FROM THE BITTER TO THE SWEET

Pastor James J. Barker

Text: EXODUS 15:22-27




INTRODUCTION:


  1. Exodus 14 is one of the most exciting chapters in the Bible (cf. 14:26-31).
  2. The parting of the Red Sea is one of the greatest miracles in the Bible, and after witnessing this wonderful miracle, the Israelites "feared the LORD, and believed the LORD, and his servant Moses" (14:31).
  3. Chapter 15 then begins with a beautiful song (15:1-21), with Godís people singing from hearts full of gratitude and devotion to God (cf. 15:1-13).
  4. And then the singing came to end and we read in 15:22, "So Moses brought Israel from the Red Sea, and they went out into the wildernessÖ"
  5. Please mark this carefully: it was their passage through the Red Sea which introduced Godís people to the wilderness.
  6. Israelís redemption from the bondage of Egypt is figurative of our redemption from the bondage of sin. In the Bible, Egypt represents the world. Pharaoh represents the devil.
  7. Israelís redemption was by the shed blood of the Passover Lamb (Ex. 12:12,13). And our redemption is through the shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ.
  8. So now the Israelites have left Egypt. They have been redeemed. The LORD parted the Red Sea and they crossed over on dry ground. But why did God lead them into the wilderness?
  9. The wilderness is the place of travelers and pilgrims, journeying from one place to another. The Israelites were on their way to the land of Canaan, and those of us that have trusted Christ are on our way to heaven.
  10. The hymn-writer put it this way:

When shall I reach that happy place, and be forever blest?
When shall I see my Fatherís face, and in His bosom rest?
I am bound for the Promised Land,
I am bound for the Promised Land;
O who will come and go with me?
I am bound for the Promised Land.

  1. So the Israelites were bound for the Promised Land but it took them a long time to get there. And here we see that they walked through the hot desert for three days without water (15:22).
  2. Naturally, they were very thirsty. And when they finally found some water they could not drink it because it was bitter (15:23).
  3. There is a happy ending to this story. God made the bitter waters sweet. And as you and I travel through this wilderness we will get thirsty at times, and unfortunately the water will sometimes taste bitter. So there are lessons here for us (cf. I Cor.10:1-6).

 

I. IT IS GOD WHO LEADS US THROUGH THE WILDERNESS.

    1. Just as surely as God led the Israelites over the Red Sea, He led them into the wilderness (15:22; cf. 13:21,22).
    2. God has a purpose in the way He directs and leads His people. In this life we will face trials and troubles. But we must always remember that God is in control. These trials and troubles are for our benefit; they are for our education, and they will help us if we stay close to the Lord.
    3. Someone has wisely said, "When you think you are at the end of your rope, remember God is at the other end."
    4. I have to admit to you today that I have been under tremendous pressure these last few months. So I really need to practice what I preach (cf. John 16:33; Rom.5:3-5; James 1:2-4; I Peter 4:12-19).
    5. There is an old saying, "Smooth seas do not make skillful sailors," and they do not make strong Christians either. Speaking of skillful sailors, I heard about an old sea captain who was interviewing a young naval student. "What would you do if a sudden storm broke out," he asked. "Iíd throw out an anchor, sir." "What would you do if another storm sprang up?" "Iíd throw out another anchor, sir." "But what if a third storm sprang up forward?" "Iíd throw out another anchor, captain." "Wait a minute, son," said the old captain. "Where in the world are you getting all these anchors?"
    6. "From the same place youíre getting all your storms."
    7. Thank God, we have an anchor that keeps the soul, steadfast and sure while the billows roll.
    8. The Bible says in Ex.15:25b, "and there He proved them." God was proving His people at the bitter waters of Marah, and God is proving you and me during the bitter trials and troubles that we must go through. "Trouble is only opportunity in work clothes."
    9. I believe God has kept us in this building renovation for months to prove us. And this has been the best months we have ever had. Letís not murmur now. Like Moses, let us cry unto the LORD and ask for His help. Because only He can help us.
    10. Someone has said, "Disappointments are Godís appointments." This is true. Hudson Taylor said, "If it is true in anything, it is especially true of divine things, that what costs little is worth little."
    11. God was proving them (15:25b), and God is proving us. This first test which the Israelites experienced after they passed through the Red Sea was designed to teach them that nothing this world has to offer can satisfy their most basic needs.
    12. The Israelites had to learn to trust God to supply their needs, and we have to learn the same lesson. The waters of this world look so sweet at first, but they can never satisfy. This is the lesson our Lord taught the woman at the well (cf. John 4:6-14; 7:37).

 

II. WHEN BITTERNESS COMES, WE MUST PRAY, NOT MURMUR.

    1. "Marah" means "bitter" (Ex.15:22,23). Notice that as soon as trouble came, "the people murmured against Moses" (15:24). And when they murmured against Moses, they were really murmuring against the LORD (Ex.16:8).
    2. Three days ago they had been singing, but now they are murmuring. They went from praising God before the Red Sea to complaining and murmuring at Marah.
    3. We need to ask God to help us with this matter of murmuring and complaining. Many years ago two great preachers knelt down to pray. One was Lewis Sperry Chafer, and the other was H.A. Ironside. As Ironside prayed, he said this, "Lord, help me not to be a cranky old man." Dr. Chafer was surprised because he knew H.A. Ironside to be such a gracious Christian gentleman. But Ironside knew his own heart, and God knows our hearts, and we need to examine ourselves on a regular basis.
    4. We see this word "murmuring" quite a few times in the books of Exodus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. We see warnings against murmuring all throughout the Bible. The apostle Paul said, "Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer" (I Cor. 10:10).
    5. Jude wrote, "These are murmurers, complainers, walking after their own lusts" (Jude 16).
    6. Beloved, when trouble comes Ė and it will come Ė let us not murmur, but let us pray. The Bible says, Moses "cried unto the LORD" (15:25).
    7. What a difference! Murmuring gets us nowhere. Murmuring only incurs the wrath of God. But as soon as Moses prayed, God showed him something (15:25).
    8. God allows the bitter waters of Marah into our lives to drive us to our knees (cf. Ps.107:4-6, 11-13, 17-19, 26-28).

 

III. THE CROSS OF CHRIST IS WHAT TURNS THE BITTER TO SWEET.

    1. The cross of Christ is what makes the difference (15:25-27).
    2. Notice that the Bible says, "and the LORD shewed him a tree" (Ex.15:25). Apparently the tree had been there all the time but Moses could not see it.
    3. Whenever a sinner gets saved, God opens their eyes and they see things they never saw before. Now all of a sudden, they can understand the Bible.
    4. I remember many years ago going into a bookstore and buying my first King James Bible. I started reading it, but had a difficult time understanding much of it. But after I got saved God opened my eyes.
    5. And this is the way it is for all of Godís children. Now they can understand Godís Word. Now they realize the importance of getting baptized and joining the church, and winning souls, and supporting missionaries, etc.
    6. The Bible has many similar incidents where we see God opening peopleís eyes (cf. Gen.21:14-19; II Kings 6:13-17).
    7. But now that our eyes are opened, let us look at this tree which the LORD showed Moses (Ex.15:25). First of all, this tree typifies the cross of Calvary (cf. Acts 5:30-33; 10:38-40; 13:28-30; Gal.3:13; I Peter 2:24).
    8. So the bitter waters of Marah can only be sweetened by the cross of Calvary. The world offers various methods in an effort to sweeten up the bitter waters of life: television, movies, worldly music, money, fame, power, drugs, alcohol, illicit sex, etc. but these things can never satisfy. Their thirst just gets worse and worse.

CONCLUSION:

  1. After the incident at Marah, the Israelites "came to Elim" (Ex.15:27).
  2. There is an important principle here: Blessing always follows testing. The Israelites were tested at Marah, where God revealed His power to take care of every need they had.
  3. Then they found an abundance of water and shelter at Elim. Whereas Marah was a place of testing, Elim was a place of resting.
  4. My friend, you may be at Marah today, but be patient Ė Elim is just around the corner.
  5. But we will not make it to Elim till we first get things right with God at Marah.




Pastor James J. Barker
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