I am talking about the Children of Israel in Exodus chapter 15. Just a few days before they were miserable slaves in Egypt. Now they are a free people traversing the wilderness in route to the Promised Land. At the beginning of the chapter they are praising. Toward the end of the chapter they are complaining.
What happened? The problem was water, or the lack of it. When they finally came to an oasis on the third day of their journey, they found the water unsuitable for drinking. That did it! So they named the place Marah which means “bitter.”
The bitter waters exposed the bitter attitudes of the people, for they launched a verbal assault against the very leaders who led them out of Egyptian slavery (v24). Moses quickly called upon the Lord who showed him a tree. When Moses threw the tree into the bitter water it was made suitable for drinking. The bitter water was made sweet.
We cannot be too hard on the Children of Israel because we are all made of the same stuff. How quickly we can turn from praising to complaining. How quickly we can allow a bitter attitude to take root in our hearts against people or situations. Hebrews 12:15 reminds us that bitterness has a threefold effect: it causes trouble, defiles, and spreads.
It’s bad enough when bitterness invades a water system. It’s worse still when it infiltrates a person’s soul. Bitterness is like a malignant cancer. It does not remain contained but spreads throughout a person’s being, defiling, and causing nothing but trouble.
Is there an answer? Yes. Bitterness meets its match when it encounters the power of the tree! I am talking about the Cross of Jesus Christ. The cross is a place of death and victory. What is nailed to the cross dies. Then comes victorious resurrection and new life. In the words of the well known hymn:
My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, o my soul
If bitterness is trying to creep into your spirit, slam the door shut by turning to the cross. You need the power of the Tree! Be like Paul who said, “My old self (bitterness) has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20).
At the cross, bitter water is made sweet.
Pastor Todd Weston