Devotional: ‘The Root of Bitterness’


Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many.  (Heb 12:15)

Last week we began a study of the life of Joseph.  So far we have seen how his father, Jacob, loved Joseph more than he loved any of his brothers.  Jacob’s love for Joseph had both a positive and a negative effect.  It had a positive effect upon Joseph in that it gave him a sense of well and security.  It had a negative effect upon his brothers in that it make them very angry and bitter.  Over the next few days we will see how a ‘root of bitterness’can produce a ‘shoot of bitterness’ and eventually bear the ‘fruit of bitterness.’

Jacob loved Joseph more than any of his other children because Joseph had been born to him in his old age.  So one day Jacob had a special gift made for Joseph—a beautiful robe.  But his brothers hated Joseph because their father loved him more than the rest of them. They couldn’t say a kind word to him.  One night Joseph had a dream, and when he told his brothers about it, they hated him more than ever.  “Listen to this dream,” he said.  “We were out in the field, tying up bundles of grain. Suddenly my bundle stood up, and your bundles all gathered around and bowed low before mine!”  His brothers responded, “So you think you will be our king, do you?  Do you actually think you will reign over us?” And they hated him all the more because of his dreams and the way he talked about them.  Soon Joseph had another dream, and again he told his brothers about it. “Listen, I have had another dream,” he said.  “The sun, moon, and eleven stars bowed low before me!”  This time he told the dream to his father as well as to his brothers, but his father scolded him.  “What kind of dream is that?” he asked.  “Will your mother and I and your brothers actually come and bow to the ground before you?”  But while his brothers were jealous of Joseph, his father wondered what the dreams meant.  (Gen 37:3-11)

At what point Joseph’s brothers began to hate him, we’re not told; however, it seems that the older Joseph became and the more his father favored him, the more his brothers were filled with anger and bitterness.  Scripture says that it reached a point to where his brothers could not speak peaceably to him.  As if the special relationship between Joseph and Jacob was not enough, added to it was the dreams Joseph shared with them. Perhaps Joseph was completely innocent in sharing his dreams, perhaps he enjoyed tormenting his brothers.  Regardless of how Joseph felt about being seen as special, Joseph’s brothers reached a point to where they could hardly tolerate being around him.

Have you ever felt that way towards someone?  Do you feel that way now?  Hebrews 12:15 teaches us that bitterness is like a poisonous root, which when left untamed, grows and develops to the point of where it can begin to control and corrupt us.

How do we handle bitter feelings?  I found that one of the best ways to manage bitterness is open and honest prayer with God.  He already knows how we feel.  He knows how much, if any of our anger is justified.  He knows where we are the victim as well as where we ourselves are wrong.  He is able to administer revenge where revenge is due, and He is able to draw out of our system the poison of bitterness.  Joseph’s brothers allowed bitterness to overcome them and cause them to do something unbelievable.  Let’s make sure that bitterness doesn’t do the same to us.

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