Bitter made sweet
Exodus 15:22-16:7 from the daily reading in the One Year Bible
Then Moses led Israel from the Red Sea, and they went out into the wilderness of Shur; and they went three days in the wilderness and found no water. 23 When they came to Marah, they could not drink the waters of Marah, for they were bitter; therefore it was named Marah. 24 So the people grumbled at Moses, saying, “What shall we drink?” 25 Then he cried out to the Lord, and the Lord showed him a tree; and he threw it into the waters, and the waters became sweet.
There He made for them a statute and regulation, and there He tested them. 26 And He said, “If you will give earnest heed to the voice of the Lord your God, and do what is right in His sight, and give ear to His commandments, and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you which I have put on the Egyptians; for I, the Lord, am your healer.”
27 Then they came to Elim where there were twelve springs of water and seventy date palms, and they camped there beside the waters.
16 Then they set out from Elim, and all the congregation of the sons of Israel came to the wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after their departure from the land of Egypt. 2 The whole congregation of the sons of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness. 3 The sons of Israel said to them, “Would that we had died by the Lord’s hand in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the pots of meat, when we ate bread to the full; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.”
4 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather a day’s portion every day, that I may test them, whether or not they will walk in My instruction. 5 On the sixth day, when they prepare what they bring in, it will be twice as much as they gather daily.” 6 So Moses and Aaron said to all the sons of Israel, “At evening you will know that the Lord has brought you out of the land of Egypt; 7 and in the morning you will see the glory of the Lord, for He hears your grumblings against the Lord; and what are we, that you grumble against us?”
The Israelites had been 400 years in slavery in Egypt, now three days into their journey toward the promised land, they had no water and they were thirsty. The text says: When they came to Marah, they could not drink the waters of Marah, for they were bitter; therefore it was named Marah. So the people grumbled at Moses, saying, “What shall we drink?” We see this word for bitter also in the book of Ruth. In Ruth 1:20, after having lost her husband and two sons, Naomi returns to her home town and says: "Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me.” We too sometimes go through times or circumstances when things are difficult, when life seems bitter. In those times it may seem like God is against us. It may seem like He is causing the bitterness we face. Look though at God’s resolution for the Israelites: Then he cried out to the Lord, and the Lord showed him a tree; and he threw it into the waters, and the waters became sweet. The answer for Naomi came through a kinsman redeemer, a man who married her daughter-in-law Ruth and gave her a son to continue her family line. Ruth 4:13-17 says: So Boaz took Ruth, and she became his wife, and he went in to her. And the Lord enabled her to conceive, and she gave birth to a son. Then the women said to Naomi, “Blessed is the Lord who has not left you without a redeemer today, and may his name become famous in Israel. May he also be to you a restorer of life and a sustainer of your old age; for your daughter-in-law, who loves you and is better to you than seven sons, has given birth to him.” Then Naomi took the child and laid him in her lap, and became his nurse. The neighbor women gave him a name, saying, “A son has been born to Naomi!” So they named him Obed. He is the father of Jesse, the father of David. The waters of Marah were made sweet by a tree, a tree which represents the cross through which Christ redeemed and restored man and creation. The redemption of the bitterness of Naomi’s life brought forth a son who not only continued the line of Naomi’s husband, but also became part of the line of David, through which Jesus, the Son of God, the redeemer of all was born.
As for the bitterness which may be in our lives, it is not caused by God. Some of the difficulties we face are the consequences of our own actions or decisions, some are a result or the consequences of the actions or decisions of others and some are the results of living in a fallen world, cursed by sin. Romans 8:28-31 reveals an answer, God’s plan to redeem and restore through difficult and bitter times. We know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified. What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? Just as the tree restored and sweetened the bitter waters of Marah and Naomi’s life was redeemed and restored through the line of the one who would become the redeemer of all mankind, so too will God take the bitterness of our lives and cause it to bring about good. As we turn toward God in our difficult times, as we take all our burdens to the cross of Christ, we are changed. We are conformed to the image of Christ, we become like Him. Being conformed to Christ is not that we continue in the bitterness of the cross. Rather it is that we are restored to what God intended. We were created in the image and likeness of God from the beginning. Genesis 1:26-28 says: Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” Conformed to the image of Christ we are restored to all that God intended, having dominion, rule and authority over the things on earth. If God is for us, who can be against us! God also promised the Israelites something else when He restored the waters of Marah. The text says: “If you will give earnest heed to the voice of the Lord your God, and do what is right in His sight, and give ear to His commandments, and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you which I have put on the Egyptians; for I, the Lord, am your healer.”
Heavenly Father, Lord Jesus Christ, my Redeemer, the one who restores me and precious Holy Spirit thank You; not for the bitter and difficult times but that through the cross those times cause me to become conformed to the image and likeness of Jesus. Thank You that it is not the bitterness of the cross I remain in, but rather the glory of the resurrection. Thank You that You are my healer. May I walk not in bitterness but in the fullness and all the authority of restoration to Your will. Amen.