The children of Israel had just seen God’s power in the parting of the Red Sea to bring them to freedom from the pursuing Egyptians. Miriam took a timbrel and danced, and all the women danced with her. Everyone joined in singing a song of praise. But then came the desert…
Three days, thirty-three miles, no water. Cracked lips. Tongues that stuck to the roofs of their mouths. Parched throats. Getting weaker. More and more forgetful of the miracle they just experienced.
Finally water appeared and “Yuck!” So bitter they couldn’t even drink it. They murmured. The verb (vayyillonu) used in the original is even stronger than grumbling. It’s used almost exclusively in the wilderness wandering stories to describe rebellion and questioning God’s abilities and motives. (Net Bible – Exodus 15)
Isn’t that how we often respond to the trials in life? We worship when miracles happen. But in the heat of the desert, we so easily forget God’s mercies and His powerful displays of pure and abiding love. We forget Him, but He never forgets us.
Moses cried out to God for deliverance, and God showed him a tree. When he threw a branch into the water, the bitter waters were made sweet. A sweet miracle in spite of their bitter spirits.
God tested their loyalty, but they didn’t do so well. Did He get tired of them and leave them? No. He graciously forgave these grumblers and reminded them to follow Him and to remember He is the Healer. After this, they went on to camp in Elim where there were twelve springs of water and seventy palm trees. Another sweet miracle.
But the desert came again for the Israelites, and they will come again for us as long as we’re on this earth. How will we react? Will our sight be blinded to past miracles by either the bitterness of our circumstances or our spirits? Will we forget He has the power to make the bitter waters sweet?
No matter how we respond, God will always remain faithful. Time and again His everlasting love will pick us up again. He is so patient, so forgiving, so merciful. He makes the bitter waters sweet.