January 23                                                    Today’s Reading: Exodus 15-17

Israel at Marah

Exodus 15:22-27


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 children’s 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 God’s providence, they despised God’s providence.

Do you know anyone like that? I blush to tell you I do. When these chosen, redeemed people should have remembered God’s goodness, they thought only of their troubles. When they should have looked to their merciful Deliverer, they looked only upon Marah’s bitter waters. When they should have prayed, they murmured. When they should have believed, they grumbled. — “But God, being full of compassion, forgave their iniquity, and destroyed them not...For he remembered that they were but flesh” (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 travelled 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 Christ’s 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 should 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 God’s faithfulness, 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 souls’ experience, and make every bitter thing sweet!




Don Fortner


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