Saturday, November 12, 2011

From Bitter to Better

The past month has been one of ups and downs. There have been disappointments and confusion. It is very frustrating when we try to figure out what God is up to and can't quite fit Him into the box of our own creation. We often have expectations about the way God should act and can easily end up feeling that God owes us something for our faithfulness. However, when we begin to think like that we often already have in mind how the Lord should repay us. The thinking may go something like this, "Lord, I have set my sights on obtaining this or receiving that and I'll just wait for You to make it happen."And when the Lord leads us in a different direction than we expect, we can be left feeling betrayed and bitter. I must confess that has been my struggle for the past few weeks. I realize that my reaction is not unique. In my time of stillness before the Lord I was led to consider once again the Israelites and their journey in the wilderness. There are many twists and turns throughout the book of Exodus, some of them are very impressive (i.e, The parting of the Red Sea) while others we could easily skip over or dismiss. But as Timothy tells us, "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work." (2 Timothy 3:16) italics mine. So, I came to the story of the Israelites arriving at the waters of Marah in Exodus 15:22-27. Prior to this passage the Israelites had just finished celebrating the destruction of the Egyptians who had pursued them to the Red Sea. There was dancing and singing and clapping! The people were at a high point and probably expected that this was the beginning of a never ending litany of good things from God. Then they came to Marah after traveling for three days without water. The celebration was over and their mood turned from joy to bitterness. In fact the Scripture tells us that is why the place was called Marah because the people grumbled against Moses. Their expectations were that the "good times" would continue to roll and they probably had it already mapped out in their minds as to how things were going to play out as they made their way to the Promised Land. They weren't expecting any curves in the road, but rather smooth sailing. The interesting verse that caught my attention was verse 25, "Then Moses cried out to the Lord, and the Lord showed him a piece of wood. He threw it into the water, and the water became sweet." (italics mine) I began to meditate on what to me was the symbolic connection between what Moses did and what Christ accomplished on the cross. In both cases wood became the means by which God made a dramatic change. What was bitter now became better. The wood sweetened the water for the people to drink so they would not perish and the cross was "sweetened" by the blood of Christ so humanity would not perish. Christ's death on the cross turned the bitterness of sin into sweet salvation. When it comes right down to it, God surprises us with His grace and I am anxious to see how He will turn my bitterness into something so much better!
In His grace,
Pastor Sheree

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