Today we are looking at what I believe is a lesser known story from the book of Exodus. It is right after the Israelites crossed the Red Sea and they sang the song that we read about last week. The Lord took them to the wilderness for three days and the only water they had to drink was bitter. Now, As we read this, I can’t help but place it in the context of the New year and the fact that many people make New Year’s Resolutions. Now, whether or not you make resolutions each year, this text will be good for you, because it is a challenge for all of us no matter what time of year it is to diligently listen to the Lord. So, I know many of you are coming off of bitter years. Some of you are coming from great years, but there is some bitterness in your year, and you are ready to move forward from that. So, I hope to make today’s message be a practical one. Take a minute and write down something that has been bitter for you this past year. You can be as specific or general as you like. What has been bitter?
Ok, so now we are going to read this text, and hopefully come away with the next step for understanding how God can make that thing sweet in the year to come.
So, here we have, yet again, the people of God, after being saved by God, again, are grumbling. So let me just say before we get into the real meat of the text, that if we jump to soon to focusing on what is bitter, we may be falling into the same trap as the Israelites. So, make sure you take some time to remember what God did that was amazing this year as well. Don’t be like the Israelites and forget God’s faithful provision for you.
They do it again don’t they, grumbling for water. The place they came to had bitter water, and they could not drink it. So, what does Moses do? He cries out to God for help, and God gives him instructions. He says to throw a stick, or some translations say a tree into the water. When he does so, the water becomes, not just drinkable, but sweet.
So, this in itself is a pretty astonishing reality, that God, used Moses’ obedience to make bitter water sweet to drink. This is provision upon provision for God’s people.
Then what we see is that God made for them a statute, and a rule, Which basically says, “listen and obey, I am your healer.”
So, what I want to look at today is not just that you need to be studying the Bible, but why you need to be studying the Bible. And how we should respond when we study the Bible.
To do this, I want to remind you of the three fold uses of the Law.
Many people wonder what the uses of the Old Testament laws are: most scholars will agree that there are three primary uses of the Old Testament Law. To reveal to us our sin, to show us how to please God, and to restrain evil. Today, I want to focus on the first two uses for us as we study the word of God this year.
So, lets look again at the statute that God Gives: He says, if you diligently listen to me and do everything I command, I will put none of the diseases in you… right there if we are honest, we have an indictment against our health. Why? because, we fail at this every day. There is no way in the world we can keep up with all of the commands of God, and obey everything. So, I am going to say there are two main responses to this statement. Either you are like what I just said, or you could be in a little bit of what I will call a legalistic Pharisee camp. When you read that statute, your mind spun with excitement, because you saw a formula, and you were going through and maybe you had never read this verse before and thought, “thats what I am missing” “Finally, this is the key that unlocks the health and satisfaction I have been looking for.” Maybe you had a little chart in your head of all the things you might be able to obey so that God would have to hold up His end of the bargain. So, if that is you, the arrogance that you think you could somehow manage to fulfill all of those commands is overwhelming, and since pride is a pretty major sin, I would say that you are already cruising for a bruising. So, when you read the statutes of God and all of the commands, and you hear a phrase like, “if you do all these things, then it will go well for you…” your first thought should be, “I cant do that on my own, that is impossible!” If pleasing God requires perfect obedience, I’m out! and that should lead you directly to the foot of the cross. Because the reality is, that God’s commands are real! His holiness is no joke, and His righteousness is not to be trifled with. He hates sin, and He demands righteousness from all those who would want to be His. At the same time, He knows that we cannot fulfill the demands of the Law, so He sent His son to fulfill all the laws and statutes in our place, so that when we trust in Him, we can receive all the benefits that He offers in return for the obedience that is ours in Christ. You may wonder where I get all that from the text. Well, the reality is that all of my understanding of that first use of the Law doesn’t come from this text but understanding the whole cousin of od on the subject of HIs law. There is however a clue to this reality in this text though. Look at who God says he is. Look at veer 27 again, at the end He says, “I am the Lord your…Healer” Now, if He wasn’t going to put the sickness into them, might it be better to say that he is the Lord their protector? Healer says something different, it says you are not going to hold up your end of this bargain, and yet, I will be faithful to heal you from the sickness.
Now, That is normally where I leave the message, but that is not all we are going to talk about today, because as Christians, we still live in a world that God created and we are beings that are created to glorify God with all that we do, so in addition to the Laws of God showing us our need for a savior, we now have been set fee to pursue righteousness and holiness not to earn God’s favor, but because of His favor and His blessings upon us. We have been set free from the slavery to Sin and death and we are now able to pursue holiness. We no longer have a spirit that craves sin, but one that at its core craves righteousness. Furthermore, no one can please God who does not have the righteousness of Christ on them.
Now, this gets into the reason what God created His rules in the first place. Now, I am not sure if you realize it, but God’s laws and decrees are not just given so we realized our need, but also so that we see that as we bring our lives under submission to them by the power and work of the Holy Spirit, we actually experience more joy. Because true joy can only be found in operating in the way we were meant to function. Furthermore the things that God has created for us to enjoy as a means of Glorifying Him are best enjoyed in the way He prescribes.
Think for a minute about the best meal you have ever eaten. Maybe it was a really well prepared steak, or maybe lobster, or maybe it was a dessert that was done just right. Now, let me ask you, does it matter who is in the kitchen preparing the meal? I mean really, cant anyone go back there with the same raw ingredients and make the same meal for you? no! Why? because how it is prepared matters! you must be skilled in the art of preparing and cooking, and you must know the right temperatures, and all the other stuff that goes into preparing a fine meal. You need to not only know those things, but you must follow the rules for preparing the food. The enjoyment of the guests depends upon it.
Your life is like the entire experience of the meal, and God’s word is like the training that a chef goes through to know how to prepare that meal. you can eat the same stuff, but if you want to fully enjoy it, you must follow thy guidelines. When you do, it is amazing.
Take anything, is it your marriage, your children, your finances, your habits. I would say that anything you wrote down that has been bitter this past year is addressed in some way in scripture. in fact, I will guarantee that if you cannot figure out how your situation is addressed in scripture, come talk to me, I will help you tie in to a principle from scripture that deals with what you are facing.
So, now we are going to look at what we wrote down again. Whatever it is that has been bitter this past year, I want to issue you a challenge. First off, you probably need to distill it into a root issue, you may need help with this, but you should be able to find one. Once you do, begin to search the scriptures for passages dealing with that issue. I will give you a hint, start in Proverbs.
Once you begin to find those scriptures, you will need to do two things: Preach the Gospel to yourself. and Take one step forward…