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Seeds of the Kingdom

Bitter Sweet

by Ron Scurfield

For you shall not go out with haste, nor go by flight; for the Lord will go before you, and the God of Israel will be your rear guard.
Isaiah 52:12, NKJV

The Israelites were led out of captivity in Egypt, through the parted waters of the Red Sea and on their way to the Promised Land. ‘I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians… to bring them into a good and spacious land flowing with milk and honey’ (Exodus 3:8). They were moving out under God’s protection and on into His promises. Moses and the people sang praises to God, exalting His name with joy and gratitude (Exodus 15:18).

Within three days their exuberance had melted under the hot sun of the desert. They were weary and thirsty and there was no water. God’s promises and protection seemed to have been forgotten. Many years later King David would echo their sentiments when he called out to God: ‘My soul thirsts for You. My flesh longs for You In a dry and thirsty land where there is no water’ (Psalm 63:1). Then they came across an oasis in the desert - or so they thought. They eagerly began to drink, but immediately spat it out in disgust. The water was bitter. ‘The people complained and turned against Moses. “What are we going to drink?” they demanded’ (Exodus 15:24 NLT).

Moses knew God wouldn’t let them down. He went ahead of them in ‘a pillar of fire... which never left them’ (Exodus 13:22). What more confirmation did they need? ‘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’ (Exodus 15:25).

We can be riding on a high, with everything going well. Perhaps we’ve come through some difficult circumstances but we know where we’re heading, or think we do. Suddenly, an unexpected problem crops up. Our hopes turn to anxiety, or despair, or fear. We’re unable to move on.

Have we forgotten: ‘The Lord is trustworthy in all He promises and faithful in all He does’ (Psalm 145:13)? ‘He has given us His very great and precious promises’ (2 Peter 1) ‘… to prosper you and not to harm you.. to give you hope and a future’ (Jeremiah 29:11). <‘Do not be afraid or terrified... for the Lord your God goes with you’ (Deuteronomy 31:6).

Bible commentator Matthew Henry said, ‘The greatest joys and hopes are soon turned to grief and fear with those who live only by their senses, and not by faith.’

We need to look to the tree that took bitterness out of the water and made it sweet: the cross of Jesus Christ, on which our sinful nature died, to be replaced by the sweetness of His spirit.

God has led us through the waters and brought us on to dry land. For a time it may seem like a desert, but we need to ‘press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called us heavenward…’ (Philippians 3:14). ‘He who calls you is faithful’ (1 Thessalonians 5:24).

Prayer: Lord Jesus, forgive me for doubting when things turn sour. Even in Your darkest hour You looked to the Father. Help me to remember You made a way when there was no way, so that I can walk with You through the darkness into the light. Amen.

Ron Scurfield with his wife Jill, are part of the Associate Ministry Team at Ellel Grange and occasionally Ellel Scotland. Ron enjoys walking and writing and meeting interesting people, but his greatest joy is seeing God transform lives, setting people free to live the abundant life that Jesus intended.


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