11 September 2019
Series: Exodus

Exodus 15:22-27 A Bitter Complain

Speaker: Andy Yip

Main point: We shall not grumble in bad situations like the Israelites but ask God for help. God gives us commands and trials in life for our sanctification through training of our faith. God’s abundant provision satisfies our physical and spiritual needs through Jesus

Today we learn about drinking water. Have you ever drink hard water? Hard water is high in dissolved minerals, specifically calcium and magnesium. Often hard water will leave a metallic taste in your mouth. It can taste sour, salty or bitter. Nobody wants to stay hydrated, drinking bad tasting water. That is why many kitchen taps have a small ion exchange filter attached to soften the water for a better taste. But what happened if you are in the desert, and there is no water softener treatment available? Are you going to drink the bitter water that tastes like Chinese medicine herbal tea, or get yourself hydrated?

This was the situation when the Israelites were facing after they have crossed the Red Sea.

1) What are we to drink?

After God has displayed his wonders at the Red Sea and the Israelites cross over on dry land, they went into the Desert of Shur. The Israelites have been walking for three days without water. According to medical news today website, as a general rule of thumb, a person may only survive without water for about three days, or the person would die from dehydration. Water is essential for life.

With over 2 million population with him in the desert, both young and old, the Israelites were in a dangerous situation. When they came to a place called Marah, which means “bitter” in Hebrew because the water was undrinkable and bitter, it was a real national emergency to them; It was either drink or die.

At this point, the Israelites grumbled against Moses, saying, “What are we to drink?” They had every reason to believe that God would save them. They knew that God answered prayer because it was in response to their cries that he had rescued them from Egypt. The Israelites knew that God had power over creation because they had witnessed the mighty acts of God in Egypt. God controls the water supply as he turned the Nile River into the blood. As they came out of Egypt, God was in the cloud to protect them and guide them to Marah. In this passage, Marah stands for the bitterness of human hearts rather than the water spring. It represents the unbelieving, grumbling attitude of the people who would not trust God. They said, “What are we to drink?” When we are in danger or in a hard position, or any problems we encountered in the society, we always forgot to ask God’s help, but our first reaction is often to grumble against whoever is responsible for the situation. We grumble against our leaders because we have the heart issues of not trust God, who is in charge of everything. It is a sign of spiritual immaturity.

If they believe that God would save them, all they needed to do was ask, and God would provide. But no, they did not ask God when trouble comes. Instead, they grumbled against their leader Moses.

In verse 25, so:

“Moses cried out to the LORD, and the LORD showed him a piece of wood. He threw it into the water, and the water became fit to drink” (Exodus 15:25)

The Scriptures told us that the LORD our God is the provider for his people. He listened to Moses’ cries and sweetened the bitter water by showing Moses a piece of wood to be thrown in the water, and the water became drinkable.

In our lives, how often do we call out to God for help when real troubles come into our lives? Are we showing bitter and unbelieving attitude like the Israelites? Grumbling is all too common. We live in a culture based on instant gratification. We do more than try to get what we want – we demand it. So we are always thinking about what we don’t have, and foolishly thinking that if only we had it, then we would be satisfied. But to do this is to locate the problem on the outside rather than on the inside. The real problem is our own dissatisfaction, the grumbling of a complaining heart. Many Christian complain about the little things. At work, at home, at church. We disagree with something small in the worship service, we complain about the brand of cookies our mom or wife bought, or the jobs that have been left unfinished, or the quality of the living room furniture. All of this complaining disturbs our relationships and hinders our witness of Christ.

Then there are big things we complain about: poverty, disability, disappointment with children, dissatisfaction on the job, misfortune in love, and chronic pain. These are the bitter places in our lives. Has something happened in your life? Or something you wanted is not happened, for that matter – that has become a constant source of complaint in your heart? Is there something that has come between you and the Lord, something that hinders your prayers and limits your effectiveness in ministry?

Like if a prominent church leader, having a deal in his own mind that he would serve God, and God would bless him, but when God did not bless him, he was no longer willing to serve. It was not until he turned his bitterness over to God, trusting God to be faithful even in suffering, that he was restored to joy. The problem at Marah was not the water, although it tastes bitter, the bitterness is in the hearts of God’s people. Bitterness does not come in the outward circumstance but the inward human response. We are called not to complain about God as the Israelites did, but to believe in His goodness. What it means is that we have to trust the Lord even when He leads us to the bitter waters.

God can help us in our needs, and all we need to do is to trust Him for his provision. All we need is to ask Him who is mighty to save. Trust in God instead of grumbling about the hard situation. No Whining. God’s grace is shown by his mercy and grace. The bitterness of Marah was turned to sweet by a piece of wood. It was a miracle. God did it so that we can learn to trust in him for the water of life. God wants us to have a deep dependence on his ability to provide. This was true for the Israelites; It was the bitter-sweet waters of Marah that increased their faith.

But for us Christian today, we are also God’s chosen people like the Israelites. Do we depend on God to provide us with our daily needs? When we have troubles in mind or life, do we ask God for help, who is willing to listen, or do we grumble against him? Are we feeling dissatisfied in our experience or situation, and holding the bitterness in our hearts? If yes that it is true in your heart, that the constant compliant becomes something hinders your prayer life and your relationship with God, then it is a good time now to reflect on it, and give your worries to God instead. Ask him for help and release your fear. He is willing to help you. Remember that God is with us. He is merciful, and he always listens to our prayers.

2) The Lord’s instruction and test

After the Lord has provided the Israelites drinking water at Marah, he established a requirement and guidance for them, and there, he put them on trial, to test their faith and obedience. In verse 26, God said,

“If you listen carefully to the LORD your God and do what is right in his eyes, if you pay attention to his commands and keep all his decrees, I will not bring on you any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians, for I am the LORD, who heals you.”

The Israelites needed to learn to listen carefully to the LORD and, do what is right in his eyes. God promised the Israelites that if they pay attention to his commands and keep all his decrees, keeping his law to be the absolute standard for their conduct, live for God’s glory, then they were to listen to what He said, do what He wanted, attend to what He commanded, and keep it.

However, make sure we understand that these requirements were not the basis for Israel’s salvation. They were already saved. God had delivered them out of the land of Egypt of bondage. But now, it was time for their sanctification; so God gave them his law. God saves them first, then he said, “Now, here are some things that I want you to do”. Salvation always comes by grace through faith. These commands from God is not for salvation, but sanctification. Genuine, saving faith is always followed by joyful good works. God wants us to obey what he has commanded. He gave Israel these instructions to help them live godly lives for his glory. After we have been saved from sin, the way to experience the fullness of God’s blessing is to trust and obey. To the Israelites, the works of obedience to God’s law reveal about their relationship with him. Obedience was the test of their faith. This is the way a covenant always works. God’s promises and warnings bring blessings for obedience and curses for disobedience. The warning is that if they don’t obey, then they will suffer the same plagues they had witnessed in Egypt. God did not test his people so they would fail, but in the hope that they would learn to obey.

It is like when we study in schools, to grow in our knowledge and understanding of various subjects before we graduate, there are always tests and exams. The tests are not designed to make it so hard that everyone fails, but in the hope that the students would learn and pass all the tests.

But unfortunately, not only at Marah, the Israelites kept failing to obey God throughout their wanderings in the wilderness. When they were thirsty, they did not trust and obey God; they often grumbled and complained. We often fail in the same way. Our needs in hardship are the testing of our faith. But when the time of trial comes, rather than waiting for God in quiet confidence, we get anxious and angry with people around us, or in worse cases, we get angry with God.

This is why we so desperately need Jesus, who did pass the test. The active obedience of Christ is necessary for our full salvation. And when we follow Jesus, we should also cling on him on every trial and tests that God has put into our lives, to fully trust him and obey to his words that are written for us in the Bible, in the name of Jesus.

No matter when our life is up or down, God loves you. When bad things happen, it does not mean that God had abandoned you. He is always with you, walking with you side by side. God loves you in no matter what situation, and He is willing to give you a hand whenever you need Him. All you need to do is to ask the LORD in faith, in the name of Jesus. Put your trust in God’s words and His promises. Just like what Jesus said in Matthew 28:20,

“and teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

3) Twelve springs and seventy palm trees

This passage ends with God bringing his people to a healing place, an oasis – to Elim, where there were twelve springs and seventy palm trees. Elim was a place of abundance given by God. The numbers twelve and seventy are symbolic of fullness and blessing. There was plenty of water and shades for everyone. God’s provision for our needs is abundant. He satisfied the Israelites’ thirst in the desert. From the everlasting fountain of his grace, he showers his people with care, so that we flourish in every way.

God has made abundant provision for us by sending his Son Jesus to be our Saviour. If we have Jesus, we have everything we need. God will meet all our material needs. He has promised to provide everything we truly need for daily existence. He has also promised to meet all our deepest spiritual needs with Jesus Christ, granting us forgiveness and giving us fellowship with God forever.

The fountains of Marah and Elim point us to Jesus as the water of life.

Jesus said, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” (John 7:37-38)

The Holy Spirit is the refreshing source of all spiritual vitality. To come to Jesus is to receive the Holy Spirit, and with the Spirit, an everlasting supply of grace. Everyone who comes to Jesus discovers that he is deeply satisfying in every way.

Let us all give thanks to the Father for the fountains of living water in Jesus Christ, that we will come and drink abundantly for eternal life.

Close Menu