Israel at Marah
After God had so graciously delivered the children of Israel across the Red Sea, miraculously opening a path for them in the sea and then drowning Pharaoh and the armies of Egypt in the depths of the sea, he brought Israel into the wilderness of Shur. There, for three days, they wandered without water. The scorching sun beat down upon them. The desert sands scalded their feet. Their cattle were perishing. Their childrenís tongues were swollen. Their lips were parched. They had roamed for three days in the barren wilderness without water.
Then, at last, they came to the plentiful fountains of Marah. When they saw the waters of Marah, how their hearts must have rejoiced in hope and expectation. They could almost taste the water. They could almost feel the cool, refreshing water in their mouths. But when they got there, the waters were so bitter that they could not drink them! Can you imagine the frustration and disappointment these men and women must have felt?
Immediately, they turned upon Moses, and began to murmur and complain. Actually, they turned upon the Lord God who had brought them to this place! Though the Lord had led them by the fiery and cloudy pillar, though he was with them, though he had miraculously and graciously delivered them from the bondage of Egypt and promised to do them good, they could not see him! All they could see, all they could think about were the bitter waters before them and the thirst within them. Because they saw nothing good in Godís providence, they despised Godís providence.
Do you know anyone like that? I blush to tell you I do. When these chosen, redeemed people should have remembered Godís goodness, they thought only of their troubles. When they should have looked to their merciful Deliverer, they looked only upon Marahís bitter waters. When they should have prayed, they murmured. When they should have believed, they grumbled. — ďBut God, being full of compassion, forgave their iniquity, and destroyed them not...For he remembered that they were but fleshĒ (Psalm 78:38-39).
They had just before sung the song of salvation on the borders of the Red Sea. They had that great sight fresh in their minds. They had been redeemed and all their enemies were swallowed up in the sea. They were now on the march toward the Promised Land. Three days they had traveled into the wilderness, and found no water. When they came to Marah, though water was there in abundance, it was bitter and they could not drink it. They murmured against Moses; and Moses cried unto the Lord. When he did, the Lord showed him a tree, which when cast into the waters made them sweet.
Let every ransomed soul personally apply these things to himself. The Lord my God has brought me out of spiritual Egypt. He has led me through a new and living way, through the red sea of Christís blood. He has put a new song in my heart, the Song of Moses and the Lamb. He has made himself my Strength, my Salvation and my redemption.
Yet, as he brought Israel through the wilderness of Shur, so he is bringing you and me through the wilderness. And in this wilderness we ought to expect such experiences as one is likely to find in a wilderness. This is not the Land of Promise. This is the wilderness! Though we often do, we ought never call into question the wisdom and goodness of our God for leading us through the wilderness. Though we blush to acknowledge that we do, we should never question our Godís faithfulness, because he has placed a worm in that luscious apple we have been keeping back for ourselves. We should never doubt our Fatherís mercy, love and grace because he sends us some bitter thing, by which he has purposed to sweeten our souls and to sweeten himself to our souls!
O Lord God, as often as you bring us to the waters of Marah, show us the tree you showed Moses that day, Jesus Christ our crucified Savior, cast him into our soulsí experience, and make every bitter thing sweet!
Remember, it was God who brought Israel to Marah. He brought them here to teach them and to make himself known to them. And he did it to teach us and make himself known to us. — ďAll these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonitionĒ (I Cor. 10:11). In his wise and adorable providence, the Lord Jesus, the God of Israel, brought the children of Israel to the bitter waters of Marah, so that he might make himself known to them as Jehovah-Rapha — ďThe Lord that Healeth Thee.Ē
God seldom does things the way we expect him to. He does not deal with us according to our wishes, but according to his own infinite wisdom. He does not act according to our pleasure, but according to his own purpose. His ways are not our ways; and his thoughts are not our thoughts. Who would ever have imagined that God, who had given Egypt for the ransom of these Israelites, would then lead them into the wilderness of Shur? Who would have thought that God, who divided the Red Sea, would send his chosen ones three days into the desert without water?
They looked for a Promised Land of milk and honey. But they found Marah! We might have expected that Almighty God would cause water to gush out of the ground as soon as his people began to thirst, as he later caused it to gust out of the Rock; but it did not. God was determined, in great love and mercy, to prove his children. And to prove them, they must be tried. He was determined to make himself known as Jehovah-Rapha, ďThe Lord that healeth thee.Ē But in order for him to be known as the Lord that heals, his beloved people had to be brought down to the place that they needed to be healed.
Do you see the parallel? We are not in a dress parade. We are pilgrims in this world, marching through this bleak and barren wilderness to our land of promised rest. And ours is a stern march over rough ground, which flesh and blood would never choose. All along the way, God is proving us, teaching us and preparing us for our promised rest. Whenever we come into bitter waters, let us do as Moses did: — Let us cry unto the Lord and cast the cross of Christ into the bitter stream. Then, the bitter thing shall be made sweet to our souls.
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