Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Exodus 15:22-26 – So Moses brought Israel from the Red Sea; then they went out into the Wilderness of Shur. And they went three days in the wilderness and found no water. Now when they came to Marah, they could not drink the waters of Marah, for they were bitter. Therefore the name of it was called Marah. And the people complained against Moses, saying, “What shall we drink?” So he cried out to the Lord, and the Lord showed him a tree. When he cast it into the waters, the waters were made sweet. There He made a statute and an ordinance for them, and there He tested them, and said, “If you diligently heed the voice of the Lord your God and do what is right in His sight, give ear to His commandments and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you which I have brought on the Egyptians. For I am the Lord who heals you.”
At the Red Sea, Israel witnessed God’s incredible destruction of the Egyptian army. The Israelites rejoiced in this victory, playing their instruments, dancing and singing, “I will sing to the Lord, for He has triumphed gloriously! The horse and its rider He has thrown into the sea!”
Immediately after this miraculous deliverance, Israel began a journey into the desert toward the Promised Land. In three days’ time they covered some forty miles…yet they quickly realized they had been going in circles. To their dismay, they had progressed only about twelve miles from where they had started. To make matters worse, they found no water. After two days in the desert, the supply they had brought with them was gone. In this brief amount of time, they descended from the heights of praise and ecstasy to the depths of despair. How easy it is to forget some great victory when something goes wrong!
Then someone spotted a body of water ahead. You can imagine the stampede that took place to get to it. I can see the fastest and healthiest Israelites arriving first, quickly dunking their faces into the water, taking in big gulps. A few seconds later, however, they are spewing the water from their mouths. They cry, “This water is bitter, undrinkable. Do not swallow it – it’s full of poison.”
The people trailing behind them do not believe their claim. They also quickly drink in big gulps. But soon they are spewing out the bitter water too. Scripture says, in Exodus 15:23 – “Now when they came to Marah, they could not drink the waters of Marah, for they were bitter. Therefore the name of it was called Marah.”
Isn’t it amazing how Christians will not listen to warnings of other Christians? They have got to find out for themselves.
What did God’s people do (yes, God’s people) in this situation?
Exodus 15:24 – And the people complained against Moses, saying, “What shall we drink?”
The very same people of God who had rejoiced in the Lord’s glory just days earlier were now murmuring and complaining against Him.
These people had seen God perform awesome miracles on their behalf in Egypt. First, the Lord supernaturally protected them, while all around them he devastated Egypt with plagues. Then, as they made their way toward the wilderness, God delivered them with the greatest miracle ever witnessed by man; the opening of the Red Sea with giant waves piled high, held back by incredibly strong winds.
In my mind, God provided an even greater wonder. He removed all sense of reason from the Egyptian army. Who but a supernaturally blinded army would rush in under such great walls of water? Any sensible soldier would have seen this wonder and thought, “Wait a minute, this is supernatural. Only God could do this. The same God who sent the plagues. Everybody else can move ahead if they want to, but I’m not going anywhere.” Yet the entire Egyptian army proceeded and was destroyed.
Do we ever forget God’s supernatural warnings and march right into trouble? Then we cry out, “God, why are you doing this to me?” If we could hear Him, He might be saying, “Hey, you did this to yourself.” But He still continues to love us anyway in spite of our continued stupidity, in spite of continued stubbornness, in spite of our continued neglect to obey Him.
I ask you, how could any Israelite ever doubt God again, after witnessing such a miracle? Here’s how: As soon as the Israelites grew thirsty in the desert, they forgot all about God’s awesome miracles on their behalf. It took them less than three days to begin to doubt Him. How long does it take us? Do we really know our heavenly Father’s nature? Did He not say, “I will never leave you nor forsake you?”
This is why so many believers rush all over the world looking for signs, miracles, and deliverances. They are trying to get to know God through supernatural works and wonders. But nobody truly gets to know the Lord that way. The apostle Paul tells us in no uncertain terms that faith does not come through witnessing supernatural works or miracles, but through God’s word.
Romans 10:17 – So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
You may ask, “What is the specific word that produces faith? It is the word that reveals who our heavenly Father is. This is how we discover who He is – by seeing and believing for ourselves who He claims to be. This occurs most often as God meets us in our trials.
You may wonder, why did God lead the Israelites directly to the waters of bitterness at Marah? Why did He just not take care of them as He had at the Red Sea? He took control of an entire sea of water for them so clearly He could have easily changed the waters at Marah as well. Why did He not do that?
The Lord had brought His people to Marah in order to deal with them. He was about to begin building His wilderness church. But He could not begin that work because the camp was filled with a deadly disease, infecting virtually everyone. What was this disease? The Hebrew root word for Marah means “corruption of bitterness.” A spirit of bitterness had spread throughout Israel and it had to be dealt with.
Try to picture the scene at Marah, as the people spewed out the bitter water. They must have been utterly confused, trying to figure out why God’s blessing and favor had disappeared from them so quickly. They may even have tried to worship the Lord, but they could not muster up the spirit to do it. They were unable to quench their thirst, physically or spiritually, no matter how hard they tried.
This is what bitterness does to people. It brings on confusion, a sense of God’s disfavor, and an inability to worship. God is trying to warn us about the deadly disease and consequences of an embittered heart.
Most bitterness among believers can be traced back to a disappointment with God. Most Christians who are bitter have experienced a deep disappointment with the Lord. A time of crisis, marriage problems, family upheaval, a financial struggle, a tragic illness slowly draining the life of a loved one. You were in need, hurting, crying out to God for help, believing for a miracle, doing the best you knew how. But the Lord didn’t seem to be here for you. Your trial dragged on, and over time things just got worse.
After a while you begin to wonder, “How could God allow this to go on? I’ve loved Him, believed Him, and prayed to Him. But nothing seems to change.” You did not dare allow yourself to get angry at the Lord. You made sure you did not do anything to cut yourself off from Him. But deep down, you were disappointed. Soon, a seed of bitterness took root in your heart. Over time that root sprang up and blossomed. Now it continues to grow and spread in your soul.
Childhood wounds can fester into roots of bitterness. Certain traumas – abuse, molestation, abandonment – all leave their marks deep inside. They often leave a trail of bitterness and unforgiveness in their victim’s lives.
Here is what I find most amazing about this passage. The Lord could have wiped out Israel at Marah. God had given these people incredible, undeniable miracles of deliverance. Yet, all through the supernatural plagues and the miraculous parting of the Red Sea, they continued to cling to doubt, fear and unbelief. First, they did not believe Moses, the Lord’s servant. Then they constantly questioned whether God was with them, behaving at every turn as if He had forsaken them. When they got to Marah, God directed Moses to cut down a tree and cast it into the bitter waters. Then Exodues 15:25 tells us:
So he cried out to the Lord, and the Lord showed him a tree. When he cast it into the waters, the waters were made sweet.
When we look to the tree – Calvary – life is no longer bitter. We see once more that our God comes to us in our crises and failures, bringing us into a new discovery of who He is and giving us another revelation of His loving kindness.
It is at Marah that we discover Jehovah Rophe – “the Lord who heals you.” The root word for heal here means “to fix or mend.” God told Israel,
Exodus 15:26 – If you diligently heed the voice of the Lord your God and do what is right in His sight, give ear to His commandments and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you which I have brought on the Egyptians. For I am the Lord who heals you.
The Lord is telling His people here, “I am a God who wants to heal your diseases, to mend you completely – body, soul and spirit. I want you to know Me!
What do you need to be healed of? A trial, a difficulty. Are you angry at society or certain individuals? Do you have an unforgiving spirit toward someone who has hurt you?
What is the most important healing to receive – physical or spiritual? What purpose is there in being healed of bodily sickness if we are not supernaturally healed of our bitterness, resentment and pride?
Even if you harbor bitterness in your heart, you are still the Lord’s possession. He is offering you total healing. He has revealed Himself to you as Jehovah Rophe – your healer and mender. He is waiting for you to trust Him. He longs to restore you to a clear conscience, to good physical health, to His divine peace and favor. He stands waiting for you now, wanting to forgive you, cleanse you and give you a new heart. Your physical healing is included, but the healing of your spirit must come first.
Just cry out to God: “Lord, I’ve carried this bitterness for too long. Now I know it’s time for me to be delivered. I want to be free.” He will take it the rest of the way.
“I am the God who heals you.”