Have you come to bitter waters?
“22 Then Moses led the people of Israel away from the Red Sea, and they moved out into the desert of Shur. They travelled in this desert for three days without finding any water. 23 When they came to the oasis of Marah, the water was too bitter to drink. So they called the place Marah (which means “bitter”).
24 Then the people complained and turned against Moses. “What are we going to drink?” they demanded. 25 So Moses cried out to the Lord for help, and the Lord showed him a piece of wood. Moses threw it into the water, and this made the water good to drink.
It was there at Marah that the Lord set before them the following decree as a standard to test their faithfulness to him. 26 He said, “If you will listen carefully to the voice of the Lord your God and do what is right in his sight, obeying his commands and keeping all his decrees, then I will not make you suffer any of the diseases I sent on the Egyptians; for I am the Lord who heals you” (Ex. 15:22-26).
Israel had just been delivered from the Egyptians who had been pursuing them to bring them back into slavery. They had seen the rushing waters of the Red Sea peeled back to let the people of Israel - men, women and children - pass across without getting wet and then they had seen the waters sweep over the Egyptian soldiers and drown them all.
Israel had experienced a great blessing from God and now they were confronted with thirst. The first water they came across was “too bitter to drink.” As we read above, Moses was instructed to throw a piece of wood into the water and the water became sweet and drinkable.
God used this incident to teach Israel to look to Him and not to the provision for He told them to keep His commands and decrees and that He would heal them of all the diseases that plagued the Egyptians.
Doesn't it seem rather odd that God makes their water drinkable and then immediately tells them that He would heal their bodies? What is the connection?
This episode is like a parable. We are not to stop after we have received a blessing or experience from God for these things are impersonal and impermanent. We are to continually trust and wait on the Lord, who is our strength (Psa. 73:26). When we trust with all our hearts, then God can really bless us.
When we are confronted by bitter waters, experiences in life that seem too hard, we are not to look at those experiences but to turn our eyes to the Lord our physician, the Lord our doctor, the Lord our healer. Just as Jesus Christ demonstrated His love for us while He was on this earth by going about doing good and healing all oppressed by the devil (Acts 10:38), we can expect the same love from Him towards us today. Jesus is the same yesterday, TODAY and forever (Heb. 13:8).
The full purpose in saving the Israelites from the Egyptians was for God to reveal Himself. 4 “You have seen what I did to the Egyptians. You know how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself” (Ex. 19:4).
God wanted the people to turn to Him with total dependence: “See, God has come to save me. I will trust in him and not be afraid. The Lord God is my strength and my song; he has given me victory” (Isa. 12:2).
These are the same words for us today. When we are being tested with bitter water, we are to turn our eyes to Jesus, not the bitter water, and believe that God will provide for us. God can easily sweeten the bitter experiences we face but it is the eternal lesson of trusting in Him that we are to learn: "The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.” Let anyone who hears this say, “Come.” Let anyone who is thirsty come. Let anyone who desires drink freely from the water of life" (Rev. 22:17).
All Bible quotes are from the NLT