Summary: God often brings His children into a place of bitterness in order to discipline and teach them.
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Pastor James May
Facing the Waters of Marah
Exodus 15:22-27, "So Moses brought Israel from the Red sea, and they went out into the wilderness of Shur; and they went three days in the wilderness, and found no water. And when they came to Marah, they could not drink of the waters of Marah, for they were bitter: therefore the name of it was called Marah. And the people murmured against Moses, saying, what shall we drink? And he cried unto the LORD; and the LORD shewed him a tree, which when he had cast into the waters, the waters were made sweet: there he made for them a statute and an ordinance, and there he proved them, And said, If thou wilt diligently hearken to the voice of the LORD thy God, and wilt do that which is right in his sight, and wilt give ear to his commandments, and keep all his statutes, I will put none of these diseases upon thee, which I have brought upon the Egyptians: for I am the LORD that healeth thee. And they came to Elim, where were twelve wells of water, and threescore and ten palm trees: and they encamped there by the waters."
The newly liberated nation of Israel was on its way from Egypt to the Promised Land of Canaan but it was proving to be a difficult journey.
The trouble was that the people, although chosen by Jehovah to be his people, were far from perfection. Redeemed, yes, but righteous, no! If we’re honest with ourselves, we might very well come to the conclusion that we share many of their characteristics. It could be profitable to look carefully at this little incident at Marah to see if it can help us on our spiritual pilgrimage to our Promised Land.
The young nation of Israel began their journey in great spirits. Their archenemy, Pharaoh, was defeated, and his army was drowned in the Red Sea. The Israelites sang a song of triumph to the Lord praising him for his great act of deliverance: "Your right hand, O lord, was majestic in power. Your right hand, O Lord, shattered the enemy" "In your unfailing love you will lead the people you have redeemed. In your strength you will guide them to your holy nation".
What they sang was true - God did love them; he would guide them, but their spiritual condition wasn’t right for a quick transition from slavery to Freedom.
I believe this little episode is recorded in Scripture to tell us, first of all:
THE REASON WHY WE FACE PROBLEMS
We see Israel move quickly from the celebration of triumph to the bitterness of dis-appointment. "Then" we read "Moses led Israel from the Red Sea ... they traveled in the desert without finding water."
No one could survive long without water in that hot climate, especially in a desert. What was God doing to them, they thought? Had he suddenly abandoned them, so soon after releasing them from slavery? Why, O why?
This was part of God’s plan to put his chosen people to the test. One of God’s rules for the spiritual life is that testing comes before resting! God has never promised that his people will pass into victory via a rose-strewn path.
C S Lewis says that if God puts us through the wringer - it’s his business, but he always does so for a good reason.
Only three days journey from the point where they had crossed the Red Sea, the people encountered their first difficulty of a water shortage. We can imagine their relief when in the distance they spotted an oasis or a well and their hopes rose high as they hurried to this potential life-giving water. They plunged their faces in the water to quench their thirst, but to their great disappointment, it wasn’t to their liking. They found that the water supply had a bitter, but not poisonous, taste. This wasn’t at all uncommon in the desert.