The Waters at Marah –
When the Israelites left Egypt they didn’t know God very well. They knew of the old stories that they were taught but there was no revelation of who He is or how much He cared about them personally. Their journey was a journey of getting to know God, knowing who He is and that He can be trusted.
The Israelites worked under Pharaoh. They knew that He could not be trusted. God had to show them through trials in the wilderness that He is All-Powerful, the Creator of the universe and that He can and will take care of them. That He can be trusted.
Marah was an interesting account of God’s provision. The Israelites just had this huge victory. They had crossed the Red Sea and were set free from slavery in Egypt. The victory celebration was in Exodus chapter 15:1-21; the verses praising God for such a great deliverance from their enemies…then in verse 22 everything changed. Gone were the happy joyful Israelites. They were three days trudging through the mega hot desert not knowing where they were going. Then they saw the waters at Marah. I can imagine the sight of water afar off would have really gotten them excited. I’ll bet a few of them ran all the way and jumped in expecting cool refreshing water, but instead found it salty and bitter. What a disappointment! They had seemingly come to a place where God had answered their prayers. Things looked like they were turning around for them. The victory was back. But things have a way of turning sour quickly. I think God was telling them, “Things won’t always go the way you think they will or even how you want them to go, but I’m greater than the circumstances.” This was Israel’s first test in adversity. They were way out of their comfort zone. Every step was a step of faith for them, literally. It turns out that the oasis at Elim was not far from the bitter waters of Marah. There was plenty of fresh water and trees for shade. God could have led them there first. But God had a purpose for this; it was a lesson of trust. After God fixed the waters and made them sweet to drink, Moses admonished the people. He told them in Exodus 15:26
If thou wilt diligently hearken to the voice of the Lord thy God, and wilt do that which is right in His sight, and wilt give ear to his commandments, and keep all His statutes, I will put none of these diseases upon thee, which I have brought upon the Egyptians: for I am the Lord that healeth thee. KJV
This made me wonder, what does that have to do with providing water in the wilderness. God needed to heal them spiritually “I am the Lord that healeth thee” (it was a heart thing). Their time in Egypt was so oppressive under Pharaoh. Most of them were slaves all of their lives. God needed to cure them of that mentality. So He put on a bit of a show for them at Marah. He wanted them to know that I AM that I AM can control the elements and by them seeing this it would bring about a spiritual response from His people. He’s trying to win their hearts. God will sometimes lead us to “Marah” instead of the “Elim” we are hoping for. Just remember that God knows how to make the bitter situations of our lives sweet. God always has a purpose. After the hard journey through to the waters at Marah and the bitter disappointment there, God led them to the rest at Elim. God may lead us through disappointment and trials but He also gives us times of refreshment and rest.