A Mirage in the Desert

I had a Marah experience this week.  No, not Mariah, as I ran into the famous pop star, but Marah.  Let me explain…

“Then Moses led the people of Israel away from the Red Sea, and they moved out into the desert of Shur. They traveled in this desert for three days without finding any water. When they came to the oasis of Marah, the water was too bitter to drink.” (Exodus 15:22-23)

The Israelites had just been freed from their slavery, and left Egypt via that miraculous Red Sea parting.  They had just begun their journey to the promised land, but after three days of traveling in the desert they were thirsty and in dire need of water.  Then they came upon a watering hole….perfect.  Relief was in sight. However, when they tried the water, it was bitter and undrinkable.  Can you imagine wandering in a dry, hot dessert for three days only to discover that the only water in sight is undrinkable?

I imagine it would be a little disappointing to say the least.  I had a recent moment like that. It seems like I have been traveling through the dessert, trying to get to the promised land for a while now.  Then, an opportunity presented itself that seemed pretty good….like well needed refreshment.  It pumped me up a bit, and I started pondering the possibilities.  The perfect conditions had been created so surely this must be what I was waiting for. But just like the waters of Marah, it wasn’t what it seemed.  Kind of like a mirage in the desert.  I was a little disheartened.  So how did the Israelites handle it?

“Then the people complained and turned against Moses. ‘What are we going to drink? they demanded.   So Moses cried out to the LORD for help, and the LORD showed him a piece of wood. Moses threw it into the water, and this made the water good to drink.” (Exodus 15:24-25)

There was some grumbling in the camp, but one person was thinking clearly and decided to ask God for some assistance.   The same God that just parted a sea for them to cross, could surely take care of this little pond…and He did.  He turned the waters from bitter to sweet.

So how did my Marah water become sweet?  The physical circumstances didn’t change, but I came to grip the understanding that, as attractive as this opportunity was, it wasn’t God’s will for me.  I never did have a complete peace about it, and God was showing me, in a few different ways, that this is not the direction He has for me.  If you think about it, there is nothing sweeter than knowing that God has your back and is helping you go in the right direction…toward that promised land.  And guess where the next stop was in the Israelites journey after Marah?

“After leaving Marah, the Israelites traveled on to the oasis of Elim, where they found twelve springs and seventy palm trees. They camped there beside the water.” (Exodus 15:27)

God doesn’t expect us to make a long journey without giving us some refreshment along the way.  Thank goodness for that, because I am getting mighty parched.  But now that I know what my next stop brings, I’m looking forward to a long drink and some much needed shade!

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