Tag Archives: Moses

Bitter or Better?


A journey from Mara to Elim.

“Moses cried out to the Lord and the Lord showed him a piece of wood.” Ex 15:25

Wooden cross on the top of Zámčisko

Like the Israelites we, on our own life’s journey, also encounter “lakes of bitterness.” I was literally in the region of the “Great Lakes” one year on a ministry visit to Rwanda. This country has known its share of bitterness. One of the pastors I stayed with still bore the scars of the conflict on his forehead. His wife showed me a neat semi circle of a scar that meandered all across her ankle and Achilles tendon.

“My foot was nearly severed in the massacre,” she said, taking down a faded black and white portrait of her Father. “I was only a young girl of eighteen when I lost him and all the rest of my family in the genocide.”

I stared at the deep scars on strong black flesh, glanced again at the lost Father and wondered how on earth love can survive.

Another friend shared how after 25 years of loyal service he had found himself out of a job and passed over for promotion. Nameless thousands survive on a dollar day, noble African ladies till the fields with a baby on their back, while other nameless thousands in the West throw away almost as much food as we eat!

One of the basic human needs is for both material and psychological fulfilment. On their journey to the promise land the people of God were thirsting after a satisfying cool drink. Imagine the disappointment and anger when their drink turned out so bitter!

Have some of your own legitimate thirsts been thwarted? What has left a bitter taste in your own mouth? That bitter taste often impregnates our words which are a good indicator of our “bitterness” level!

The writer of Hebrews 12:14-15 clearly saw the terrible toxic potential of bitterness to eat away at the very structures of our lives together.

Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.  See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.”

The cross is the only instrument sharp enough to cut out the roots of bitterness. Only one man ever owned a bitterness free heart. He hung that heart up upon a cross like a cosmic sponge and soaked up the “Great Lake” of mankind’s “Mara”.

Like Moses, we need to cry out in desperation until we gain a fresh revelation of that “piece of wood”, that old rugged cross, which, when applied to the bitter waters of aching hearts can make them sweet again.

“He threw it into the water, and the water became sweet.”

May our words and personalities find a renewed sweetness as we allow the work of the cross to function in the hustle and bustle of our everyday lives.

Cry out to God. Don’t stop at Mara! It is not your final destination.

“I cry out to God Most High, to God who fulfills his purpose for me.” Psalm 57:2

With the cleansing of the bitter waters and the call to obedience comes a deep revelation of the covenant name – Yahweh  Rapha.

“I am the Lord who heals you.” Exodus 15:26

Peter quoted the prophet Isaiah when writing to a persecuted church, reminding them that,

“He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.”  1 Peter 2:24

Revelation and Ezekiel also encourage us with the promise of a “tree” of life in heaven whose leaves are for “the healing of nations.” Rev22:2

We serve a loving, reconciling, powerful God who makes us better rather than bitter!

Our destination is Elim. Have you ever longed for the picture postcard palm trees? We have so much more in Christ – perfect provision and eternal life welling up for us in abundance.

And so, let’s go back to the scars of Rwanda. I recently ventured to the cinema to see the Oscar winning film “Slumdog Millionaire”, and in the last scene the lover kisses the scars of his bride and redeems the pain.

It is only a very pale reflection of our reality, but I believe Christ will heal our deepest scars; kiss away Rwanda’s (and all nations’) wounds in his ultimate healing embrace of His Bride the Church.

“Crown Him the Lord of love; see from His hands and side,

Those wounds still visible above in beauty glorified.

No angel in the sky can fully bear that sight,

But downward bears his burning eye,

At mysteries so bright.”







What is that in your hand?


Successful ministry depends upon inner spiritual authority and depth. It is more about character than charisma. God constantly uses the events of our lives to disciple us into a deeper sense of his inner strength residing in our hearts through grace.

Authority comes through revelation not manipulation.


Moses (Photo credit: jimforest)

Exodus chapters 3 and 4 are such Biblical revelations taking us into the heart of God’s dealings with Moses in order to make him a true man of God. It all begins for Moses with a burning revelation of who God is. However the “burning wood” of the bush needs to become practical authority in the “staff” of Moses hand. Let’s look at the beginning of Exodus 4:1-9 which gives us some insight into Moses personal journey towards spiritual authority. It may well help us on our own personal trek with the Lord.

 “What if they do not believe me or listen to me…?”

 Moses begins like many of us with the fear of sharing his revelation. Many missionaries are in shut down mode because of a basic unbelief and fear that people will not respond to their message. We may do more training, conferences, set up prayer houses, and a host of other worthwhile activities, but we risk remaining on the periphery of genuine contact with our target culture. However, we will at some point have to confront the reality of speaking God’s word to other people.

 “What is that in your hand?”

Begin by accepting what is in your hand. Own your own character and history….Don’t fantasise about what you don’t have or can’t do.

 “Throw it down.”

There are seasons of abandon, of letting go and laying down our dreams and ministries before the Lord. Times of throwing down the masks and letting him take the initiative again.

 “It became a snake…”

What he feared happened! All hell sometimes breaks out! Our very “ministry” can become “hell”! Believe me this does happen. It is such a critical time. Perhaps we come face to face with our own sin and weakness, or get a revelation of the evil and danger around us. How will I react?

 “He ran from it…” 

Moses was human. He just wanted out. His knee jerk reaction was to run. When you want to run you can be sure that the Lord may have another option.

 “Reach out…and take it by the tail.” 

Moses' Rod Turned into a Serpent, illustration...

Moses’ Rod Turned into a Serpent, illustration from the 1890 Holman Bible (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Face your fears head on. Grasp the nettle of your life. Confront the issues the problems and the people. Some folks keep running from their fears forever and make a ministry of it! At some time you have to stop running and reach out in faith to conquer your fears.

Are you a runner or a “reacher out”?

 “It turned back into a staff in his hand.” 

From fear to faith. Moses overcame his fear and reached out in faith. The very fear he ran from became the authority that would open a sea! The ministry that walks by faith through hell gains the authority to speak faith into other’s hell and makes a way for many to walk into freedom.

After learning the principle of faith overcoming fear, Moses gets a lesson on grace.

The revelation of grace and personal forgiveness is a key to spiritual authority.

 “Put your hand inside your cloak.” 

Moses takes an inward journey to his heart (Mark 7:21) and finds it sinful.

“It was leprous like snow.”

The great apostle Paul came to the conclusion that he was the worst of sinners, and when we truly begin to assess the motivations of our own heart we too will be discouraged by our shortcomings. So do we remain in leprous introspection and condemnation? Or do we respond anew to the call to repentance and grace?

 “Put it back into your cloak.”

Respond to grace and plunge your hand back into humble repentance as Naaman plunged into the healing waters of the Jordan. The crimson streams of Christ’s Calvary blood can indeed make the foulest clean.

 “It was restored.”

He breaks the power of cancelled sin! The sin is washed clean but the very Satanic, condemning power behind the sin is also put out of action. (“katargeo” – Romans 6:6)

One of Jesus’ first miracles was to change water into wine.  The last lesson Moses learns here is the principle of water into blood.

 “The water you take from the river will become blood on the ground.

 Jesus’ blood soaked the ground of Jerusalem and manifested the spirit of sacrifice. The “water” of a superficial Christianity is called to become the victorious “blood” of a life laid down in sacrifice. Does our church have water or blood in its veins?

 “They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony;

They did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.”     Revelation 12:11

 So here we have three principles for growing in spiritual authority.

Overcome fear through faith.

Overcome sin through repentance and grace.

Overcome the devil through sacrifice.

Moses still had his battles. He had his own personal “Passover” in verse 25 when, before a nation could avoid destruction by putting blood on the doorposts, he had to avoid personal extermination by having blood put on his feet. When we walk in God’s purposes we need to be rigorous in personal holiness keeping faith with the covenant of grace.

May your staff be true.