Moses led Israel from the Red Sea on to the Wilderness of Shur. They traveled for three days through the wilderness without finding any water. They got to Marah, but they couldn’t drink the water at Marah; it was bitter. That’s why they called the place Marah (Bitter). Exodus 15:22-24 The Message
The “Why’s” of Marah?
For the next few weeks I want to explore the questions below:
- Why does God lead us to a place called Marah?
- Why does God allow our suffering?
- Why is He silent– doesn’t He care?
- Will He bring blessing from all this bitter?
How Can “Marah Be Better Than Elim”?
Taken from Marah Better Than Elim by Charles Spurgeon (Part One)
After I had fallen down at Mentone, and was grievously ill, a brother in Christ called upon me, and said, “My dear friend, you have now come to Marah.” I replied, “Yes, and the waters are bitter.” He then said, “But Marah is better than Elim, for in Elim the Israelites only drank of the water and ate of the fruit of the palm trees, and that was soon over; but at Marah we read that God ‘made for them a statute and an ordinance,’ and that was never over. That statute and ordinance stood fast, and will stand fast for Israel as long as they are a nation. There is much more benefit to be reaped from Marah than from Elim.” I thanked my friend for that good word. I had found it true aforetime; I have found it true since then; and you and I, if we are indeed the people of God, will find it true to the end, that Marah, though it be bitter, is also better; and albeit that we do not like it, yet in the end there shall be no bitterness in it, but an unutterable sweetness which shall be ours through time and eternity.
We have a long record about Marah, have we not? I have read you four verses concerning Marah. How many verses have we about Elim? Only one. Does Marah deserve to be talked about four times as much as Elim? Perhaps it does; perhaps there is four times as much fruit to be obtained from the bitter waters of Marah than from the twelve springs of water, and threescore and ten palm trees at Elim. Who knows? This I know, however, that we are very apt to talk more about our bitters than about our sweets; and that is a serious fault. It were well if we had fewer murmuring words for our sorrows, and more songs of thanksgiving for our blessings. Yet Holy Writ seems here to speak after the manner of men, and to let us have the four verses for the trial, and the one verse for the delight. Still, as it speaks also after the manner of God, I gather that Marah is, after all, more noteworthy than Elim; and truly, there does come to God’s people something better out of their troubles than out of their joys.
Certainly one thing is clear, Israel had no miracle at Elim. Wells and palm trees they had; but they had no miracle there, no miraculous change of the bitter into the sweet; and they had no statute, and no ordinance, and no promise, and no new revelation of God, and no new name for Jehovah there. All that belonged to Marah, “for there he made them a statute and an ordinance,” and there he promised, if they were faithful and obedient, that he would put none of the diseases of Egypt upon them, and there he revealed himself as Jehovah Rophi, “the Lord that healeth thee.” Oh, yes, there are many virtues and many blessings in the bitter waters of Marah! Often have we found it true that “Sweet are the uses of adversity.”
I hope that nobody here thinks that these Israelites experienced a small trial. We are not accustomed to travelling in the desert; but those who are, tell us that thirst in the wilderness is something awful to endure. For all that great host to go three days without water, must have been a very trying experience. You would not like to try that even in this country; but what must it be to go three days in the wilderness, beneath a burning sky, without a drop of water to drink? Then came the bitter disappointment at Marah. Probably the people knew that there were water-springs ahead, so they hurried up to the place to drink; but when they stooped to taste the waters, they found that they were bitter. They could not drink of them; and there they stood, in their desperation, with the long thirst parching their throats, and bitter disappointment adding to their agony; and they murmured against Moses, saying, “What shall we drink?” I say not this to excuse them, but lest you should think that they had only a small trial to bear.
Remember, also, that this was a new form of trial. They never lacked for water in Egypt; there were plenty of rivers and canals there, and they could drink as much as they chose. This was an experience to which they were quite unaccustomed, and I should not wonder if they were greatly surprised at it, for they knew that they were the people of God. They had just seen the Lord divide the Red Sea, and drown their enemies; and now has he brought them out of Egypt to let them perish of thirst in the wilderness? They fancied that they were going to have one long triumphant march right into the promised land, or to be always dandled upon the lap of Providence, and indulged in every way, like spoilt children. They must have stood aghast at finding that, when the earth yielded water to slake their thirst, it was such water as they could not drink.
Well, now, this kind of surprise happens to many who have set out on the way to heaven. God has been very gracious to them; their sins are washed away, and they think that the great joy which they have lately experienced will never be taken away from them, and will never be even diminished. They reckon upon a long day without a cloud. God has favoured them so much that they cannot imagine that they shall have any trial or any bitterness. It is not so, beloved; a Christian man is seldom long at ease, no sooner does he start out on pilgrimage to heaven than he meets with a difficulty, and as he goes on he finds out that the way to heaven is not a rolled pathway, it is up hill and down dale, through the mire and through the slough, over mount and through the sea. It is by their trials and afflictions that the people of God are proved to be his children. They cannot escape the rod, whoever may; yet this experience does at first come as a very great surprise to them, so I want to talk to-night to some who have been lately brought to rejoice in the Lord’s pardoning mercy, but are now staggered because they have come to an encampment in the wilderness where their thirsty mouths are filled with bitterness.
(To be continued next week.)
Moses led Israel from the Red Sea on to the Wilderness of Shur. They traveled for three days through the wilderness without finding any water. They got to Marah, but they couldn’t drink the water at Marah; it was bitter. That’s why they called the place Marah (Bitter). And the people complained to Moses, “So what are we supposed to drink?” So Moses cried out in prayer to God. God pointed him to a stick of wood. Moses threw it into the water and the water turned sweet. That’s the place where God set up rules and procedures; that’s where he started testing them. God said, “If you listen, listen obediently to how God tells you to live in his presence, obeying his commandments and keeping all his laws, then I won’t strike you with all the diseases that I inflicted on the Egyptians; I am God your healer.” They came to Elim where there were twelve springs of water and seventy palm trees. They set up camp there by the water.exodus 15:22-24 the message
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Eye opening post. God bless you for this.🙏🏽