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Friday, January 4, 2019

BITTER TO SWEET (a lesson from the waters of Marah)

blogging Exodus 15:22-27
22 So Moses brought Israel from the Red Sea; then they went out into the Wilderness of Shur. And they went three days in the -wilderness and found no water.
23 Now when they came to Marah, they could not drink the waters of Marah, for they were bitter. Therefore the name of it was called Marah.
 24 And the people complained against Moses, saying, “What shall we drink?” 25 So he cried out to the Lord, and the Lord showed him a tree. When he cast it into the waters, the waters were made sweet.
There He made a statute and an ordinance for them, and there He tested them, 26 and said, “If you diligently heed the voice of the Lord your God and do what is right in His sight, give ear to His commandments and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you which I have brought on the Egyptians. For I am the Lord who heals you.”
27 Then they came to Elim, where there were twelve wells of water and seventy palm trees; so they camped there by the waters (Exodus 15: 22-27)

After God saved them from Pharaoh’s armies at the Red Sea, the children of Israel were exuberant.  Led by Moses and Miriam, they sang and danced with joy.  They were free, safe, and on their way to a land of milk and honey.  They marched into the desert and kept marching for three days without water, but they didn’t complain.  Finally the dehydrated lines of hopeful Jews  sighted an oasis. But when the first happy Hebrews who outran the company made it to the oasis they discovered water, water everywhere but not a drop that any of them could drink.

Now when they came to Marah, they could not drink the waters of Marah, for they were bitter. Therefore the name of it was called Marah.

THEN, they complained.

Sometimes, what breaks a people isn’t the lack of hope; it’s the loss of hope. 

Stay in any bad situation long enough and if the abuse is consistent, you get acclimated. You either convince yourself that it’s not really that bad, or you rationalize the pain as the acceptable price for whatever good you draw out of your life, OR you tell yourself that salvation is coming.  You just have to hold on until your change comes.   So you don’t complain. 

But if rescue shows up and then leaves without you, if escape is in your grasp but slips away, if you experience the fulness of real hope that turns to disappointment ---- it’s enough to sever one’s sanity.

Israel didn’t complain during the long, dry walk in the desert.  They held onto hope.  But when the water turned t out to be undrinkable, when hope turned to disappointment, they snapped.

And the people complained against Moses, saying, “What shall we drink?” 

Their hopes had been raised and dashed and they were so angry, so bitter that they named the location Marah which means “bitter.”

Undrinkable water after 3 days with no water is a major problem.  But, the presence of a problem isn’t a problem; only the absence of a solution is a problem.

You may have gotten the job you prayed for and found yourself in a bitter work environment. 
You may be in the marriage God ordained for you but not be quite as happy as you’d dreamed. 
You may have been born again by the redeeming power of Jesus but temptation and trouble is stealing the peace you were promised.
The blessing for which you’d hope may have turned out to be so much trouble that you feel bitter.

Now look to God and let Him direct your path and your line of sight.  What does God see in your situation that you don’t? 

At the waters of Marah, Moses set his attention on God.  So he cried out to the Lord, and the Lord showed him a tree. When he cast it into the waters, the waters were made sweet.

By itself, the water was another problem, but God hadn’t only provided a spring. He’d also provided a tree, and taken together, the water-tree combination wasn’t a problem.  It was a solution, a sweet, sweet solution for every thirsty every man, woman, child, and animal among the children of Israel. 

What does God want to show you in your situation that you hadn’t noticed because you were so absorbed by the problem? 

Let go of your bitterness and give your attention to the Savior who brought you this far.  Let God redirect your focus to include the full package He has provided.  

See the opportunities that all those conniving coworkers unwittingly leave on the table for you because they’re too busy playing social games.  See the ways you can grow   into your best self when you stop expecting your spouse to MAKE happy (which is the same as expecting your spouse to make you be happy).  See on the banks of the living waters of your salvation the tree of A life that you can live now, positively doing greater works instead of passively waiting for God to remake the world around you.

Maybe the ingredients for turning your bitter situation into a sweet blessing are already available.  Maybe they’ve always been available.  Maybe you just need to let God show you what you’ve been overlooking.

That would be pretty sweet, huh?

Romans 5:5  Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.
---Anderson T. Graves II   is a writer, community organizer and consultant for education, ministry, and rural leadership development.

Rev. Anderson T. Graves II is pastor of Bailey Tabernacle CME Church in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. He writes the popular blog: A Word to the Wise at

Follow me on twitter @AndersonTGraves 

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