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. When they came to Marah, they could not drink its water because it was bitter. (That is why the place is called Marah.) So the people grumbled against Moses, saying, “What are we to drink?”
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.
Then they came to Elim, where there were twelve springs and seventy palm trees, and they camped there near the water.Exodus 15:27New International Version (NIV)
A child learns to trust its parents as its needs are met on a consistent and loving basis. When they’re hungry, we feed them. When they’re uncomfortable because of a dirty diaper, we change them. When they need reassurance and love, we do that too, because we love them. And they learn to trust us because of that consistent care.
It’s the same with a new Christian, or a person who’s working through abuse issues. They need to know that God can be trusted because he loves them. The Israelites had just witnessed God’s great deliverance. He killed the Egyptians – their enemies could never again come after them and take them back to the place of brutal slavery. God already showed them that he would protect them.
Now, the wilderness provided God with a perfect incubator to show his people time and again that he would provide for them and that he loved them. In the wilderness, they would experience trust for the first time.
First lesson – water provision.
Now that their enemies were no longer a threat, their most pressing need was water. Yet, the first place they stopped to refill their water skins was Marah, where the water was so bitter they couldn’t drink it. Instead of asking their God for help, they complained to Moses.
- In Egypt, they had lived in Goshen, a delta area of the Nile so there would have been adequate drinking water. Here in the wilderness, water was scarce. (The need)
- It would be difficult to find enough water to take care of the need of such a large group of people (A problem)
- As slaves, they probably had water withheld from them if they didn’t perform adequately. So when they faced the bitter waters of Mara, they may have feared that God was punishing them and was going to kill them. (Their perception – Slave mentality)
- Instead of worshipping their strong God who had delivered them, and asking him for what they needed, they grumbled against Moses and God. It was a fear-based reaction (Their reactions)
- Moses lost patience with them, but he still went to God because he knew God and trusted him. (Moses’ reaction and response)
- God showed Moses how to make the water drinkable. (God’s response to Moses)
- Moses modeled the trust and ask behaviors the Israelites needed to learn. God met their need at Marah in response to Moses’ trust. Then God directed Moses to bring them to Elim where there were springs of fresh water and 70 palm trees for shade. (God reinforced the lesson of His provision.)
What lessons has God taught you about trust through your Christian journey? Has he ever used a person to model the behaviors he wanted to teach you?
I’d love to hear about your experiences!