December 16, 2018
Here we are studying through Exodus. At this point now, Israel has been set free from their slavery, their oppression of Egypt. They've gone out into the desert; the plagues have all come to an end. God is leading them. It says, "By a pillar of cloud by day, pillar of fire by night." Interesting also, as we were looking at it last week, He did not lead them directly into the area of the Philistines, which is a doorway into the Holy Land, even though it was a direct route, and in fact, there was a highway leading to it, maybe 120 miles.
He said, no, it did not lead in this way because they would immediately encounter war and they would be discouraged and return. Instead, God led them around by the way of the wilderness to deceive. Now, the Egyptian see this, and they think that the Israelites are wandering aimlessly through the desert. They have a change of heart about letting them go. They get the Egyptian army ready and pursue them to either destroy them or return them.
They think Israel is trapped, but as we saw last week, one of the greatest miracles of the Old Testament, God parted the sea, they went across on dry land. The Egyptian army followed, only to be destroyed when the waters returned over them. That brings us the chapter 15, which happens three days later. God led Israel three days journey beyond the sea into the wilderness, and they're distressed because there is no water. They come to a place called Marah, it's called Mara, later given that name, it means bitterness.
They come to this place called Marah and there, in fact, is water, but it's brackish. It's bitter. It's salty. Here, Israel learns a great spiritual lesson, and there are many lessons for us in this. Now they're traveling through the desert and they're faced with this question, "How are we going to live? What are we going to drink? What are we going to eat?" For them, it's going to become a question of faith. See, the problem is this, when they got to Marah, and they're thirsty, and yet the water is brackish, it's salty, it's bitter, they respond to it by grumbling.
I. Don’t Let Bitter Things Make You Bitter
See, how you respond when you encounter bitter things, has everything to do with your faith. This is going to become a great lesson for Israel. Let's read the account of it. We're going to begin in verse 22, and just read a few verses and then look to see how God would apply it. "Then Moses led Israel from the Red Sea and they went out into the wilderness of sure and they went three days into the wilderness and they found no water. When they came to Marah, they could not drink the waters of Mara for they were bitter. Therefore, it was named Mara, which means bitter.
The people grumbled at Moses, and they said, "What shall we drink?" In other words, they're not asking the question like, "What are we going to drink?" No, they're saying it like an accusation. Like, "What are we going to drink?" Like they're grumbling, and angry. Moses cried out to the Lord, and the Lord showed him a tree, and he threw the tree into the waters and the waters became sweet.
Now, there's not this chemical reaction that the tree has with the water. No, this was what God was doing. He was using this as a picture and illustration of his power to heal the bitterness of the water. Then it says something interesting, it says, "There He made for them a statute and a regulation, and there He tested them. He said this, "If you will give earnest heed to the voice of the Lord your God, if you will do what is right in His sight, if you will give ear to His commandments, and keep all of His statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you, which I have put on the Egyptians, for I the LORD I'm your healer."
Here, He gives one of the names of God. One of the foundational understandings of who God is, is found in his name. This is a famous one, "I am Jehovah Rapha, I am the God who heals you." Then verse 27, I love verse 27, because He says, "Then they came to Aleem where there were 12 springs of water and 70 date palms and they camped there beside the waters." How refreshing is that? God wanted them to come to a place of refreshing, but He wanted them to see what was in their heart, He brought them to Marah.
This is a very important thing because there are great lessons for all of us, beginning with this one. Don't let bitter things make you bitter. Israel is just beginning a 40-year journey, and they must learn to trust God along the way. Bitter things are going to happen in life. All of us are going to experience bitter things. We live in a dark world, we live in a world of evil, it's broken. We all, if you have not experienced it, you will, there are bitter things that happen in life.
The Israelites crossed the sea, and it's very interesting because when God parted the sea and brought Israel through and then closed it back over the Egyptians, He did several things. One, He demonstrated His power to strengthen their faith. Two, He destroyed the Egyptian army, but three, it became like a burning the ships kind of a moment. You know what I mean by this? They're not going back; the scene has closed them in. It's like when a conqueror goes to some foreign land and then he has all the soldiers watch as he burns the ships, like, "You're not going back. It's a victory or nothing."
The same idea, "You're not going back. You must move forward." That means they can't go back for provisions, they got to trust God along the way. There they were in the desert and they're thirsty. They see water up ahead, everyone's hopes are lifted. That is until they drink the water, found it bitter, and they respond by grumbling. “What shall we drink?” They're complaining. They become bitter. Don't let bitterness or bitter things make you bitter. One of the great lessons of this is in the book of Ruth.
In the book of Ruth, we see a powerful picture. Here is Naomi and her husband are living in Israel and times were hard, times were very, very hard. They decided to move over across the Jordan to the area of Moab, and things continued to get bad. There they move with their sons; their sons' names were Mahlon and Chilion. The reason why those names are important is because of what they mean. Can you imagine this? Their son Mahlon, his name means sickly, and Chilion's name means wasting away.
How bad do things have to get before you name your son sickly and wasting away? Then to no one's surprise, they die, and her husband dies, and she says, "I'm going back." Then of course we know part of the story that's beautiful, is that Ruth, who was married to her son, Mahlon, says, "I'm going with you. Your people will be my people, your God will be my God, and she goes back. The other daughter-in-law married to Chilion does not meet her, and her name is Opah. By the way Oprah, the modern Oprah, her name actually, she was named after Opah. Her birth certificate says Opah, but people couldn't say it. Side note completely.
Naomi comes back to Israel, and they see her coming, and they say, "Is that Naomi?" In other words, she looks like she's been beat up and withered and troubled. "Is that Naomi?" She says, "Don't call me Naomi, call me Marah," It means bitterness. "Don't call me Naomi, call me Marah, for God has dealt bitterly with me." See what happened? She has become bitter. Bitter things have made her bitter.
Now, the thing is, God wasn't finish with her story, and God isn't finished with your story either. Don't let bitter things make you bitter.
A. God teaches faith along the way
Because here's what we see out of the story, God teaches faith along the way. God is teaching faith. Israelites have lived as slaves for hundreds of years. They didn't know how to live as free, and they certainly didn't know how to live by faith. They needed to understand, they needed a new way of live. It says, God gave them a statue. God gave them a principle of wisdom." They must learn to trust. God's ways' right. His principles, His wisdom, His word, it's right.
Got to learn a new way of living, new way of thinking. God does the same for us. God gives us wisdom. God gives us principles of His word, and He wants us to trust. His way is better. His way is good. His way is right. His way is the way of blessing.
See, when we came out of the world to come to faith, we came out of all of the experiences of the world, and the world has its own set of principles. Many people live by the principles of the world. God wants to show us, "No, there's a different way. I don't want you living by the principles of who you were, I want you to live by these principles, this wisdom is better," God's way is better. See, in the world, they have principles and they have a statute, you might say, to go along with that.
In other words, if somebody speaks meanly to you, you're going to speak mean right back. If someone treats you harshly, you're going to treat harshly right back. If someone cusses at you, you can cuss right back. There's a principle for that. Turnabout is fair play. It's only fair. You see, there's a way of even looking at it, the principles of the world are right there.
God says, "No, that's not how I want you to live. I have different principles than that. Pray for those who persecute you, forgive those who trespass against you. You're in the Kingdom of God now, there's a whole different set of principles that work now, different way of living. Turn the other cheek, be gracious, forgive."
See, God wasn't just taking them out of Egypt and then bringing them to another place, he's bringing them to a relationship, he's teaching them faith along the way, and the same is true with us. He's not just bringing us somewhere, he's changing us, he's changing us. The wilderness becomes a school of discipleship, and we're on a journey, and it's a school of discipleship.
I love Psalm 25 because it gives us this picture, and it's really powerful verses 8 to 13, He writes, "The Lord instructs sinners in the way." I just love that because it's so straightforwardly spoken. We can see what He means, the Lord instructs sinners in the way. He leads the humble injustice, and He teaches them His way.
He says all the paths of the Lord are loving-kindness and truth. Who is the man who fears the Lord? He will instruct him in the way he should choose, and his soul will abide in prosperity. The blessings of the Lord will follow when you live by the principles and the wisdom of God. God did not bring them to Marah to punish them or make life difficult, He led them to Marah to show them what was in their heart.
B. Salty water makes you more thirsty
There's a very interesting lesson that comes from this bitter water, this salty water, interesting lesson. Salty water actually makes you more thirsty. They're three days in the wilderness beyond the sea. Someone sees water. You can imagine them clamoring to rush to get the first drink. Then they spit it out, it's bitter.
There's a reason you don't drink salty water, it will make you sick. Instead of quenching your thirst, it actually makes you more dehydrated. Now, in case you're interested in the science of the thing, the reason for that is that when you drink salty water, your body has to take good water out of the rest of your body to purge it, to dilute it, to get rid of it, so you actually end up more dehydrated than when you started.
If someone is lost at sea, and there's no fresh water, their thirst drives them, their thirst tempts them to drink salty water, but drinking salty water will eventually kill a person. The more you drink, the more dehydrated you get. It becomes a tremendous picture of worldliness because there are many things in this world that people think will satisfy, but actually, have the opposite effect.
The world will leave your soul more empty, and more unsatisfied, and even more thirsty. Because what happens is that people are looking for love, if I can quote the famous American philosopher, Waylon Jennings, they're looking for love in all the wrong places. The question is, why are they looking for love, why are they looking for love. Because there's a part of us that longs for love. God made us as people to love. We need love, we need relationship. They're hungry, they're thirsty, they're longing, and they start looking for love in all the wrong places.
What happens is that it makes them worse off than when they started. It actually makes them more dehydrated, that water doesn't satisfy, that thirsty water. It's like a woman that my wife and I know who went from man to man to man looking for the perfect soulmate. She was married like six or seven times. Each time she met a new man, it seemed like he could do nothing wrong, he was like a knight in shining armor. Then a few months later, he could do nothing right. Salty water, it doesn't satisfy, looking for love in all the wrong places.
It's like the Samaritan woman that Jesus met at the well. At one point Jesus says to her, "Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I give, living water, will never thirst." She says, "Sir, give me this living water." Now, His answer is very interesting, to me. She says, "Sir, give me this living water." He answers by saying, "Go get your husband and come back." She says, "Sir, I have no husband." He answers, "You have said rightly that you have no husband, for in fact you've had five husbands and the man you have now is not your husband."
She says, "Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet." He then begins to explain that He is the one sent by God as the Messiah, He is that living water, and He who receives that living water, it will spring up in Him like a well. You can worship God in Spirit and in truth. See, if you drink of that bitter water, if you drink of that salty water, it's bitter for a reason, so that you long for that which is sweet. It's like the story of the prodigal son.
In Luke 15, he receives his inheritance early, and so he spent it all in worldly living. He goes to the city, all the parties, the women, all the stuff that the world has to offer, and he spends it all. Then a famine hits the land, and he can't even get a job. Finally, he gets a job, but the worst job a Jew could ever have, feeding swine, pigs.
He said, "Oh, this is bad, it cannot get worse." Oh, no, it gets worse, because at some point, he actually begins to be jealous or envious of the pigs, because they have food and he does not. I love Luke 15 because it tells us that he got to a point. It says, Luke 15:17-18, "But when he came to his senses, that is a glorious moment. When it occurs to someone, "I'm worse off than when I started. This that I'm searching for, I'm looking in all the wrong places to find, and I'm actually thirstier and more unsatisfied than when I started."
C. Don’t grumble; watch for what God is doing
Then it occurs to him, "I got to go home. I got to go back. I need God in my life, I need God in my heart." He says he came to his senses, and he said, "How many of my father's hired men have more than enough bread, and I'm dying here with hunger? I will get up and I will go to my father." There is that point, "I'm going back." See, the bitter water, the salty water makes you long for something sweet. Then we learn this lesson out of Exodus 15, "Don't grumble. Watch. Don't grumble. Watch for what God is doing."
When the Israelites passed through the sea, at first, they're overjoyed at the power that the miraculous hand God demonstrated, but something changed in three short days. Day one, it tells us, earlier in this chapter that they're singing, and shouting, and dancing. Day one, "The Lord is my strength and my song, and he shall become my deliverer." Okay, that's the terrible song, but that's what they sang, something like that, but it was in Hebrew. They're shouting and dancing, "The Lord is my strength and my song," day one.
Day two, the kids start saying, "Are we there yet?" All day long, ''Are we there yet'' and they're just dragging their shoulders the Lord is my strength and my soul. Day three they're grumbling, ''Where's the water.'' God did not bring them to Mara to make them bitter. God brought them to Mara to show them that there was bitterness already in their hearts. The situation does not make a person bitter. It shows us what's already there. When Jesus was being nailed to the cross, did he respond out of bitterness? Did he say, ''You will you will pay. You will pay for this one day one day when you stand before the great throne of my Father, you will regret what you did to me.''
Jesus didn't say that. You know what he did say, '' Father, forgive them. They know not what they do.'' He didn't speak out of bitterness because he didn't have bitterness. Don't you find it interesting how God brings us into situations that reveals who we are. That shows us what we need to see about our own hearts. Those things that God needs to change along the way. One of the illustrations of this comes out of my life. I was down at the coast, I was coming back as by myself. I was coming out of Lincoln City, and if you know that area, you know that as you're coming out of Lincoln City, there are two lanes that merge into one main.
Now, the way that works in America, when you have two lanes merging into one lane, we take turns. That's how it works in America. I know that because I've been to Africa and it doesn't work that way there. It was stop and go, it was heavy traffic, and I was behind this person and the person had left-- they had gone forward in the person over here and this lane came in behind them. Which is to say my turn is next. That's the way it works in America. I can never get worked up, and then the car next to me just went right up. I thought ''Oh they obviously didn't see me.''
I moved up a little further, and then they moved up. Then it started to occur to me I don't think he wants to let me in. Then I went up a little further and he went up really close, and then I could feel. You know what I'm saying here? ''I could feel.'' I pulled in behind him and then my headlights are like shining right into his windshield through his car. I could see his wife, and I'm thinking, ''Yes, go you go, he needs it, he needs it. Go get him sister.'' I'm sitting back there, and the whole way home, I'm like, ''Really? I got-- I was burning over that? Really? God was like convicting me, showing me, ''That needs to get worked out.''
See, the heart is the key. This is what Jesus said in Luke 6:45, he said, ''This is the good man out of the good treasures of his heart will bring forth what's good, and the evil man out of the evil treasure will bring forth what's evil, for the mouth speaks the life is lived than from that which fills the heart.'' That's why Philippians in Chapter 2 verses 14 to 15 are such great verses. This is what Paul wrote to us, ''Do all things without grumbling or disputing.'' Our flesh doesn't like that verse. In our flesh, hey, if we feel like grumbling, we want to be able to grumble.
If we feel like disputing, we reserve the right to dispute if we feel like disputing. God says, ''That's not how the kingdom of God works. That's how the world works. No, he says, I got a different word for you than that. Do all of things without grumbling, do all things without disputing'' so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent children of God. See, children are like their father. They should be having the nature of their father. God is our Father now. You'll be children of God above reproach, notice this, in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation. You are living even now in a crooked and perverse generation. Are we not?
He says listen, when you're living in a crooked and perverse generation, then you got to live differently. He says, ''Among whom you appear as lights in this world.'' God wants you to appear as light. God wants to show that there is a transformation that comes as you travel through this world. Then, here's another great lesson out of Exodus 15, that God can turn bitter waters sweet. When the Israelites murmured and grumbled, Moses cried out to the Lord. Lord shorten this treaty threw end of the waters and the waters became sweet. It was the power of God. He's demonstrating to him that He is the power that heals the bitter water.
II. God Can Turn Bitter Water Sweet
It's a great lesson, that God can turn bitter into sweet.
A. Will you trust the Lord?
The question is Faith, is it not? Will you trust the Lord or not? That's what he's saying. Go let them be thirsty that He might teach them to trust. He answered their thirst, but He gave them a statute and a promise. A statute wisdom principles and a promise founded as thing. This is summarized beautifully for us in Deuteronomy 8:2-3. Moses said, ''You shall remember all the way which the LORD your God lead you in the wilderness these 40 years that He might humble you, testing you to know what it was in your heart whether you would keep His commandments or not. He humbled you and let you be hungry and then fed you with manna.''
Jesus explained that manna in a beautiful way when he said that bread that comes from heaven is the Son of God that was sent as the bread of life. But notice what it says, ''He let you be hungry, He fed you with manna that He might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord.'' In other words, it's not about the bread, it's about that which you take in from the word that transforms. It's not about the water, it's about that which you drink that satisfies the Soul. Man does not live by bread alone, but by everything that proceeds from the mouth of God. It's about faith.
When Moses cried out to God. God showed him this tree, he throws to the end of the water. There's no chemical reaction of this tree. He shows him the power of God to heal the water, but the tree. It's like a picture of the cross of Jesus Christ, that which he did on the tree of Calvary is the remedy that we need to to cast into the midst of the bitter things in us. 1st Peter 2:24, 'He bore our sins in His own body on the tree that we having died to sin, might live for righteousness by whose stripes you were healed.'' What an interesting comparison. What a parallel.
Galatians 3:13, ''Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law having become a curse for us for it is written cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree.'' God has provided everything we need so that our hearts are no longer bitter, but instead learning to trust, walking with God. Holding onto a promise. Romans 8:31-32, ''What then shall we say to these things if God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare His own son but delivered him over for us all, how will He not also with him freely give us all things.
B. He is Jehovah Rapha; the God who heals
He gives them a statue, He gives them a principle, and He gives them a promise, and the promise is found in His name, ' I am Jehovah Rapha, the God who heals.''
He showed him the provision of this tree that made the bitter water sweet, and He gave them this promise. See, He answers troubles by giving a promise. I'll show you-- you can just see a theme that runs through these scriptures. In other words, take hold of this promise, take hold of this promise.
God reveals himself. They learned His name, Jehovah-Rapha. Jehovah, the Lord Who Heals. God reveals Himself in His names. He's revealed something that we must always remember, God is a source of healing, and there is no other.
When I was in Bible college, I learned the names of God on flash cards. I would write the name and the meaning on the other side. See, that's one thing. To learn the names of God in your mind is one thing. To learn the names of God by experiencing their power, and then writing them on the tablets of your heart is a whole other thing. God wants us to take hold of these promises because His promises are found in His name. He gives them a statute, a principle. Give heed to the voice of the Lord. None of these diseases that came upon Egypt would be upon you.
It's very interesting. The principle, the promise is found in the commandment. When the Jews would follow the laws given to them by God, in fact, they were kept from any diseases. God gave them laws about sanitation, what to eat, what not to eat, about handling dead bodies. He actually gave them, even, instruction on how to do their bathroom business while they're in the desert. Many people don't know that. He was showing them sanitary, right ways to do your business in the desert. It actually did keep them clean.
For example, the Jews were forbidden to eat rats. Rats were considered unclean. They could not eat snakes. They could not eat roaches, not that you'd want to. They're unclean. They will have none of them in their camp. In Europe, in the days of the Black Plague, there were many people in Europe that thought the Jews were responsible because they didn't get the plague. They were following the laws that God had given to them. Is this not true spiritually? Does it not heal when we forgive those who've trespassed against us, if we have a thankful and joyful spirit as God asked us to have? Does that not keep us from any troubles? When we trust God and walk in faith, does that not bring many blessings?
Then, it says that they came to a place called Elim, where there were 12 springs and 70 date palms. God did not want them to camp at Marah. He wanted them to pass through Marah on their way to Elim, wanted them to see there's a great lesson here on the way. You got to learn this lesson on the way, on the journey. You got to learn this lesson. Don't let bitter things make you bitter. Take hold of this. "I am Jehovah-Rapha. I am the God Who Heals. Let me heal your broken heart. Let me heal your broken life. Turn to me for help, for hope. You will find that refreshing that comes, that strength that abides."
I love Psalm 84 because it speaks of it. It shows us that man, verses 5-7. "How blessed is the man whose strength is in You, in whose heart are the highways to Zion, passing through the Valley of Baca," in other words, the Valley of Weeping, the valley of bitterness. Passing through the Valley of Baca, they make it a spring. The overflowing of God in your life, actually, begins to impact and affect the valley of bitterness that you're walking through.
"The early rain covers it with blessings. They go from strength to strength." That's the heart of a person that's being transformed on the way. He wanted them to learn that they needed to get the bitterness of Egypt out of their hearts and move to the place of blessing, for there were 12 springs and 70 date palms there. How refreshing, how renewing is that?