The Trial at Marah


“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.) 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 sweet. There the Lord made a decree and a law for them, and there He tested them.” (Exodus 15:22-25)


God saved the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. He separated the waters of the Red Sea so that His people could cross over on dry land, and He cast the chariots and hosts of Pharaoh into the deep sea. These were great miracles that displayed the love and protection of God towards His chosen people. After exiting from the Red Sea, the Israelites earnestly began their journey to Canaan. Traveling the desert road for three days, they could find no water. When they finally found a source, they discovered it was bitter. So Moses called upon God, and the Lord instructed him to cut down some wood from a tree and throw in into the water. The bitter water became sweet, and satisfied the people’s thirst.


The trial of the Israelites at Marah in those days provides for us who follow Christ today four aspects of a lesson in hardships:


1.      Hardships are a test for the children of God. Sometimes, God makes us encounter hardships so that we will be tested in our spiritual quality and our degree of knowledge of Him. As with the function of academic examinations, the purpose isn’t to torture the students, but to test their degree of learning and absorption of the subject they had been taught. An adverse circumstance could be God’s instrument to test the character of our spirituality.


2.      Hardships are just temporary. The Israelites became panicked after just three days without water in the desert, and grumbled against God and Moses who had rescued them from Egypt. An adverse circumstance is like a vast desert that brings fear to an observer. But the Lord who governs time and situations knows the road ahead for us and has the power to change everything instantly. All circumstantial hardships are just temporary and will surely pass away. If we understand the transient nature of hardships, we will not be corralled by fear so that we lose our faith and hope in God.


3.      Hardships are the turning points for spiritual revival. The Israelites had drunk water from rivers, wells and rain. But it is certain that none among the more than one million of them had ever drunk sweet water from the stream at Marah. By means of a designated tree, God turned bitter water into sweet. This was a wonderful miracle. Sometimes God will revive us from a tedious life, mundane job, or depressed spirituality through hardships. If we wait for and seek Him, God can convert a peril into a turning point, and hardships into brand new blessings.


4.      Hardships compel us to trust God. The response of most people to hardships is fear, grumbling, avoidance or withdrawal. When the children of God face hardships, our response will be different from that of the world if we truly know our place and are certain that God is with us. All depend on our trust in the Almighty Father. Hardships are good opportunities for our spiritual growth. They will nurture our genuine faith in God and complete dependence on Him. If we are always successful and never encounter setbacks, we will never learn the reliance on God that is generated through hardships.


“This poor man called, and the Lord heard him; He saved him out of all his troubles. The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him, and He delivers them. Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him.” (Psalm 34:6-8)



By: Daniel To