HOW SOON WE FORGET
Sovereign Lord, I praise You that You do, indeed, reign over all in power, love, mercy and grace.
Read EXODUS 15:22 – 16:8
The Waters of Marah and Elim
22 Then Moses led Israel from the Red Sea and they went into the Desert of Shur. For three days they traveled in the desert without finding water. 23 When they came to Marah, they could not drink its water because it was bitter. (That is why the place is called Marah.[a]) 24 So the people grumbled against Moses, saying, “What are we to drink?”
25 Then 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.
There the Lord issued a ruling and instruction for them and put them to the test. 26 He 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.”
27 Then they came to Elim, where there were twelve springs and seventy palm trees, and they camped there near the water.
Manna and Quail
16 The whole Israelite community set out from Elim and came to the Desert of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after they had come out of Egypt. 2 In the desert the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. 3 The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the Lord’s hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death.”
4 Then the Lord said to Moses, “I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions. 5 On the sixth day they are to prepare what they bring in, and that is to be twice as much as they gather on the other days.”
6 So Moses and Aaron said to all the Israelites, “In the evening you will know that it was the Lord who brought you out of Egypt, 7 and in the morning you will see the glory of the Lord, because he has heard your grumbling against him. Who are we, that you should grumble against us?” 8 Moses also said, “You will know that it was the Lord when he gives you meat to eat in the evening and all the bread you want in the morning, because he has heard your grumbling against him. Who are we? You are not grumbling against us, but against the Lord.”
- Exodus 15:23 Marah means bitter.
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
‘… he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.’1
After the spectacular victory at the Red Sea you might have expected Israel to be full of praise to God. If so, you’d be disappointed. Their first month in the wilderness was characterized by grumbling. First, they turned north to the rugged Desert of Shur which, as its name suggests, lacked water. Understandably, after three days they began to complain. Their anger only increased when, on reaching the watering hole of Marah, they found its water unfit to drink. After Moses cried out to God, God made the water drinkable by commanding him to throw some wood into it. There’s no scientific explanation for what happened and nothing is made of the symbolism of the wood effecting the change. It was a miracle. Then God revealed himself, promising that he would heal them and prevent sickness from plaguing them, providing they obeyed his commands. He shows himself to be ‘Doctor Yahweh’.2 Journeying on, they reach the lush oasis of Elim, where water was plentiful.
Leaving Elim, they traveled south. The wilderness continued to be inhospitable; this time, denying them food. Absurdly, they hankered after the gourmet fare they supposedly enjoyed in Egypt. Absurdly, they complained that the Exodus was a set-up. Absurdly, they forgot the cruelty and oppression of Egypt and equally forgot the miraculous, gracious God who’s on their side. Again, God stepped in with a miraculous provision, demonstrating to them that he, not Pharaoh, was the one who delivered them. Sometimes when we face life’s disappointments we’re tempted to moan and think our pre- conversion days were better than following Christ. How absurd, as Israel reminds us! Don’t grumble: praise.
Are you ever tempted to want to return to Egypt? If so, what steps can you take to combat the attraction of your past life?
Lord, I want to live thoughtfully and thankfully. Enable me to learn the grace to be thankful in all situations.
1 Col 1:13 2 Douglas Stuart, Exodus, The New American Commentary, B&H, 2006, p367
Click here to sign up to receive the EXTRAs via email each quarter.
© 2023 Scripture Union U.S.A. All rights reserved. Reproduction of the whole or any part of the contents without written permission is prohibited.
Encounter with God is published in the USA under license from Scripture Union England and Wales, Trinity House, Opal Court, Opal Drive, Fox Milne, Milton Keynes, MK15 0DF.