Many years ago, when I was a student at Calvin Seminary in Grand Rapids, Michigan, one of my assignments was to study Exodus 15:22-26 and draw a sermon out of it. I did study those verses and found them to be fascinating. But now in days when our whole world has been upset by COVID-19, we can see how our Almighty heavenly Father who has control of everything may be using our time of trouble for his own glory and even for our good, just as he did long ago. Let's take a close look at Exodus 15 verses 22-26:
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.[a]) 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.
There the Lord issued a ruling and instruction for them and put them to the test. 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.”
The Scripture says that Moses led Israel into the desert where there was no water, but it was God Himself who led the people into that place of trouble as it says in Exodus 13:21, “the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of fire to guide them on their way.” So God himself led the people into trouble where there was no water for three days. That was a severe test! So the children were crying, and cattle and sheep were dying.
Then they found some water at a place called Marah, but they could not drink the water because it was bitter, bad, undrinkable! God tested his people. Most of the people failed the test by complaining and blaming their human leadership, namely Moses. Still today, many people blame human leadership for their trouble. Then we too fail the test.
But Moses passed the test. We read that he CRIED out to God. The God who made ears knows how to hear. He heard Moses prayer, but gave him a strange answer. God showed him a piece of wood. A piece of wood in the desert where there are rocks and stones all around?
God directed Moses to take a close look at a piece of wood. That piece of wood was the clue to provide the people the water they needed so badly. Moses took the piece of wood and threw it into the bitter water. Then, what happened? The Almighty God turned bitter water into good, clean, refreshing, drinkable water! At that time, Almighty God used just a piece of wood to save his people from death by thirst.
Today, all around us and within us are the bitter waters of human sin and misery, including misery and trouble caused by the coronavirus and violence. Many people today still complain to human leadership because of the trouble. Then we fail the test just as the people of Moses' time did.
But when we cry out to God, we find that he has planted the wooden cross of Jesus in the center of history into the bitter water of our troubles caused by our sins. The death of Jesus on the old rugged cross has the power to change bitter trouble to sweetness for us and send us on our way with a song of praise in our hearts as we are refreshed by the Living Water which flows from the cross of Calvary.
We have Fanny Crosby to thank for the hymn, “Jesus, keep me near the cross. There a precious fountain, free to all, a healing stream flows from Calvary's mountain. In the cross, in the cross, be my glory ever, 'til my raptured soul shall find rest, beyond the river.”
At that time, God planned to speak to his people from Mount Sinai. He planned to give them his law and directions for the tabernacle. So he called on his people to listen carefully. Today we have our precious Bibles. Oh, that we would listen carefully, hide all of his Word in our hearts, and then live by what we read!
Finally, when the children of Israel were at Marah, there was a new revelation of the heart of God. There God said, “I am the God who heals you.” It was not just the water of Marah that needed healing, the hearts of his people needed it too and God healed their hearts from complaining to praising and He will do the same for us. So do not be afraid of the virus nor the violence around us. (See Psalm 91) Our God is greater. He will give us eternal healing and joy forever! Just trust him! May God bless you as you keep looking at the cross of Jesus, because burdens are lifted at Calvary!