Baptized free from Bitterness

Exodus 15:26 “If you will diligently listen to the voice of the Lord your God, and do that which is right in his eyes, and give ear to his commandments and keep all his statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you that I put on the Egyptians, for I am the Lord, your healer.”

When I was born-again and baptized into the Body of Christ, this was perhaps one of the first scriptures shown to me regarding the gracious love of our Lord toward His children. I discovered that He was our Healer, Provider, Shepherd, Victory, Righteousness, Life, etc, etc. Awesome stuff!!! Initially there was a personal discovery of a very personal savior. Then over a period of some years I discovered that the personal savior has a personal community…for the theologians amongst us it is the “communal praxis of the Trinity.” I discovered that I am an individual in His community - I am part of His people. There is a spiritual significance to the “community of God” through the power we have as a CHURCH – the EKKELESIA (the Assembly & Community of God – Matthew 16:13-19)

      In the text message of Exodus 15:26 I would like us to examine the power we have as a community. The situation in which God chose to reveal Himself as Healer in Exodus 15:26 tell us a lot about OURSELVES as a “Community of People.” Healing and health in a community is dependent upon the response of each “individual-in-relationship-to-the-community” to the Word and Will of God.  Hmmm…Let me explain…

     Exodus 15:26 happens after the poetic piece called the “Song of Moses.” At this particular time in Israel’s history there were no epidemic, no plague, and no sickness sweeping through the tribes of Israel…NOBODY WAS SICK in the wilderness (Psalm 105:37; Exodus 12:33-36). The only issue troubling the Israelites was that their water supply was bitter and undrinkable. They had a huge problem that impacted their personal needs, economy and livelihood – agriculture and livestock. After three days in the dry wilderness with no water, you might think that the revelation that the people of God most needed was Lord as their Provider, rather than Healer. Yet, the Lord does NOT address the issue of provision of water, but He addresses the issue of HEALTH.

So, WHY does God say He is their HEALER instead of Provider? Why?

     Precious one…you see…it is the REACTION of the community of God in the midst of a trial (predicament) that provokes God’s REVELATION as Healer.
Now let me explain the PATHWAY to being a HEALTHY COMMUNITY of people…

The Lord was NOT dealing with any physical affliction, but with a deeply ingrained thought-process and a response-process when the people of God face trials and tribulations. People gripe, they groan and they grumble. Our murmuring and complaining show the deepest sickness in humanity, which manifests itself in two ways:
1) Human habits tend to respond negatively to any trials, testing or tribulations
2) Murmuring and complaining humans tend to always look in the wrong direction

The “bad attitude” displayed among the Israelites in Exodus 15:22-27 is so common in most of us today, and it is evident in so many different ways…in our attitudes and in our actions. Some of us are very vocal about our negative attitudes, and we tend to spew out BITTERNESS. Others will internalize negative attitudes allowing attitudes and thought patterns to fester, causing BITTERNESS. Both these reactions are human manifestations of “murmuring and complaining.”

The further medical science progresses along the pathway of physiology and psychology, the more the medical community is convinced that the human body and the human mind cannot be isolated and treated separately. What happens in the human mind impacts the human body…the mind and body are totally interrelated and interconnected! In the newspaper article “Harboring feelings of bitterness increases the likelihood of physical disease,” Ian Fletcher states that researchers who have examined the relationship between failure, bitterness and quality of life found that blaming others can lead to physical disease. In his article he writes:

Persistent bitterness may result in global feelings of anger and hostility that, when strong enough, could affect a person's physical health,’ says Carsten Wrosch, a professor in Montreal's Concordia University Department of Psychology and a member of the Centre for Research in Human Development.Professor Wrosch is particularly interested in why some people avoid bitterness at different stages of life and why others don't. He has incorporated his theoretical considerations regarding bitterness in Self-Regulation of Bitterness Across the Lifespan, a chapter from the recently published book, Embitterment: Societal, psychological, and clinical perspectives (Springer 2011).

Over the past 15 years, Wrosch has investigated how negative emotions, such as regret or sadness, affect people. Most recently, he has focused his attention on the impact of bitterness. With his co-author, Concordia alumna Jesse Renaud, they single out failure as one of the most frequent causes of bitterness. Anger and recrimination are its typical attendants. Unlike regret, which is about self-blame and a case of ‘woulda, coulda, shoulda,’ acrimony points the finger elsewhere - laying the blame for failure on external causes. ‘When harbored for a long time,’ says Professor Wrosch, ‘bitterness may forecast patterns of biological dysregulation (a physiological impairment that can affect metabolism, immune response or organ function) and physical disease.’
It is one thing to suggest that bitterness may cause sickness, quite another to propose that it be recognized as a mental illness. Wrosch and Renaud say bitterness can be avoided, if people who experience failure can find other ways to fulfill their goals. If they can't, the researchers stress, it's essential to disengage from the fruitless effort (e.g to get promoted, to save a relationship) and reengage in something that's equally meaningful (e.g a new job or passion).

Called self-regulation processes, disengaging and reengaging can be necessary for a person to avoid bitter emotions. ‘Any effective therapeutic intervention,’ says Renaud, ‘hinges on the affected individual finding ways to self-regulate.’In some cases, overcoming bitterness demands more than self-regulation. When bitterness arises from blaming other people, then recovery may involve others. ‘In order to deal with bitter emotions there may need to be something else required to enable a person to overcome the negative emotion - that something is forgiveness,’ says Prof Wrosch.”

WOW!!! WOW!!! WOW!!! Medical science seems to agree with Exodus 15:22-27…

So, when the Lord says to His people, “I will make a COVENANT OF HEALING with you,” He is encountering His people (Exodus 15:22-27), not in a moment of physical pain, but in a moment of BITTERNESS. The bitter waters of Marah are just a metaphor for the bitter heart of the community…a bitter heart is the root of most evil and human sicknesses. That is where the problem exists. So, God begins at the point of an emotional need to establish His Covenant of Healing with His people. He purposely brings them to bitter waters to really show them what was truly in their hearts…to show them that they were prone to BITTERNESS. BTW, the Lord never shows us a problem without providing a pathway out of the mess (1Corinthians 10:13)…in this case the pathway out of the mess is a TREE THE SIGN OF A TREE…Moses cried out to the Lord, and the Lord showed him a TREE and told him to throw it into the water (BTW, some translations call it a “log” or “piece of wood”…but in Hebrew it is a TREE). When he did so, the waters became sweet (Exodus 15:22-27), and miraculously the people had a fresh water supply. When the Lord showed Moses a tree, the Lord was telling all humanity through Israel that the answers to all our bitterness, pain and problems in life – is a TREE!!! And that tree is THE TREE – THE CROSS where God establishes a New Covenant, sealed in the Blood of our Savior, Christ Jesus – our Healer and our Deliverer!!! Like I said before, when I see people experience bitterness, fear and hopeless days, I’ve learned to urge them to come to the Tree – the Cross. The sum of human pain is focused here at the Cross of Christ—all bitterness, all fear, all suffering, all rejection, all painfulness, all exhaustion, all misunderstanding, all anger, all hatred, all sinning, all depression, all loneliness, all death. But also focused here at the Cross is all HEALING, all provision, all wisdom and understanding, and all faith, hope and love.

To sweeten the bitter circumstances of our lives we need to come to the Tree – and throw the Tree (Cross) into the bitter waters of our lives! And if we can learn to do this on a daily basis, then we are truly free to learn how God’s covenant of healing can be released in our lives. When we die to our own self-righteousness, our selfish-standards of right and wrong, and our self-serving ways; to die to the attitudes we feel justified to hold on to – when we truly learn to let go and let the Lord reign in our hearts, and when we repent and receive the Word of change from the Word and Spirit of God…we too can be baptized free from bitterness!!!

• Newspaper Article:
• Hope for a Hopeless Day: Encouragement and Inspiration When You Need it Most by Jack Hayford
• Grounds for Living by Jack Hayford