“He who is full loathes honey, but to the hungry even what is bitter tastes sweet.”
Our Home Group is studying the book of Exodus at the moment and we are now travelling through the wilderness with the children of Israel whom God has so dramatically rescued from slavery in Egypt. We have discovered, much to our surprise, that by delving into the story we have become to see our own lives reflected in the struggles of these desert wanderers and over and over some particular incident will strike a chord with all of us. One such story is found in Chapter 15 in which the Israelites are suffering extreme thirst and finally reach water only to find it is bitter and their reaction is understandable, forgetting all the wonderful provision God has provided, they grumble and complain. God graciously hears Moses’ prayer and the water becomes drinkable.
“When they came to Marah, they could not drink its water because it was bitter. (That is why the place is called Marah) So the people grumbled against Moses, saying, “What are we to drink?” (Exodus 15:23 – 24
One of the questions posed by our group made us all think.
Why not just provide good water right from the start?
This question started a lively discussion about life itself and many of us could share similar times in our own lives when circumstances were very bitter and even made us wonder why we were struggling with them and even to begin to doubt that God cared about what was happening.
As we continued to read the story we suddenly grasped what a wonderful learning experience for both the Israelites and us was contained in this story as God reminds his children to, “listen carefully to his voice and do what is right in his eyes.” and we witness God changing a bitter experience into something really remarkable. He reminds them that “he is the Lord who heals them,” and then from a tiny water hole, the Lord leads them to an oasis, a place of beauty and richness, a sweet ending.
“Then they came to Elim, where there were twelve springs and seventy palm trees, and they camped there near the water.” (Exodus 15:27)
As our Home Group began to absorb the deeper meaning of this chapter, our sharing also changed. We began to look at the “bitter” times in a different light. We began to see how many times what we thought was bitter, was really a wonderful time where we had to cling closely to the Lord to get through it and by doing so, entered a much deeper, sweeter relationship with him. We realised that unless we had experienced those times we would not be appreciative of the blessings at the end.
Solomon makes a wise statement in Proverbs (Proverbs 27:7) about the man who will never taste life to the fullest when all he desires is to be saturated with the sweet things of life and never hunger for those experiences which can mould and change him.
So many of the old hymns recognised that those rocky times appear in all our lives and I love this hymn that reminds us just where to go when they do.
How sweet the name of Jesus sounds
In a believer’s ear.
It soothes his sorrow, heals his wounds,
And drives away his fear.