Sword of JoshuaSword of JoshuaSword of Joshua


Copyright © Jules Dervaes

February 5, 1983

No, no not that. I didn’t want any part of it. But I heard that if I wanted my cold to get better, I should take it. Although I knew it would be good for me, I still shuddered at the thought of tasting it. I had often watched my children submit to this trial every day for many years. And one child had even begun to lick the spoon. So shouldn’t I, too, be willing to undergo this trial? One day I opened the bottle of cod liver oil and, disregarding the spoon, I chug-a-lugged a few swallows. All I can say is no mas, no mas, which means no more, no more.

Have you faced any trials that you could take no more of, trials that were hard to swallow, and trials that left behind the bad taste of a bitter memory? My purpose is to describe one trial that the Israelites encountered in the desert and to stir you to face your trials with a submissive attitude.

The account is found in Exodus 15:22-26. Follow as I recreate the scene. Only three days ago, they had passed through the Red Sea unharmed as God held back the waters of death. They had seen the mighty hand of God at work as those same waters came crashing down, drowning their human enemies-the Egyptian army. They had the pillar of cloud that went before them. As they traveled farther into the desert, their water supply ran out. Soon they became preoccupied with their thirst. Anxious and more desperate by the hour, they fretted over their survival. The cloud now led them to an area where some springs gushed from the barren ground. God was leading them directly to a test, a test of their attitude of facing difficulties.

Closer to the springs at Marah, their hopes were raised. The cry “Water! Water!” could be heard from the hysterical people as they rushed forward and drank. But they spat the water right out. It was bitter, or salty, and not fit to drink. Then the angry group turned against Moses. Not trusting God, and forgetting the recent, awesome miracles in their behalf, they complained. “Well, we need water to live and is this what we get? Why did You give us water that we can’t drink? God, You led us here to this very spot? What are You trying to do, have us die?”

Fortunately, Moses knew exactly what to do. He cried out to God and God told him what to do. Verse 25 NIV implies a tree, or piece of tree, had to be cut down. It was cast into the waters. And they were miraculously made sweet. It was now fresh water and it could support life.

The significance of this episode for us? We have a 100%, lifelong guarantee that we too will be led directly into trials, be tested by them, and refined through them.

What, then, if you find some way that would just completely change all the bitter experiences that you’ve ever had to sweet, joyful ones? Wouldn’t that be something super?

Notice again what Moses had to do. What was the reason he used a tree cut down to turn the waters sweet? This was symbolic of Christ–the Branch of David–Who was willing to surrender His life for us. Christ was willing to be cut down for us so that we can cast that sacrifice into life’s bitter waters. Just as the physical tree turned the waters sweet and able to sustain physical life, so can Christ’s example of being a willing sacrifice turn our trials sweet. And, as we yield to trials with a Christ-like attitude, we will be nourishing our spiritual lives.

Here is the key that will unlock the secret of being happy in all life’s circumstances: Have the spirit of sweet submission to God’s will.

Christ’s attitude was always that of submission to His Father’s will. When He was face to face with His greatest trial and had to drink the most bitter cup of all, the cup of humiliation and agony of His death, He responded, “Father, Thy will be done.” This same Christ-like attitude can make the difference, whether our trials remain bitter pools or are turned into sweet springs.

We are told in James 4:7 to submit ourselves to God. It is a shame that today the word submission has become an ugly word. It conjures up negative thoughts and bad feelings, such as slavery, abuse, resentment, and misery. It does not connote joy. Don’t let the word fool you. Submission can be very beautiful. It can bring happiness and contentment, believe it or not.

But it must be sweet submission. Too often, when we undergo trials, we are going along not sweetly, but reluctantly, begrudgingly, and dragging our feet, when we should be yielding without murmuring in word or thought.

Definitely this is something worth striving for. If we look to Christ we can do it. Using His sacrifice as our example we will follow willingly wherever God leads us. Sometimes God leads us directly into failures and problems for His purpose as the Israelites found out. Their trial at the bitter springs at Marah was just the first of many Marah’s ahead. Some very hard trials are occurring right this minute and many more are coming down the road. But we have God’s help, His guidance, and His love. And we have this choice: We can choose how we will respond. Use the right key. Respond with the Christ-like spirit of sweet submission to God’s will and all your trials will become sweet.

Finally, a word of caution about coming trials. They will not look like a piece of anniversary cake. They will still look like a spoon of cod liver oil. However, with that sweet submissive attitude we can take the cod liver oil and we can swallow it, and maybe, one day; yes, one day, we may even lick the spoon.

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