God: Our Teacher

Exodus 15:1-2
Then Moses and the children of Israel sang this song to the Lord, and spoke saying: "I will sing to the Lord, for He has triumphed gloriously! The horse and its rider He has thrown into the sea! The Lord is my strength and my song, and He has become my salvation; He is my God and I will praise Him; my father's God, and I will praise Him.

I read something the other day that I had never really stopped to think about before. It raised some questions in my mind. In Exodus chapter 15, Moses and the children of Israel had just come through the Red Sea. They had been in bondage in Israel. They had been slaves and God miraculously brought them out, led them through what had been a sea. He parted the waters and they walked through on dry ground. When Pharaoh's army chased after them, they were all drowned.

So in chapter 15 we find Moses and the children of Israel singing praises to the Lord. They praised, "I will sing to the Lord, for He has triumphed gloriously! The horse and its rider He has thrown into the sea! The Lord is my strength and my song, and He has become my salvation; He is my God and I will praise Him. My father's God, and I will exalt Him."

They were happy because God had done this incredible miracle for them. God took them from this terrible place of being pursued, spared them death, and then led them to a place called "Marah." The strange thing about Marah was, it says in verse 23, "Now when they came to Marah, they could not drink the waters of Marah, for they were bitter. Therefore the name of it was called Marah," (which means "bitter").

Israel had a long history of doing things wrong. They would love God for a while and then they would get out of line and be very sinful. God would punish them. They would find bitter times and hard times in their land as God withdrew His blessing from them because of their sin. The strange thing about this incident was that Israel had not done anything wrong. Israel had followed God. They followed Him right through the parted waters of the Red Sea. They came out rejoicing. They sang a great song. Things were going great, and all of a sudden things were bitter. Life was hard for Israel.

The wonderful part about it was that God told them exactly what to do. The people were murmuring and complaining to Moses and said, "What are we going to drink?" So they cried to the Lord, and the Lord showed them a tree. And when he cast it into the waters, the waters were made sweet. There He made a statute and an ordinance for them, and there He tested them. He said, "If you will diligently heed the voice of the Lord your God and do what is right in His sight, give ear to His commandments and keep His statutes, I will put none of these diseases on you which I have put on the Egyptians. For I am the Lord who heals you."

You see, God did that miracle for them. That bitter place was only a temporary place. It was a teaching place in which God told them He was serious. He said, "If you will follow Me and do things My way, you won't have the problems that Israel had in Egypt." There is a lesson for us, that there can be good times and then come the bad times.

Strangely enough, even though Israel often messed up and God had to punish them by withdrawing His blessings, this was a time when Israel had not done anything wrong. Things were going well and suddenly things were going badly. Times were bitter. The lesson for us to learn is just exactly what God said. It was a teaching time and God sometimes brings bitter things into our lives as a teaching time.

He tells us, "If you will follow My commandments and if you will follow Me, I will lead you out of here." God did provide water for them and He will provide the good things that we need in our lives, even though at times they may seem bitter. Marah was a temporary place and then they moved on to the good times again. Marah was a teaching time. We all need those times when God can speak to us, and sometimes He allows bad things to happen to us just so He can teach us. If you are in one of those bitter times now, take heart. Perhaps it's just a teaching time. Listen to what God has to say.

By Dr. Ann Shorb

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