Going From Bitter to Sweet

 

Scripture: Exodus 15:22  So Moses brought 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.

 

            I must admit that I thought this a strange message to be giving this close to Christmas. I mean if it were up to me I would be heralding in the season with a fan fare of the angels singing Peace on earth Good Will to Men. But instead God leads me back into the wilderness with His people only to find them once again murmuring in the desert. Back about a week or so before Thanksgiving someone told me how things were going to be getting better because Christmas was coming and that always brings out the best in all of us. Well as we get closer and closer to the celebration of the birth of the savior of the world I am afraid that I do not see much change in people. If this is the best in us, then we have some serious bitterness that needs to be sweetened. But do not despair, God is able. Even when things begin to look the worst, God can step in and turn the tables and sweeten the loaf. Too often these dry times come right after a great victory. It is just like the enemy to do everything in his power to try to steal the joy of our conquest. Well, Letís take a look at the text and discover what it is that God is telling us today. If you will allow me to back up just a little bit in the book of Exodus we will see the great victory that has just taken place. The 15th chapter begins with Moses leading the people in this wonderful song of victory. ďI will sing unto the LORD, for he hath triumphed gloriously: the horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea.  The LORD is my strength and song, and he is become my salvation: he is my God, and I will prepare him an habitation; my father's God, and I will exalt him.Ē

            God had just lead His people to freedom from the bonds of their oppressors. The Red Sea opened up and they walked across it on dry ground. Then as their enemy began to come after them on their horses and in their chariots God closes the sea around them drowning the entire army. So Godís people celebrated. You know something? We need to remember that. We as Godís people need to celebrate the great things that God has done for us a little more often. We need to stop trying to be all dignified and lift up our voices in celebratory praise for the God who has made all the difference in our lives. Notice I said lift up our voices not a bottle. There are much better ways to celebrate then by tying one on. The Israelites spent this time on the free side of the Red Sea singing and dancing and celebrating their Lord.

            Then it was only three short days later that the murmuring begins. Can you stand it? Do you know someone that just seems to murmur and complain about everything? Murmur, murmur, murmur. If anything will change the mood of a party it will be someone in the back complaining about the punch or the lights or the music or this or that or the other thing. The problem is that too often that person murmuring is us. Now to give the Isrealities a break here, it was not as if they did not have something serious to complain about. It is one thing to complain about the weather, it is something entirely different to complain about the fact that it has been three days and there is no water in sight. There are luxuries and then there are necessities. And water is a must. Letís read on from or text above and see just how the people reacted. (Exodus 15:23-24 KJV)  ďAnd when they came to Marah, they could not drink of the waters of Marah, for they were bitter: therefore the name of it was called Marah. And the people murmured against Moses, saying, What shall we drink?Ē

            We can always find someone to blame canít we? Well whose fault is it? The real trouble begins when we ultimately blame God. If this or that happened to me and there is a God then He is to blame. It is when we loose faith in the goodness of God that we begin to grow callused and cold and it is not long before we start murmuring against God and because our faith has been shattered then we try to destroy others faith as well. ďWhy let someone else bask in the pleasure of faith in a loving, all powerful God when we have been so isolated and deserted?Ē I would rather have us be an example of Job when he said, "even if God kills me yet well if praise Him.Ē Job lost everything. His children, his wealth, his health, even his wife told him that he should curse God and die. Yet a true man of God does not turn away from the only one that can restore his life. A person with true grit will know that the Lord gives and the Lord takes away and it is only the Lord that can give again.

            What did Moses do when the people started complaining? He took it right to God. There is no need for us to be complaining to other people. Trust me they do not want to here your problems, they have enough of their own. Letís learn to trust in the Lord and take our complaints to Him. Look at this next verse of scripture and letís draw the relevant truth for our everyday life out of it. (Exodus 15:25 KJV)  ďAnd he cried unto the LORD; and the LORD showed him a tree, which when he had cast into the waters, the waters were made sweet: there he made for them a statute and an ordinance, and there he proved them,Ē Moses cried unto the Lord. God hears your prayers my friends. And you can know that He knows what you have need of before you even have need of it. Look at the situation that the Israelites were in. They were in the middle of the dessert without any water. When they finally get to some it is undrinkable. Have you ever felt like that? Things go from bad to worse. It would be easier to handle the thirst if there were not this pool of undrinkable water right in front of them reminding them of their thirst.

            But look closer. God in His infinite wisdom knew that the Israelites were going to be at that exact spot so he prepared a cure for the bitter waters. The water most likely got bitter from the minerals in the sand. We sometimes, like the bitter water of Marah become bitter because of the pressures of the world. It is not difficult to become bitter in such a hard environment. We can look into the prisons across the land and see how many men and woman have become products of their society. We can look into the hearts of our loved ones that have grown cold and know that that youthful joy that was once there has become bitter by the ravages of this cold earth. It is sad how many people can not enjoy the gift of life because of the bitterness in their hearts. But look God has prepared a way to soften even the hardest of hearts.

            God spoke to Moses and showed him a tree. God knew that His children would have need of that water. Perhaps that is why God allowed it to become bitter in the first place so that no others would drink it before His people. But God planted a tree. Not just any tree it was the tree that could change the bitter water to sweet. I read about how there are plants in Africa that when placed in brackish water chemically reacts with the water to clear it up and make it drinkable. So it may not have been a great miracle that turned the bitter water to sweet. It may just have been a natural chemical reaction that takes place when two things come in contact. Sometimes we do not need a supernatural miracle we simple need to open our eyes of faith and know that God has already made a way. God had years earlier planted that tree that will change the bitter waters to sweet. God has the answer to your heartís cry. Look to him through eyes of faith and stop looking at the bitter waters.

            In conclusion I want you to look at the tree. Look at the cross that Jesus hung upon. God Himself gave up all of heaven so that you and I would not have bitter water. He gave up all, so that we could take freely from the water of life. The last day of Hanukkah is the great dedication feast. It is the day that the temple in Jerusalem was rededicated to God after a long and hard fought battle. Perhaps I will go into a little more about that next week. But it is at this dedication that we see Jesus standing up in the crowd and calling unto us to come and drink of the living waters. (John 7:37,38 KJV)  ďIn the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.Ē

            It was Jesus that hung upon that cross and He himself thirsted so we would not have to. As He thirsted upon that cross they gave Him bitter vinegar to drink. We give Him vinegar; He gives us the river of live. As we let the cross of Jesus touch the bitter areas of our lives, just that simple contact will change our bitter hearts to the sweetness of Christ. Is there anything that you lack? God has already prepared for you the answer. Is there pain and suffering in any area of your life? Jesus bore the stripes upon His back that we might be healed. As the tree of Marah changed the bitter waters to sweet letís all of us be changed today by the tree of Calvary. Amen.