Marah, the habitat of bitterness. It’s another place Israel chose to dwell because they were mad at God. Things hadn’t worked out exactly as they planned. They had just left Egypt because the enemy was chasing them but they really didn’t want to go. God provided a way for them to escape through the Red Sea. They witnessed a miracle where water actually stood up on each side of them like a wall, making a dry path through to the other side. Yes, that’s right…dry. No mud. Not only did they cross safely without mud-caked sandals, they saw their enemies drowned when the last of God’s people put their feet on the other side. Then God caused the sea to take its rightful place again…with the enemy who had been chasing them buried in their watery grave. Interesting that the Egyptians’ wheels got stuck in muck when they started their chase through the sea path. But Israel was safe. All of this at the hand of God.
Ever think about the hand of God? No matter what man does, God overrules. Who else could have made a path through the sea! Who else could have caused the waters to recede at just the right moment. Who else could have made the path dry for His people but downright muddy for the enemy! God was Israel’s Protector and Provider. He guided them with a puffy white cloud overhead in the day and with a fireball at night. He protected them from all danger, while providing food along the way. But something happened that made them forget all of that…a new trial. Funny, it involved water again…of a different kind.
Now they needed a drink of it. They had spent three thirsty days traveling without a trace of water. You would think they would have remembered what God had just done with water, but Israel’s biggest downfall was their memory. Here they were, faces still dampened from the memory of walking through a maze of sea walls. They had just witnessed the greatest miracle on earth, yet they forgot to recall what God had done with water. They were getting a little testy. Thirst will do that. They complained to Moses. They complained to God. How pleased God could have been had they just thanked Him for past victories and trusted Him for future provision.
What did God do? With infinite patience and wisdom, God provided some water at at a place called Marah. Can’t you just see them hurrying to be the first to get a refreshing drink, cupping their hands to satisfy the most basic need of life. But something was terribly wrong. There was the sound of gasping and gagging…then spitting. The water was bitter. They couldn’t drink it. I remember not being able to drink the water at a campground once. It smelled and tasted like rotten eggs. I was gagging and spitting, too. I sympathize a bit with these people.
Do you ever wonder why God tested them like that? Why would God tease them with provision only to make it impossible to receive? Was this a test? Would they choose to remember their God and His power and provision? Would those memories build their faith in the face of new obstacles? Would they trust Him? How pleased God would have been if they had chosen the place of belief and trust. Instead, they murmured.
God’s Word warns about complaining. It ushers in sickness and even death into our souls. God presented several natural pictures of this spiritual principle. There was a time God punished the sister of Moses with leprosy because she grumbled about her brother’s elite position of leadership. God also punished Israel with death when they complained about fighting the giants in the promised land. Their bitterness got them in big trouble. We better be careful of what we say when times are tough. Our bitterness over injustice or pain will never lead us to the promises of God. As hard as it is to grab hold of this truth and live it out, injustice and pain are opportunities to remember what God has done, thank Him for it, and trust Him with our present circumstances and their future outcome.
Israel looked at its circumstances, those temporary things of life, rather than at the eternal God who was the great I AM. He was able to do anything and everything for them, but they chose to live in the bitterness of a new trial. If only they had focused on the character of God! There is no greater testimony God’s people can give than when they worship God through hardship. When we remember and choose to believe with everything in us that He is for us and works all things out for our good and His glory, it unleashes joy, hope and peace in the midst of even the greatest of sufferings. We begin to see past our circumstances and what seems like the fickle hand of God through the heart and mind of God. We begin to understand God’s ways.
Psalm 103 tells us that God revealed His ways to Moses but only His deedsto Israel. We can be like Israel. When times are good, we like God and give him credit for those good things. We love Him and sometimes even think to praise Him. But when times are difficult, our circumstances get in the way of seeing what God is up to. Faith flees in the face of turmoil. We set up camp in Marah. We dwell in bitterness. Psalm 25:10 says, “All the ways of the Lord are loving and faithful for those who keep the demands of His covenant.” Do we really believe that? Israel’s eyes were fixed on their circumstances and they were consumed with their own comfort. But Moses saw things differently. He fixed his eyes on the character of God. He was consumed with knowing God’s ways. With what are we consumed?
Do you know God by His deeds or by His ways? Do you look at Him only through the eyes of your circumstances, or are you familiar with His character and attributes? Do you understand He sees far beyond today or tomorrow and wants to work something out in your heart that will allow you to see His heart in order to inspire worship in your heart? Let’s pray for a fresh revelation of God’s ways so we will come out of our lands of bitterness to lands of hope in Who He is. Those who trust in the Lord will never be ashamed. Those who hope in the Lord will never be disappointed. Are you ashamed or disappointed with life today? Choose to put an end to that bitterness in your soul. Don’t forget what God has done for you in the past. Come out of Marah to new found places of trust and hope. You won’t be disappointed…He promised!