Exodus Devotional | Provision and the People, Day 1: A Bitter Heart
The Book of Exodus
The Greatness of God to His People in Need
Provision and the People, Day 1
“Then Moses made Israel set out from the Red Sea, and they went into the wilderness of Shur. They went three days in the wilderness and found no water. When they came to Marah, they could not drink the water of Marah because it was bitter; therefore it was named Marah. And the people grumbled against Moses, saying, ‘What shall we drink?’ And he cried to the Lord, and the Lord showed him a log, and he threw it into the water, and the water became sweet.” - (Exodus 15:22-25)
Easter was only yesterday for us, here in April of 2020. We celebrated the Passover of God’s wrath in which we are saved by the blood of the Lamb. We’ve seen the Lord deliver his people from slavery and from the threats of enemies. God split the Red Sea in half--the uncrossable barrier between the Israelites and salvation. Now, as we join the Israelites, hands on our knees, trying to catch our breath, we lift our eyes up to the next season of life...and it looks like a wilderness.
The Israelites carry great wealth, but they carry no water. They have a ton of livestock, but that meat and milk will only last so long, divided among several hundred thousand people. They have no maps of this territory--just their faithful leader, Moses, who’s traveled this region only once or twice before. What they do have is God. By day, a pillar of smoke. By night, a pillar of fire. They possess a future Promised Land. They have the testimony of what God has done for them over this past year--but it’s been so wild, so unbelievable...in some moments, it’s like a blur.
But, the sun beats down on them, the days are hot, the nights are frigid, the rocky ground is hard, and it takes them very little time to return to their fear and their grumbling. By day three of their sojourn (Exodus 15:22-27), they arrive at a place named Marah--there’s water there, but it’s bitter and, therefore, poisoned. They grumble--bitterly--against Moses (and, by proxy, the Lord).
Witness a few things here:
The Lord is patient and slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love. He is prepared to provide for his people, even though they have yet to walk in any enduring faith. He miraculously “sweetens” the poisonous, bitter water and his people are sustained.
The bitterness of the water matches the bitterness of the people’s hearts. The poison of unbelief and ingratitude will make God’s people far sicker than any bitter water could.
What you are tends to be what you experience. The Isrealites are tired and thirsty--rather than praying in faith, their bitterness leads to grumbling. Rather than arriving at bitter water and calling on the Lord to do something very simple (they’d seen him do far more amazing things), they choose to complain and rebel. They’re bitter and only see bitterness.
God then lays out an arrangement of faith and obedience for them: if you’ll believe me, trust me, and obey me, I’ll never have to use on you what I used on the Egyptians. God means to teach his people that he, alone is God, and that he, alone, is their provider. Calling on them to obey means learning the discipline of trusting God to love you.
What are you seeing in your life? What is the tone or mood of your spirit today? Are you moved to complain and grumble against the Lord and others? Are you being moved to pray and trust and obey the Lord?
What is it that you need “sweetened” today? In what way do you need to call upon the Lord to aid you and provide for you? Fight your disbelief and bitterness today. Fight it by hitting your knees in prayer today.