26 He said, ‘If you will listen carefully to the voice of the Lord your God, and do what is right in his sight, and give heed to his commandments and keep all his statutes, I will not bring upon you any of the diseases that I brought upon the Egyptians; for I am the Lord who heals you.’
Moses raised his staff and the Red Sea parted and the Israelites crossed over into the wilderness, the Desert of Shur. They traveled for three days without water and came to the water of Marah. Marah means bitterness. Most of us know the feeling of bitterness. When things don’t go the way we think they ought and we feel betrayed, it is so easy for our mouth to spout off words that perhaps should not have been said. Or perhaps we break down and cry and have a genuine pity party feeling alone and vulnerable. We are convinced we will die. Genesis says the people “grumbled.”
Moses cries out to the Lord. Moses is accused and held responsible for the lack of water. The people are grumbling and the leader is feeling cornered. We have two pictures here and only you know which is more typical of how you respond to betrayal and disappointment. Do you accuse and grumble or do you turn to God in prayer? God opens Moses’ eyes and shows him a piece of wood. Not a whole tree, just a piece of wood. Moses throws it into the water and the chemical reaction turns the water sweet.
The picture that comes to my mind is a person who is being yelled at by a grieving person or even by an angry child. Sometimes a lecture is not needed. Just a hug. Perhaps the simple words, “I love you” or “I’m sorry” will break the lie that the other is rejected and alone. Bitterness cripples. Paul says in Hebrews 12:15, ‘15 See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springs up and causes trouble, and through it many become defiled.” A small piece of wood was thrown in the water and many hearts were changed and refreshed. God can use little things in the hands of ordinary people like us to sweeten the bitterness another is experiencing.
The people then came to Eli where they found twelve springs and 70 palm trees and they could camp, drink and refresh themselves. God’s promises and his ways lead to life and refreshment. Grumbling is a rabbit hole we don’t want to go down. Let’s pray and give our disappointments and feelings of betrayal to God!