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Summary: Life can be bitter, but God has a healing for our waters of life as well

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OPENING: There once was an oyster whose story I tell,

Who found that sand had got under his shell;

Just one little grain, but it gave him much pain,

For oysters have feelings although they’re so plain.

Now, did he berate the working of Fate

Which had led him to such a deplorable state?

Did he curse out the Government, call for an election?

No; as he lay on the shelf, he said to himself,

"If I cannot remove it, I’ll try to improve it."

So the years rolled by as the years always do,

And he came to his ultimate destiny -- stew.

And this small grain of sand which had bothered him so,

Was a beautiful pearl, all richly aglow.

Now this tale has a moral -- for isn’t it grand

What an oyster can do with a morsel of sand;

What couldn’t we do if we’d only begin

With all of the things that get under our skin.

APPLICATION: As we visit our text this morning, we find that the Israelites don’t have just a grain of sand in their sandals - they have acres of sand. They have been 3 days without a fresh water supply. And when they finally arrive at a source of water that might have filled their needs, it turns out to be so bitter they can’t even drink from it. The water is as bitter as they see their lives as being.

I. As you probably know, life can be bitter.

In John 16:33 Jesus tells us: "In this world you will have trouble..."

Hebrews 11:32ff expands on this by saying: "And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephtath, David, Samuel and the prophets, who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. Women received back their dead raised to life again. Others were tortured and refused to be released, so that they might gain a better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. They were stoned, they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated - the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground. These were all commended for their faith..."

ILLUS: Life can be filled with many difficulties. I once read of some of the great people of our world and how hard their lives had been.

In a famous study by Victor and Mildred Goertzel, entitled Cradles of Eminence, the home backgrounds of 300 highly successful people were investigated. These 300 subjects had made it to the top. They were men and women whose names everyone would recognize as brilliant in their fields, such as Franklin D. Roosevelt, Helen Keller, Winston Churchill, Albert Schweitzer, Clara Barton, Gandhi, Einstein, and Freud. The intensive investigation into their early home lives yielded some surprising findings:

* Three fourths of the children were troubled either by poverty, by a broken home, or by rejecting, overpossessive, or dominating parents.

* Seventy-four of 85 writers of fiction or drama and 16 of the 20 poets came from homes where, as children, they saw tense psychological drama played out by their parents.

* Physical handicaps such as blindness, deafness, or crippled limbs characterized over one-fourth of the sample.

ILLUS: Dr. Norman Vincent Peale often said, "The only people who do not have problems are those in the cemeteries." (Then with a twinkle in his eye he’d say, "and some of them really have problems.")

II. While life is hard - much of its bitterness can come from our own actions and attitudes.

Exodus 15:26 Marah was object lesson for both the Israelites and for us: "listen to Me," it seems God is saying, "and you’ll avoid much that is bitter in life."

ILLUS: My dad used to sharecrop and kept about 20 cows to milk. One day a salesman stopped by to demonstrate a milking machine. Dad said he could, but that he shouldn’t put it on "old Bessie" at the end of the barn because she was temperamental. The salesman sized dad up as too young to know what he was talking about and set about trying Bessie on with the machine. Dad said he watched the salesman as he put his equipment down beside the cow and put each of the suction pieces on her teats. And he almost got it done… but then something went wrong and Bessie kicked him all the way across the aisle. Dad called for Mom to come fix the man up, and then he had to go into the stall to disconnect the machine! The salesman left without so much as an apology or word of thanks.

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