Uplook Fridays: That Sweetening Influence

At this point in
history, Israel
was a redeemed people ({{Ex 15:25}}). Slavery’s chains had been broken, and their foes
overwhelmed in the waters of the Red Sea. They
were led into a new and living way, which God had opened for them through the
place of death. Then they sang praises to God for so great a deliverance. After
three days’ journey, however, without finding water, they came to Marah, where
there was water; but so bitter they could not drink it. There are a few lessons
we may learn from this.

The World Has
a Bitter Taste to the Redeemed

Right from the beginning of their new life they found the world a
wilderness and its waters bitter. Freedom from slavery is surely better than
bondage with sweetness, but those who experience salvation can be brought into
severe testings which challenge faith. The joy of deliverance soon gave way to
murmuring. The many and great benefits bestowed on them suddenly seemed to
vanish away, and so did their praises.

Such trials touch vital matters. It would not have been too bad if the
problem had been no milk or no wine. Believers can manage without luxuries. But
to find no drinkable water was to imperil the preservation of life itself.
Marah waters came out of an accursed earth, and this should surely teach us,
and be illustrative of the fact, that this earth has nothing at all with which
to refresh the souls of a redeemed people. When they most need succor, the
world can provide none.

The spirit and temper of the world cannot in any way contribute to
Christian life. What springs up from it is gall and wormwood. The motives which
govern the world of men no longer appeal to the believer: the lust for money
making, the seeking of worldly honor, the attendance at worldly amusements. Nor
do true believers find their happiness in worldly company. Among them we have
to labor for the bread that perisheth, but their company is not our delight.
Most of all, we cannot follow their principles and practices. All these things
are now bitter to a man in Christ.

The Flesh has
Bitter Enmity toward God

“The people murmured against Moses” ({{Ex 15:24}}), which was actually
murmuring against the Lord. There are times when the Lord’s people, having
found the emptiness of the world, seek their refreshment from natural causes
and fellow mortals. The barrenness of the desert and the bitterness of Marah’s
waters brought out this deep enmity of the flesh against all that is of God. “Murmur”
is an infantile sound, and in days of spiritual childhood it seems natural to
murmur against the arrangements and dispensations of God’s providence.

In such dire circumstances doubts arise. These were the early days of Israel’s
deliverance. Instead of a carpet of roses, they found themselves in a
wilderness, and instead of the wine of good cheer, they found bitter waters.
Perhaps the disappointment is natural since all of the old life is cut off, and
murmuring arises from the ground of that disappointment. The new life never
becomes a cup of blessing until we have entered more fully into the Lord’s
inheritance. The trouble with Israel
was that they spent forty years in the wilderness when God had made it only an
eleven-day experience.

The new life of the redeemed has different tastes and delights and hopes
and joys. But it has its trials, simply because it has to exist now in a
hostile and not a friendly world. The remains of the flesh in us, not yet
crucified, can bring torment and challenge. We may wonder and question why God
allows us sickness, sorrow, and bereavement. We perhaps did not expect the
failure of our children to walk with us in the heavenward way. The reproach and
reviling of those with whom we work can vex the righteous soul! It makes us
wonder to see older Christians lose their love for Christ, their conscience
blunted in business dealings, their fires of witness burnt out to dry ash, and
with no more enjoyment in heavenly things. These are all bitter experiences for
newborn souls in Christ.

The Cross has
a Sweet Influence to the Saint

The Lord showed him a tree, which when he had cast into the waters,
the waters were made sweet”
({{Ex. 15:25}}). This was not a tree with which the
Bedouins were acquainted, nor would the dwellers in the desert have the
slightest idea how to make the bitter waters of the desert sweet with such
vegetation. This power is not inherent in any tree. It was something especially
imparted by the Spirit of of God to teach a spiritual principle.

The tree symbolizes the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. The tree was to
be cut down, and thus was our blessed Lord on the cross of Calvary. But
the man of God, God’s representative, Moses, cast that cut-down tree into the
bitter waters. This immediately had a transforming effect: the bitter waters
were suddenly made sweet by it.

The Lord Jesus is the Tree of Life in Scripture. It was He who was
symbolized by a tree in Eden’s
garden in the beginning of God’s Book. He was figured in the burning bush,
which Moses saw in the desert
of Midian—the bush that
burned, but was not consumed. He was the tree David the psalmist wrote about in
Psalm 1: “He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that
bringeth forth His fruit in His season; His leaf also shall not wither”

({{Ps. 1:3}}). He is pictured in the Tree of Life found at the end of the Book in
the midst of the heavenly Jerusalem,
“which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and
the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations”
({{Rev. 22:2}}).

It is this blessed Lord Jesus who is the antidote for all our cares. The
tree flung into the bitter waters made them sweet and drinkable and
life-giving. Oh, wondrous cross! Glorious cross! Blessed interpreter of the
love of God to us. Let it soak into all our trials, vexations, sorrows,
bereavements, discontent, and disappointments. It was Marah that taught Israel the
sweetness of the tree, and it is only the cross of the Lord Jesus which can
sweeten our life here below.

How sweet the
name of Jesus sounds
In a
believer’s ear;

It soothes
his sorrows, heals his wounds,

And drives
away his fear.

It makes the
wounded spirit whole

And calms the
troubled breast;

‘Tis manna to
the hungry soul,

And to the
weary rest.

Weak is the
effort of our heart,

And cold our
warmest thought;

But when we
see Thee as Thou art,

We’ll praise
Thee as we ought.

Till then we
would Thy love proclaim

With every
fleeting breath;

And triumph
in that blessed name

Which quells
the power of death.

—John Newton

From “Worship & Remembrance” by Daniel Smith
Published by Gospel Folio Press

Used by Permission. This material is protected by copyright. © 2005 Uplook Ministries.

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