“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.” (Exodus 15:23)
How many of us can relate to this? At the risk of sounding cynical and pessimistic, doesn’t it seem that so often our mountaintop Christian experiences are followed almost immediately by the valleys of trial and despair? Times of great blessing can so quickly be forgotten by times of hardship that come in their wake. The Hebrews had just finished singing their great song of praise to the Lord and were now suffering from debilitating thirst. The same tongues that had sung the sweet melody of worship were now swollen by the dry desert air, the throats that had brought forth such beautiful words of praise were now dehydrated and choking on the sands of the Wilderness of Shur.
To make matters even worse, they came to what appeared to be a life-saving oasis, the waters of Marah, only to discover them to be bitter and entirely unpotable. Like the man adrift at sea, taunted by the ocean which surrounds him, declaring in anguish, “water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink”, the Children of Israel murmured against Moses, frustrated at having found a worthless reservoir. How ironic that the same lips which had lauded the grace of God just three days prior, exalting the Lord and giving thanks that He would bring them into the inheritance that He had prepared (Ex. 15:17), were now chapped and cracking, pondering how they would even survive the next few days.
The truth is that we do not always know why God allows us to face such trying hardships, we just know that it is a reality of life, even for those who devoutly serve the Lord. Yet some of the giants of the Faith throughout history have observed that it is not on the mountaintops that we truly learn to trust God, but in the valleys. There is no reason for us to call into question the sincerity of the Hebrews as they praised God for His deliverance by the shores of the Red Sea, without a doubt, they meant every word they sang. But we see by the “shores” of Marah that the extent of their faith and the depth of their trust in God did not go perhaps as far as they imagined it did. Nevertheless, the more we learn of our own frailties and shortcomings, the more we can learn of God’s grace and strength.
“And [Moses] cried unto the LORD; and the LORD shewed him a tree, which when he had cast into the waters, the waters were made sweet: there he made for them a statute and an ordinance, and there he proved them” (Exodus 15:25)
Moses cried out to the Lord and the Lord showed him a tree. This is exactly what He shows any of us who cry out to Him in need. Our answer is found in a Tree, the Cross upon which our Lord Jesus was crucified (Acts 5:30), and it is this Tree that can make the bitter waters sweet in our own lives. Though we thirst and search for water, Christ Himself is that Living Water that quenches our spiritual thirst and satisfies us (John 7:37). And if the waters of this life be bitter, if the experiences of this world leave us parched and dry, then God will point us back to a Tree that makes the bitter waters sweet.
To God goes all glory. In service to Him,