Bitter and Sweet
(Rev. 1:9, 10:10,11, Ex. 15:23-25)
On Patmos, John had what we might say is the greatest revelation of the glorified Christ recorded. As this progressed he was given a little book to eat. It was sweet in his mouth and bitter in his belly. When Moses led Israel through the wilderness, they were thirsty and found water at Mara. It was bitter. Moses turned to the Lord and was directed to a tree that turned the water to a sweet drink to quench the thirst of those on the journey. We know the tree represents the cross that Jesus bore. Symbols of the cross show up again and again through the wilderness.
At the cross, Jesus gave us the answer to bitterness. He bore the pain by spitting out the medicine that would cover it up. He did not allow the pain inflicted to be diminished by bitterness. It is a test for us, a lesson learned, to not allow bitterness to fester. We each have a little book, a journey of our lives. That book is given to us by God. It is like the journey of God’s people through the wilderness. We may come to an experience that we hope will satisfy, only to find it bitter. If we see that God has a way out, a solution, so that we can receive what we need, the bitter can be made sweet. His solutions include letting go. Who wants to drink bitterness? We have heard it in different ways that it will make you sick and may even kill you.
If we consider Jesus, we see the pain He took on Himself. It is a part of His carrying our bad stuff, our sin. As we pass through our wilderness times, we see it is all a part of this world. If we hear Jesus call and take up our cross becoming a true disciple, we begin to share in His sufferings. We know something of the pain He bore and we develop grace and true kindness for others. This was John’s experience. His writing after Patmos is of a different perspective than others.
I noticed that John’s experience was reverse of Israel’s. John first knew the sweetness and then the bitterness. Is it not so with the cross? When we first know what Christ has done, the joy, the sweetness is wonderful. Then it’s work within reveals the bitter places. He searches us and knows us and the work of the cross within sets us free. When we let it work, sweet water will flow out to others. If we do not recognize the Spirit’s working, bitter water may come out. As James writes can a fountain bring out both sweet and bitter water? It should not be so. If we see it happen, we know to seek that change called repentance. At such moments, I find myself asking the Lord, “What is my problem?” I know the answer.
Both Israel and John were on journeys. Both provide examples for us. One is well before the revelation of the Son of God. The other is after. To whom should we pay more attention? We might say neither. And that last thought is important. We need to pay heed to the daystar, the morning star, arising in our hearts. That phrase is wonderfully creative. Peter, a fisherman, wrote that. When he wrote that, he had moved into his task of feeding Jesus’s sheep. But that was Peter. What about you? What about today? Are you knowing the leading of the Spirit? Are you hearing His voice? Are you growing in grace, in truth, in love for the Lord our God, and for those around you?
Following the Lord brings growth. It brings change. Along the way we will know the bitter and the sweet. Remember Paul’s words to the Philippians, I press on to know Him, and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings. Life and death. Death and life. Simultaneous, synchronized working of the Spirit in us from the inner man out until we receive the redemption of our bodies.