Day 24: Bitter Herbs

Day 24: Bitter Herbs

That same night they are to eat the meat roasted over the fire, along with bitter herbs, and bread made without yeast. Exodus 12:8

The bread mentioned in yesterday’s reading was used to dip into a paste of ground horseradish, called maror, which means bitter. The idea was to get enough of the bitterness to cause tears to flow, and if you’ve ever had a stout horseradish sauce, you understand what I’m talking about.

There are different kinds of bitterness. Israel suffered under an imposed suffering. They faced a brutal oppression that caused agony of body, mind and spirit. Later, they would encounter a less figurative bitterness when they came to a body of water during their desert trek that was bitter and undrinkable. The bitterness of their circumstances turned into a bitterness of attitude and they began to complain against Moses (Exodus 15:22-27).

You may also recall that when Naomi returned to Bethlehem with her daughter-in-law, Ruth, she said, “Do not call me Naomi…call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter,” (Ruth 1:20). Naomi also faced difficult circumstances: famine, the death of husband and both sons, and forced return from abroad. She blamed God, and became bitter.

But bitter circumstances don’t have to lead to bitterness of heart. It’s not that we go all Pollyannaish, like everything is rosy when it isn’t. We are to be like Hezekiah, who, when faced with bitter circumstances, spread the letter before the Lord, admitted how dire the situation was, but turned in trust to God (2 Kings 19:14). Eating the bitter herb on top of the bread (which represents God to Christians) is a reminder that we do not endure this bitterness alone. He never meant us to.

• Do you know anyone you’d describe as bitter? What is it like to be around them? Has there been any time(s) in your life where you have been tempted or have succumbed to bitterness?
• What did that do to your relationship with God? To other people?
• What happened in your life to pull you out of bitterness? Or are you still there?
• Do you see why God says not to let a bitter root grow?

Lord, you have permitted bitter times in my life. Thank you that you have never once left me alone in the midst of them. Enable me to be real in the midst of such bitter circumstances without being whiny or bitter.

by Sheri Cook, Director of Special Ministries