I’m sure you have heard or read of harrowing stories of people who had to survive in desert-like conditions with either a limited supply or no supply of water. It’s a deadly place to be in when one has to literally live off the land, till help arrives.
The people of Israel had just come through what was a life changing moment. The Lord had miraculously opened up the Red Sea, with its abundant supply of water, to enable them to cross over unscathed to the other side. It was a once in a lifetime moment! I wonder sometimes whether it was a much larger version of what we experience, when we go through a modern day aquarium found in theme parks, with sea creatures all around and above us! But, from the Red Sea, let’s see what happened on their journey to ‘waters of refreshing’.
1) The Place of No Water (Dryness)
It is strange to read that soon after this amazing miracle, they went to the desert of Shur (Exodus 15:22). This was a dry, bleak desert; an empty and parched territory. They had moved from being around unlimited amounts of water, to a place with no water (Exodus 15:22)! In fact, they travelled through this desert for three days without water.
A home I stayed in once during a period of ministry, had a very poor water supply. In fact, many days would go by at times, with no water on our taps. It was a very challenging period for the 6 of us who lived there. Being without water for even a day can be a challenge. I can only imagine therefore what it would have been like, for the thousands in the Israeli camp who had no water.
Sometimes, after a life changing spiritual encounter, God may take us to a place of dryness. A place where nothing seems to be happening; or where everything seems to move in very slow motion or where there is no motion at all! Let’s be reminded that after the spiritual highlights of being baptized in water and the Spirit, the Lord Jesus was led into the wilderness (Matthew 4:1). So, if you find yourself in a dry place today, hold on to God’s hand and keep trusting Him, because what God accomplishes in the dry place, He may not be able to do in the place of fullness. This is where we learn that He is trustworthy, faithful and dependable. It is also the pathway that will often lead us to the ‘waters of refreshing’.
Someone said, “If God takes you on stony paths, He will fit you with strong shoes”.
But, there was another challenge ahead.
2) The Place of Bitter Water (Exodus 15:23-24)
I am sure there would have been many other places in the desert with bitter water, but this place was specifically named ‘bitter’ (Marah). We are reminded in Ruth 1:20, that after going through many bitter situations, Naomi (meaning pleasant), opted to call herself Mara (bitter).
Maybe you are going through many challenges that have made life bitter for you too. If so, let’s not react like the people of God who grumbled (Exodus 15:24 – Grumbling seemed to be their national pastime!!). Instead, let’s look for God’s solutions, like the one He gave Moses (Exodus 15:25). The solution may be found in simple, unexpected things, like the piece of wood God showed Moses.
Here are some ‘pieces of wood’ we could throw in to the bitter waters surrounding us. None of them are easy however!
- Love – Ask God for strength to keep releasing love in the midst of bitter experiences. It will radiate sweetness wherever you go! The fragrance of the perfume can be felt only when it is released. The aroma of tea comes out only when the tea bag is dipped into hot water!
- Forgiveness – Forgiveness helps us to be released from the burden of bitterness. That’s exactly what Stephen did when his life was ebbing away before a murderous mob (Acts 7:59-60).
- Praise – A spirit of praise and thanksgiving lifts a spirit of heaviness (Isaiah 61:3). It helps us understand God’s involvement in our struggles.
- Prayer – Pray for God’s help and guidance and pray for those hurting you. When it says, “Moses cried out to the Lord” (v.25), I’m pretty sure it was a prayer for help.
At a time of great tragedy and pain, Joseph Scriven apparently said, “The bottom of my world seemed to have disappeared”. However, through that tragedy and pain came the amazing song, ‘What a Friend we have in Jesus’.
So, if you are going through bitter waters right now, it could be the pathway that leads you to the ‘waters of refreshing’.
“God has already planned His provision for your trials”.
3) The place of sweet and refreshing (abundant) water (Exodus 15:25b; 15:27)
In the midst of the bitterness, God did a miracle. He brought sweetness into the bitter water and subsequently led them to Elim, a place of refreshing, where there were 12 springs and 70 palm trees. He also identified Himself as ‘I am the Lord who heals you’ (Exodus 15:26). It’s amazing that God would mention about healing, and deliverance from diseases, in the middle of a desert!!!
So, take your dry and bitter experiences to the Lord who heals, and let Him bring sweetness and refreshing into your life again.
“The bitter waters of Marah were sweetened with a piece of wood. The bitterness of life is sweetened only with the cross of Christ”. (Pastor Mac Brunson on twitter)
God bless you.
Prayer – O Lord, in the midst of our dry seasons and our bitter experiences, may we keep trusting You. Help us to understand that You will lead us to places of refreshing. Thank You Lord!!
Also read – Isaiah 43:19-21, Isaiah 48: 17-18, Nehemiah 9:20-21.
Your comments on this topic are welcome.