Saturday, February 2, 2013

The Root of Bitterness

"Let ALL bitterness (having a harsh, disagreeably acrid taste such as wormwood) and wrath (fierce anger), and anger (a strong feeling of displeasure), and clamor (a vehement expression of dissatisfaction), and slander (defamation) be put away from you along with all malice (desire to inflict injury or harm out a deep-seated meanness)." Ephesians 4:31 ESV (emphasis mine)

Whoa. What does all of that mean? I'm sure you are asking yourself that question as I did. I just spent the last few hours pondering this verse because it stuck out to me during Bible study today. So without further ado, here is the best explanation of the verse along with my commentary for your reading pleasure. Laughing.

Oh but wait....before that can I just say that I love my English Standard Version (ESV) Bible? It has helped bridge the gap for me in my Bible exploration. I am fond of the study notes and you will see a lot of them here.

Here are the "ESV Notes" regarding Ephesians 4:31.

"Bitterness may head the list because it so often leads to the other sins that Paul (who wrote Ephesians) names. Bitterness comes from a heart that is not right before God; (Acts 8:21); it is a primary characteristic of an unregenerate (not renewed in heart and mind or reborn in spirit; unrepentant; refusing to believe in the existence of God); Romans 3:10-14); and it causes destruction and defilement; Hebrews 12:15. Bitterness and resentment are thus incompatible with Christian character and must be put away. People often are very careless with the speech ("slander"), even though the tongue can ignite a forest fire of harm to others. (James 3:5-6)"

My desire is that my heart would be right before God. I want to please Him. I want to display the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. I have to constantly check my affections and motives to make sure they line up with the Word of God. I certainly don't want to bring shame to His Name. He has been so good to me and given me second, third, fourth chances to make it right. His grace fails not. I love Him and want to honor Him with my life.  Barnes' Notes on the Bible says, "Your heart= your affections or governing motives, your principle of conduct. Is your heart right with God?" Lord, let my principle of conduct be pleasing to you.

"Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God. Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many." Hebrews 12:15 NLT

When I "entertain" bitterness it doesn't just affect me...according to Scripture, it corrupts many. That is something to think about at length. Maybe you think your bitterness isn't "hurting anyone else" but the Bible is clear-it is. Bitterness is a root. It doesn't really leave if you just pluck the top layer out of your heart. It's like those nasty garden weeds. They keep coming back for more and in larger amounts each time until they have been uprooted completely.

ESV Notes:
"Christians should watch out for each other, in order that no one falls short of the gift of eternal salvation. The author warns against "bitterness" by alluding to Deuteronomy 29:18, which describes one who turns away from God and pursues other gods. A bitter and resentful person is like a contagious poison, spreading his resentment to others."

Why is it that when people we know are contagious with a cold, chicken pox, the flu, all manner of illness, we stay away (as we should) yet when we have our resentment and bitterness we want to share it with everyone. Misery loves company? Or does it? I don't want to spread around a contagious poison but I have and do still at times. Lord, I'm sorry.  I have to remind myself of my life phrase when I want to resort to saying what I wanna say because I can say what I want.  WORDS OF LIFE.  When I write my first book, that will be the title! :) Am I speaking words of life when I am spreading around my contagious poison? No. Words are so powerful and they matter. We need to speak words of life so that we can live. Oh how I want to live.

"Beware lest there be among you a man or woman or clan or tribe whose heart is turning away today from the LORD our God to go and serve the gods of those nations. Beware lest there be among you a root bearing poisonous and bitter fruit." Deuteronomy 29:18 ESV (emphasis mine)

I am not a fan of bitter fruit. Bitter apples are nasty and so is that nail polish you can buy for when you want to stop biting your nails. Barf! You know what I love? I love that God takes the bitter places in my life and He makes them sweet. It makes me want to celebrate the goodness of God all the more.

"The word here is rendered "gall" (bitterness of spirit) translated 'hemlock". It is the name of a plant of intense bitterness, and of quick growth; and is therefore repeatedly used in conjunction with "wormwood (a bitter plant-absinthium) to express figuratively the nature and effects of sin. It is used to denote metaphorically the distress and trouble which result from sin." (Barnes' Notes on the Bible)

Intense bitterness and quick growth can be found in the plant that has the word sin in it. Wow! So intense bitterness and quick growth go hand in hand. In my mind I see a picture of weeds choking the life out of the beautiful flowers and plants that grow in my flower beds in the spring and summer. Intense. Not Mild. Quick. Not slow.  Such powerful, descriptive words used to describe the nature and effects of sin. Sin is no laughing matter. The effects of sin are long lasting especially to the unregenerate heart.

"The sinner is described as one whose heart turns away from his God; there the mischief begins, in the evil heart of unbelief, which inclines men to depart from the living God to dead idols. Even to this sin men are now tempted, when drawn aside by their own lusts and fancies. Such men are roots that bear gall and wormwood. They are weeds which, if let alone, overspread the whole field. Satan may for a time disguise this bitter morsel, so that thou shalt not have the natural taste of it, but at the last day, if not before, the true taste shall be discerned." (Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary)

Gall and wormwood. My Lord was offered gall and vinegar to drink when His precious body was beaten beyond recognition on the cross. Gall is a root of bitterness. Gall and wormwood are the fruit of idolatry. Ouch.

Lord, may the words of my mouth and the thoughts of my heart be pleasing in Your sight oh Lord, my Rock and my Defender. If there be any root of bitterness left in me, please in Your Might, uproot that in me. You know I desire to be whole in You; complete, lacking nothing that I might be used to represent You and to do it well. May I speak words of life everyday of my life. Amen. 

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