may have even laughed out loud at just picturing that happening. Thoughts of using an excuse like “the dog ate my homework” flitted through my mind. The thought of actually eating it was a bit surprising to me. But Ezekiel was told to eat a scroll when he was being called and commissioned in Chapters 2 and 3 of the book of Ezekiel.
But what does that say to us? To truly take something in, all the way in, we need to digest it. We devour a whole plate of food, or an ice cream cone covered in chocolate sauce and sprinkles. It is definitely sweet going down. But what happens when it gets into our stomachs? Have you ever overeaten and then felt miserable afterwards? That’s what I imagine John was feeling after eating the scroll.
The sixth angel gets his turn to blow his trumpet in today’s reading. This angel had the duty of releasing four other angels, fallen angels, who had been constrained from doing evil by God. Until now. The appointed time had come, and they were allowed to strike dead 1/3 of the earth’s population. These evil ones called upon an army of 200 million to help them. Such a number in John’s day would have been unheard of, but in our world today, an army of this size could be gathered.
Again, it is good for us to remember that the imagery we read here in Revelation is not real. It’s in John’s vision. Prophetic or not, God’s message is not meant to inflict vengeance but bring to repentance. Don’t worry about the symbols but on what they represent. God’s judgment will come in some form, at some appointed time. Will you be ready? Will you have turned to God? The words of Scripture are meant to give us a wake up call so that we are standing ready and helping others to do the same.
The 5th trumpet brings the first terror. The description of these locusts is terrifying to be sure. The locusts I’m familiar with devour vegetation and leave people alone. The ones we read about today are just the opposite. God gives these evil locusts 5 months to terrorize the unbelievers. The life span of a “normal” locust is also 5 months. Their life span is the only thing these critters have in common.
So what do you make of today’s reading? Are you starting to feel uncomfortable? Fearful? We have a lot more detail there on the 5th trumpet than we did the first 4 trumpets in our last reading. We know that trumpets were known in battle to signal the start of an attack. The angel’s trumpet blasts seem to be intensifying in nature. Today’s locusts are attacking people, whereas the first 4 trumpet blasts signaled an attack on creation.
Have you experienced that almost eerie stillness that happens right before a storm? Growing up in the Midwest, that was a regular summertime occurrence for me. It wasn’t necessarily a favorite time of mine either because it brought to mind a very traumatic night when a tornado ripped through our town and my father was away on business, perhaps driving through that very storm. My mother did a great job of ushering us and our petrified cats to the basement. My dad arrived home safely after the storm had passed. I can still recall that memory, despite the fact it at least was fifty years ago!
The stillness in our text today wasn’t eerie. It was beautiful, and it was intentional. It was like heaven took a breath while the prayers of the faithful were burned with a sweet incense to the Lord. There was one more seal to go, but it was time to focus on the Lamb and on the victory. This pause was for us to take a breath and revel in the promises of God. We often rush through our days and all the tasks on our to-do list. Is spending time with God on your list? Does that quiet time include silence? How can we listen for the voice of God to direct our lives if we are surrounded by noise all the time?
What a sharp contrast in today’s reading. Yesterday was doom and gloom, today is hope of salvation. We are witness to a festive scene in heaven once again! I thought it was interesting that one of the 24 asked John who all the people were. John’s response was priceless. “Sir, you are the one who knows.” It was almost as if it were a trick question. I know what it’s like to be asked a question I don’t know the answer to but what should be obvious to the one asking!
This abrupt shift is like putting a movie on pause. It had to happen. We needed to halt the momentum of the fiery judgments of God brought by the horsemen in our last reading. Time was needed to make sure the faithful on earth could be marked “safe” before the full unleashing of God’s wrath. It speaks to me that God is always looking out for our best interests and will make sure we have what we need to stand strong in times of adversity.