Root of Bitterness

Yesterday I was able to attend a former church ( in Mississippi while I was there for a wedding.  I love this church and, as always, received a blessing from being there.   The pastor spoke on Exodus 15:22-26 and had a lot to say about the piece of wood (also translated log, tree, etc.) that was thrown into the water at Marah.

As is often the case, I’m listening to the sermon, but I have another ‘sermon’ running parallel in my head as I’m taking all I’ve read and studied through the week and making connections and comparisons.

Then last night I was catching up on some of my email devotions after being gone for the weekend and I came to one by Mark Batterson (, a pastor in Washington, DC.  He too spoke of trees!

When the Lord brings to my attention repetitive words or thoughts, I always sit up and pay attention and ask, “What are You saying to me?”

So here are two thoughts to ponder:

1.  The Israelites got to Marah and began to grumble and complain in spite of the unceasing provision and protection of the Lord.  Could the wood thrown into the bitter waters symbolize a ‘root of bitterness’ that had sprung up from all their complaining?

Hebrews 12:15 (NIV84) “See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.”

Deuteronomy 29:18 (NIV84) “Make sure there is no man or woman, clan or tribe among you today whose heart turns away from the LORD our God to go and worship the gods of those nations; make sure there is no root among you that produces such bitter poison.”

Consider the thought that when they threw their ‘point of poison’ (root of bitterness) into the water, healing came.

2.  Then here’s what Mark Batterson said:

One of the most fascinating miracles in the gospels is Jesus cursing the barren fig tree.  Most of the other miracles bring life. This one brings death.  Most of them pronounce blessing.  This one is a curse in a sense.  All of us have barren fig trees that undermine our spiritual productivity.  We need to curse them!  You need to kill what is killing you.  If you really want to come to life, then barren fig trees need to die!

So essentially I’m hearing that we all have dead wood in our lives that is fruitless and needs to be ‘cut down and thrown into the fire’.  We’ve all heard that.  After all, Jesus even said it:

Matthew 7:19 (ESV)  “Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”

Ready for the fire!

But back to the pastor at Crossgates who said the log could also represent the Cross.  He went on to say that we often can’t see the work of the Cross because of a root (or tree) of bitterness in our lives.

I believe the same principles apply here as in my blog on rejection.  We need to go back to the point or event where the bitterness entered, renounce it, repent of it, and cast it into the ‘living waters’ and healing will come.  I know this sounds simplistic, but I can tell you from personal experience….it works!

So often we fight the symptoms without ever getting to the root of the problems in our lives.  Symptoms are things like addiction, depression, anger, and even illness, but if we go back to the point at which the door was opened to the enemy and the ‘root of bitterness’ sprang up, we can apply the ax to the root.

Matthew 3:10 (ESV) “Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”

And what’s the result when we do this?

Exodus 15:25 (ESV) “And he cried to the LORD, and the LORD showed him a log, and he threw it into the water, and the water became sweet.”

Be sure to note the phrase in the above verse, “the LORD showed him a log”!  What log is the Lord showing you today that needs to be thrown into the waters?  If we ask, He’ll take us right to the root.  After all, He desires our healing even more than we do.

Dead Wood

Hebrews 12:15 (NIV84) “See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.”


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