Are you a good news first or bad news first kind of person? That may depend on if you’re the one sharing the news or receiving it. I’m bad news first, if I have a choice. That goes with my rip the band aid off approach to most things.
We bad news first people might be in good company. I envision the prophet Ezekiel to be one of us. To be fair, there isn’t much good news for him to share. He and his people are in exile. Questions about why and how they got there abound. It becomes Ezekiel’s responsibility to answer such petitions. And he doesn’t shy away from the task. With vivid imagery, he responds.
One of his first visions is a multi-sensory experience. The priest turned prophet hears, sees, touches and tastes. He hears God command him to not “be rebellious like that rebellious house.” God also commands him twice to eat what is before him. Ezekiel saw an outstretched hand with a scroll in it. He could feel it as he ate it. And he tasted the sweetness of honey as he did.
Ezekiel’s visions will get more strange as he goes along. This one offers its own bit of oddity. Eating a scroll sounds ridiculous enough, but we know something of what’s written on it. Words of lamentation, mourning and woe. The prophet sees these words himself. So, why are they sweet like honey?
Is it because they come from God? Is it so that the prophet feels better about being obedient? Is there a surprise in the bad news?
Even if Ezekiel wasn’t a bad new first person, he didn’t have a choice now. God asked him to share judgement against the people. It is a harsh judgement. And the only thing that could make it sweet was knowing it was rooted in the justice and mercy of God.
God would not relent from promises made to Israel, even the toughest ones. Yes, everything the people of God knew lay in destruction. That’s the bad news. But God’s intent to renew Israel would not be among the damage. That was the good news.
When we say things like “With God, there’s always hope,” that doesn’t ignore the bad news. Give me that doctor’s report. Let the tax man tell me what I owe. But no matter how bad it gets, the goodness of God will always stand as the good news that never fades away.