One of the pictures that Exodus paints so brilliantly for us is that, just like us, Israel was on a Journey. God led Israel from place to place with different stops along the way, all on a journey to the land he had promised them.
Stop number 4 on their journey is recorded in Exodus 15. God led 3 Million Israelites 3 days through the relentless heat of the desert. On the third day they came across the springs at Marah. It must have looked like a bunch of tweens rushing to a Jonas Brothers sighting as the people moved towards this water. Expecting to find refreshment and relief they instead found the water to be bitter!
It’s an exercise in understatement to say that they were disappointed. They were angry and probably felt betrayed by Moses and God. You can imagine what they must have done. Actually you don’t have to imagine it, you can read for yourself. It says they “grumbled”. I think that’s Bible speak for they cussed Moses out.
Why would God do this? After such an excruciating period, why lead them to a place that looked like deliverance, only to find that it was anything but. It looked like they were going to be refreshed and revived and what they found was bitter.
I’ve definitely had that in my life. I’ve had business ventures that I thought were God increasing my financial situation or relationships that I felt like were the answer to all my prayers only to find them to be a Marah experience. Why is it that God does this to us on certain stops along the way in our journey?
I’m sure there are probably more, and I would love to hear your insights, but I can see a few reasons of why God would invite Israel to this place of missed expectation, to this place of bitterness and it’s helpful for me in my own life.
1. Marah acts like a spiritual X-ray. I think I’m a nice guy. In fact, I think I’m the nicest guy I know. When I go through a Marah time in my life I get to see what is really inside of me. When that job or opportunity or relationship doesn’t turn out like I expected it doesn’t MAKE me bitter, it reveals what is already inside of me. It shows me exactly what I need to be working on in my life. It gives me a real look at who I really am instead of who I think I am.
2. Marah is Gods way of reminding us that life really is full of sweetness and bitterness. Eden is the sweet place we were designed for. The world in which I live is fallen and broken. My times of Marah remind me that this world is not my home. It causes me to long for my eternal dwelling.
3. Marah has a way of squeezing out the stuff inside me. Even a cursory glance at Psalms reveals that David had no problem letting it out. It seems as if God encourages us to get it out. It’s not like He doesn’t know what I’m thinking, Marah times give me a chance to squeeze out some of that impurity. Think of it as a zit whose time has come. Marah just does the squeezing.
And so what to do when I come to a place of Marah?
Again, God paints a beautiful picture for us in Exodus. I Peter 2 and Galations 3 are two places where the cross is referred to as a tree. The tree in the Word is always a picture of the cross. Notice what God told Moses to do. He told him to take a tree that was already there, and to throw it at the water and it took away the bitterness, it made it sweet.
Jesus ended the story of the good Samaritan with the Samaritan telling the inn keeper to do whatever was necessary to take care of the victim and that He would pay for it. It’s one of a few examples including Philemon of what is called propitiation. It’s the picture of Jesus taking on himself the payment for my sins. In Matthew 6 Jesus refers to sin as a debt. It’s a bill that I cannot afford, it’s payable in a currency I do not have. The wages of sin is death, and Jesus cashed the check.
When I encounter a situation where someone has wronged me, has sinned against me, has let me down, I have the opportunity to carry that bitterness with me. When I consider what Jesus did though which was not only paying the price for my sin, but also the price for the sins committed against me, it reminds me that Jesus took care of it already. Fear tells me that I have to own it, to take care of it, Faith says to trust that God worked it out. I throw “the tree” at the bitterness. I let it make it sweet again.
I’m not making light, and know that there are things that can happen that have legitimately bring hurt and bring pain. Those are debts that demand to be paid. We can punish someone, and if the wrong rises to a certain level often times society punishes with something like prison. But we can’t make them repay. The tooth pastes it out of the tube, and we can’t put it back. This is a problem beyond my means, and requires a solution that only God can bring.
Harboring and holding on to the bitterness brings one more weight for us to carry. It’s a burden that weighs me down on the journey. If it seems like it’s something you can’t let go of, something that is too big, I’ve got comforting news, we don’t’ have to do it on our own. The Lord will do it through us. He knows what bitterness can do to us, and gives us a way of escape. Oftentimes it’s not an overnight experience, but Elim is not far away.
What is Elim? The next stop on the journey for Israel. It was a perfectly divine desert oasis with shade trees to bring coolness and water to bring refreshment. It was what Marah only appeared to be.
We’ll talk about that this week at Conduit. You’ve probably had one of those Elim experiences after church camp or going on a mission trip, or just having a great time in church. We’ve seen God take Israel on a journey of victory, of gaining ground and losing ground, of bitterness, and now of refreshment. This week it’s Elim and a the promise of refreshment in a desert place.
If you can join us live we’ll meet at Journey Church in Building 8 at the Factory at 7:30pm. We’ll also be live on the web at http://www.mogulus.com/conduit
Hope you can join us.
Prayerfully consider being a part of what Conduit is doing. We are a pipeline for resources both spiritual and natural from a place of plenty to a place in need. The efforts of Conduit are fulfilling the commands of Jesus to feed, clothe and serve those who are in need. Just a $15 donation will feed a child in Haiti for a month. You can donate online at http://www.conduitmission.org or mail your donation to
256 Seaboard Lane
Franklin, TN 37067
Remember that over 96% of the money that comes in goes right through to our partners on the front lines.