Exodus 15:23-25a. 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 showed him a tree, which when he had
cast into the waters, the waters were made sweet. . . .
Every Christian in his spiritual walk experiences high and low
1. The scene drawn for us here is that of Israel's triumph
and resulting depression.
2. There is much joy and victory at the Red Sea. Now
they go on.
3. The daily routines of life threaten to be like a wilderness-
trudging without finding water. Our thirst increases, we
4. Imagine the joy among the Israelites to see water
in the wilderness as their longing for it increases.
5. Theme: Early Disappointments.
I. The Bitter Water
II. The Purpose of the Bitter Water
III. The Bitter Water Sweetened
I. THE BITTER WATER. "And when they came to Marah,
they could not drink of the waters of Marah for they were
bitter: . .
A. Israel's tremendous disappointment.
1. After the lack of water there was great rejoicing
when this oasis came into view.
2. The water is bitter. It cannot be used.
3. There are the bitternesses of sickness, pain, and suffering.
Paul himself spoke of a "thorn in the flesh" (II Corinthians
B. The bitter waters of Christian experience.
1. Having given ourselves in complete surrender to God
we sometimes feel that all of life will now be pleasant and happy.
2. There is physical disappointment. Read Matthew
633. Must we then expect business failures, loss of property,
3. There is bitterness of death.
4. There is the bitterness of a lack of spiritual vitality;
recurrent sin; shortness of vision.
II. THE PURPOSE OF THE BITTER WATER.
A. Why is Israel tested in this way?
1. What can possibly be the purpose of God?
2. Israel has tasted the greatness and power of God and
now experiences this problem.
3. God desires Israel to learn obedience and dependence.
B. Why does God test us?
1. This has always been a difficult problem: Why do
the righteous suffer? It is the problem of the entire Book of Job.
See Job 1:22. It is also the problem of the Psalmist in Psalm
2. Some have suggested that the answer to the problem
is in a "limited God." This is the idea that God himself is stuck
with the problem. God cannot prevent sickness, ill-fortune and
death. He has purposely limited his own sovereignty so that he
cannot solve the problem. Such an idea is far from helpful.
3. We must not forget the implications of sin. Why
did God do this? Perhaps it is the sinner. Not always specific
suffering for specific sin. Nevertheless sin brings disaster.
4. God tests those he loves and His testing is for our
salvation. Hebrews 12:6, 11.
5. Testing strengthens the faith; teaches obedience and
III. THE BITTER WATER SWEETENED. ". .. and the Lord
showed him a tree, which when he had cast into the waters,
the waters were made sweet . . . "
A. Moses casts in the tree.
1. The natural explanation of this miracle is relatively
2. Either this was a direct act and the tree symbolic or
the tree had medicinal qualities that changed the water.
3. Israel learned again the constant presence and power
B. God brings us safely through.
1. It is through tribulation to glory. He teaches us
obedience and submission.
2. Note Paul's solution in II Corinthians 12:9-10.
3. Every problem is seen in a "heavenly perspective."
4. Thus God increases our faith. Romans 5:4.
5. God does not necessarily take the burden away. He
helps us to bear it and understand it.
As we travel on we must experience these watering places.
May God help us to trust and overcome.
I asked the Lord that I might grow
In faith, and love, and every grace;
Might more of His salvation know,
And seek more earnestly His face.
'Twas He who taught me thus to pray;
And He, I trust, has answered prayer;
But it has been in such a way
As almost drove me to despair.
I hoped that in some favored hour
At once He'd answer my request,
And by His love's constraining power
Subdue my sins and give me rest.
Instead of this, He made me feel
The hidden evils of my heart,
And let the angry powers of hell
Assault my soul in every part.
Yea, more—with His own hand He seemed
Intent to aggravate my woe;
Crossed all the fair designs I schemed,
Blasted my hopes, and laid me low.
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