..."Then shall the man bring his wife unto the priest . . . And the priest shall bring her near and set her before the Lord: And the priest shall take holy water in an earthen vessel and of the dust that is in the floor of the tabernacle the priest shall take, and put it into the water: . . . And he shall cause the woman to drink the bitter water... (See Num.5:14-24)
YAHWEH came down and dwelt amongst them in human guise. So far was their heart from Him that they did not even recognize Him. So cold were their hard hearts that they distrusted Him. Far from seeing their hearts' desire in Him, they went elsewhere to gather the blessings He would have her enjoy only as His bounty. This it was that stirred the fire of jealousy.
"He that believeth on Me," said He, "out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water" (John 7:38). The precious outflowing spirit was His gift to all who received His word. But alas! of those who heard how few believed! So He went to the mount of Olives only to return at early dawn and teach in the temple. Then came the Scribes and Pharisees, in all their unbelieving pride and haughty arrogance. They could not disperse the spirit that He gave with all its precious refreshment. Filled with hatred and envy and variance, they hasten their own judgment by bringing before Him a woman whose guilt was open and discovered in the sight of all. They bring her to Him hoping to prove that His gracious blessing was contrary to the law of Yahweh - which they called Moses' law. And then the Lord, conscious of the true and inner state of those He dealt with and His own divinity proceeds with an action which was most significant. He stoops and writes in the earth with his fingers, yet answers not a word.
But let us ask, what is the condition of the nation at this time? Were they not blind to their own guilt? Did they not deny it? So the Lord, in His great jealousy, deals with them here as He taught them by His servant Moses in the law. He causes them to drink the bitter water of jealousy and so discover to their own selves that in the sight of God - in Whose presence they now stood - their guilt far exceeded that of this woman. By their denial of their departure from Him, and His jealousy for them they made necessary the ordinance He gave to them of old.
As there the priest mingled the cursed earth from the presence of God with living water, so He, too, stoops and, interrupting the living stream which had been flowing from Him, mingles His words - the words of God - with the cursed earth. Sin is not only blind but mad. And so they urge Him. Shall not the law be fulfilled? Since they insist He deals it to them. Again He stoops and writes. But they will not understand and so He gives into their hands the bitter water, "Let him that is without sin amongst you cast the first stone." How it causes their belly to swell and their thigh to rot! The pains of an accusing conscience drove them away condemned. But the woman, confessedly guilty in the natural sphere, receives His blessed word in its purity. Not the bitter water, but the unmingled stream of grace and love. "Neither do I condemn, thee - go, and sin no more." Her accusers are condemned, but she, though guilty, is at once forgiven.
Again and again he likens them to a wicked and adulterous generation (Matt.12:39; 16:4; Mark 8:38). Not only wicked, but guilty of that crime which only those in the marriage bond may commit (Rom.7:3). Indeed, to Him it meant far more to lose her love than to witness their wickedness.
The woman who drank the bitter water of jealousy and was guilty became a curse among her people. So now Judah finds herself a curse and a byword among the nations.