Summary: Originally titled "Is the Lord With Us Or Not?," this sermon is looking at our doubt of God’s presence. The invitation is to deeper Christian discipleship to strengthen our assurance.
Originally, I intended to look at this Bible story two weeks ago. At the time, the name of the sermon was “Is The Lord With Us Or Not?” Certainly it is a question many Americans have asked in recent days.
One approach to developing timely and appropriate sermons is to hold the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in another. As we look at recent events in the news and compare them with the events in our Bible story, some comparisons come to mind.
“Is the Lord with us or not?” It is a question asked by some Americans in recent days. It is a question perhaps many of the Israelites asked in our Bible story.
Our Bible story begins following one of the most dramatic events of the Bible. Moses has led the Hebrew people through the Red Sea to freedom, free from slavery, free from their oppressors - Pharaoh and the Egyptian army.
But they hadn’t just waded through the sea or swam through the sea. No, God had parted the sea into two walls of water, and the Israelites had passed through the walls of water on the dry sea bed.
And now, we meet the Israelites at a place called Marah. The word means bitter. They have walked for three days through the desert with no water, here to a pool of bitter water they cannot drink, and they are afraid they are going to die.
Their whole world has been turned upside down. Everything familiar, good or bad, has changed.
Does any of their story sound familiar?
Perhaps feeling like the rug has been pulled out from under them, traveling through the desert for three days without water, they come to a pool of water, bitter water, and they could not drink it.
And we cannot take in the recent events that have happened in our country.
I remember hearing in the endless commentary the first couple of days following the attack, how someone describe the way the people moved away from the financial district in New York through the whole series of explosions and collapses.
The police and firemen kept moving them further and further away - and the droves of people kept walking and walking. I believe it was one store owner who watched them passing by who commented
“It was like a biblical Exodus.”
Isn’t that an interesting comment.
“It was like a biblical Exodus.”
In our Bible story, the people cry out. “What are we to drink?” Surely wondering, “How are we to survive?”
And across our world people have turned to God in prayer.
“Where are you God? Are we safe?”
But September 11 isn’t our only encounter with bitter water. Bitter water comes in many forms and one form or another has impacted our lives personally and directly.
Perhaps it has been the bitter water of divorce. Perhaps there has been an affair. Or perhaps it has been just a steady growing apart. But certainly there have been feelings of failure and wrongful hurting and blame and shame.
Perhaps it has been the bitter water of financial difficulties. Perhaps it has been the loss of a job. Or perhaps there has been some overspending that shouldn’t have been. But certainly there are feelings of being overwhelmed, trapped, desperate, and out of control.
Maybe it has been the bitter water of illness and poor health. Maybe it is life threatening. Or maybe it has been incompacitating. But certainly, it has been fearful and stressful. Life’s daily activities have been changed, and they may never be the same.
Our list of bitter water could go on and on. There is the bitter water of alcoholism. There is the bitter water of anger and abuse. There is the bitter water of neglect and misdirected priorities.
Life is full of bitter water and we can identify someone - either ourselves, someone in our family, or someone we know who has experienced the bitterness of bitter water.
Can you think of someone? Can you identify someone either in your past or who you presently know who is victimized, affected by bitterness?
Perhaps its that one who always seems to view the world from a pessimistic point of view. Or maybe its that one who cries on your shoulder all the time, telling you how bad things are.
Maybe its the one who gave up and withdrew. Is there someone you can think of who like the Israelites in our story, who cry out, asking, “What are we to drink? Where is God?”
Maybe its your mother or your father. Maybe its your in-laws or your sister or brother. Maybe its an aunt, uncle, or cousin. Maybe its someone you knew back home, one of your family friends, or someone you work with. Or maybe its you. Maybe its you whose been given bitter water to drink.