Promises Hidden in Bitter Situations

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Scripture Text:  Exodus 3:22-26; Ruth 1:19-21; Luke 22:39-42

These three narratives have a common denominator of the participants facing bitter circumstances. The children of Israel at the bitter waters of Marah; Naomi with Ruth upon returning from the land of Moab as widows; and Jesus, in the Garden of Gethsemane, just prior to His arrest and crucifixion. The children of Israel rejected God's plans at the waters of Marah, Naomi did not understand the affliction of God and the direction God was leading her upon returning to Bethlehem; and Jesus submitted to the Father's will instead of following His own will in the Garden of Gethsemane.
Being a Christ follower does not mean that we will not have trials and situations that are distasteful. I have noticed in scripture, many hindrances following a divine call of God upon a persons life. There is always the temptation to become bitter when facing the bitter cups of which we have to drink.
Moses, fresh off the encounter at the burning bush, finds great hardships from Pharaoh in Egypt. His response was to say to the Lord, "O Lord, why has Thou brought harm to this people? Why didst Thou ever send me? Thou has not delivered Thy people at all" (Exodus 5:22-23). However, as Moses grew in faith and saw the hand of God in the delivering the people, he could confidently say at the Red Sea: "Do not fear! Stand by and see the salvation of the Lord which He will accomplish for you today; for the Egyptians whom you have seen today, you will never see them again forever. The Lord will fight for you while you keep silent (Exodus 14:13-14). In other words Moses was saying, "Don't do something, stand there!"
Israel was moved to worship and song after the waters of the Red Sea covered their long time tormentors. However, they were moved to complaint at the waters of Marah. The text suggests that God led them to these waters for indeed Moses was leading at the command of God.  The text also reveals that just beyond these waters was an oasis of twelve springs and seventy date palm trees. Why would God lead them to the bitter waters first? He knew they had gone the maximum time allotted to human beings without water in a hot desert. No doubt you will answer that He did this to reveal that there is always an antidote for the bitter waters in our lives. This was done through God directing Moses to cut a tree and cast it into the waters, causing the bitter chemicals to precipitate to the bottom and the pool of water becoming sweet. I certainly believe that God has already provided a way of escape for each bitter situation we face. However, I wonder if this text is revealing an even greater purpose of God in the lives of these people.
Jamie Buckingham in his book: "A Way Through the Wilderness" writes of these pools of water being laced with magnesium and calcium which are ingredients for powerful laxatives. He proposes that God may have been purging the Israelites of the parasites they were carrying when they left Egypt. He also states that these ingredients are found in a drug called Dolomite which athletes use when laboring in the hot sun. This drug helps give muscles stamina and keeps them from going into spasms. God had taken the children of Israel out of Egypt and now it appears, He is taking Egypt out of them. God was purging them from their past bondage and was preparing them for the arduous journey ahead. However, Israel rejected the bitter pools of water. God's giving them sweet water, in this scenario, would be His second best miracle. Buckingham's commentary on this passage is thought provoking.
When Naomi said, "Call me Mara for I am bitter", she was looking at her present situation, and at the present, had no idea of the grand plan God had for her and her Moabite daughter-in-law, Ruth. Naomi could not see that through Ruth and Boaz's union, her past would be redeemed and her future would be greater than she could ever imagine. Naomi becomes the grandmother of Obed; the great-grandmother of Jesse; and the great-great-grandmother of David. This would be the kingly linage through whom Jesus would one day descend. Unlike the Israelites, who outright rejected God's bitter water; Naomi would began to see God's greater plan and help in bringing this plan to fruition.
In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prayed for the bitter cup to pass from Him. However, He submitted to the will of His Father and said, "Not my will but thine be done". The writer to the Hebrews states that He was able to endure the cross because of the joy that was set before Him. Joy in drinking from the bitter cup that seems for the moment, most distasteful, but sweet indeed when our eyes are lifted off the present circumstances to see God's greater plan for our lives.
Like Naomi, may we begin to see the greater picture of God's plan for our lives. Like Jesus, may we say, "Not my will but Thine be done!"