Greetings in the name of the father, the son, and the Holy Spirit.
“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (James 1:2-4)
Moses raised his hand over the Red Sea in faith in God, and God opened a path through the water with a strong east wind. The wind blew all that night, turning the seabed into dry land. So the people of Israel walked through the middle of the sea on dry ground, with walls of water on each side!
The angel of God, who had been leading the people of Israel, moved to the rear of the camp. The pillar of cloud also moved from the front and stood behind them. The cloud settled between the Egyptian and Israelite camps. As darkness fell, the cloud turned to fire, lighting up the night.
Then, two million Israelites followed Moses through the Red Sea. There were two huge walls of water on both sides as they walked on dry ground. God’s almighty hand was with them.
Behind them, the Pharaoh’s army was chasing. Pharaoh’s chariots and horses dashed into the Red Sea to capture the Israelites, slowly walking to the other side of the Red Sea. Although the pillars of fire and cloud were delaying their advancement, the Pharaoh’s army was gaining the Israelites. God looked down on the Egyptian army from the pillar of fire and cloud, and He threw the Pharaoh’s army into total confusion. He twisted their chariot wheels, making their chariots difficult to drive. With the advancement of the Egyptians, the Pharaoh’s army halted, and they started shouting, “Let’s get out of here—away from these Israelites! God is fighting for them against Egypt!”
Some of the Pharaoh’s army turned around to go back to where they came from to save their lives, which added even more confusion to the army. The Pharaoh’s army could see their faces in fear of God, running backward instead of charging forward. However, there was no room to give them to retreat because there were walls of water on each side. The entire Pharaoh’s army got lost in the middle of the Red Sea. The scene became chaotic.
On the other hand, the Israelites orderly walked on dry ground through the Red Sea under God’s protection. Moses kept walking, and finally, he could see the other side of the Red Sea. He fixed his eyes on it and led the entire Israelites with the power of God. God was Moses, and Moses was with the Israelites. All together experienced God even in the midst of being chased by the Pharaoh’s army because all saw what God did for them against the mighty Pharaoh’s army.
All Israelites were truly comforted in the middle of the Red Sea. They started encouraging each other while watching God’s hand imprinted on the huge walls of water and the pillars of cloud and fire. The other side of the Red Sea was not far. They walked to the other side in hope provided by God. They knew their total freedom from the past miserable slavery was waiting for them. Some started singing and praising God, and all followed singing. The entire Israelites became one big choir of God, but the Pharaohs’ army struggled in fear of God.
When all the Israelites had reached the other side, God said to Moses, “Raise your hand over the sea again. Then the waters will rush back and cover the Egyptians and their chariots and charioteers.” So as the sun began to rise, Moses raised his hand over the sea, and the water rushed back into its usual place. The Egyptians tried to escape, but God swept them into the sea. Then the waters returned and covered all the chariots and charioteers—the entire army of Pharaoh. Of all the Egyptians who had chased the Israelites into the sea, not a single one survived.
Of course, without Moses, God alone could make the Pharaoh’s army drown in the Red Sea, but God waited till Moses raised Moses’ hand over the Red Sea. Why? Moses was one of the most humble and faithful persons in the world, and it was God’s will to use Moses. Thus, we cannot argue one way or the other. We can say Moses was most qualified at that time to God. But it gives an excellent opportunity to learn about how God works with His people on earth, especially during such a dire situation.
God loves a truly humble and faithful believer and uses such a person to glorify His name. In other words, if anyone wants to glorify God’s name like Moses, the person should be humble and faithful to God like Moses. Are you such a believer who is truly humble and faithful to God like Moses? Surely, God will use you to glorify God’s name. Also, please note that Moses’ humility and faith did not come easy either. It took forty years of a special walk with God.
In the end, the people of Israel had walked through the middle of the sea on dry ground, as the water stood up like a wall on both sides. That is how God rescued Israel from the hand of the Egyptians that day. And the Israelites saw the bodies of the Egyptians washed up on the seashore. When the people of Israel saw the mighty power that God had unleashed against the Egyptians, they were filled with awe before him. They put their faith in God and in his servant Moses.
Then Moses and the people of Israel sang to God with the loudest voice because they saw the Pharaoh’s army utterly destroyed by God’s hand.
“I will sing to the LORD,
for he has triumphed gloriously;
He has hurled both horse and rider
into the sea.
The LORD is my strength and my song;
He has given me victory.
This is my God, and I will praise Him—
my father’s God, and I will exalt Him!
The LORD is a warrior;
Yahweha is his name!
Pharaoh’s chariots and army
he has hurled into the sea.
The finest of Pharaoh’s officers
are drowned in the Red Sea.
The deep waters gushed over them;
they sank to the bottom like a stone.”
Then Miriam the prophet, Aaron’s sister, took a tambourine and led all the women as they played their tambourines and danced. And Miriam sang this song:
“Sing to the LORD,
for he has triumphed gloriously;
he has hurled both horse and rider
into the sea.”
All Israelites had experienced God’s miracle that no one had ever seen before. They could not stand still because of their joy of finally having their complete freedom from the Egyptians, and they danced and praised God all day long, watching the bodies of the Egyptians washed up on the seashore. They experienced God’s power and were relieved. God killed the Pharaoh’s army, and the huge Red Sea forever separated them from the Egyptians.
All believed that everything would be rosy from then on, and they expected they would soon be in the Promised Land where milk and honey flew.
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. They brought some water which did not stay long because they did not prepare for such a long journey through the desert. All water ran out, and they became thirsty. Due to extreme dehydration, some fainted, and people carried them. The sun was hot, and the bone-dry desert had no mercy, which tortured them. But Moses kept walking, and the Israelites followed.
Then suddenly, one person shouted, “Oasis, Oasis!” All looked in the direction that the person pointed. Yes, they could see a small dot size of an oasis far on the sandy desert horizon. What good news it was! The person who spotted the oasis ran, and immediately people followed. The joyful sound came back again among the Israelites. All were quick to believe their thirst was over because they had found the oasis. Many ran, with all energy they had, although they were completely exhausted and thirsty after walking through the desert for three days.
As soon as they reached the oasis, they put their hands in the oasis water and drank it from their hands. Then all immediately spit out the water from their mouths. The water was too bitter to drink. What a disappointment! After three days of journey through the bone-dry desert, they found the oasis. But the oasis water was too bitter to drink.
Then the people complained and turned against Moses. “What are we going to drink?” they demanded. Moses had no answer. Moses himself could not understand why. He kept praying on the way for God’s guidance. For the last two days, he fervently prayed to God for water because he saw the suffering of the Israelites following him, but he could not see any sign of getting water. Even so, Moses did not stop praying to God for water. The endless desert could not deter Moses’ faithfulness in God.
Then one oasis was found, but it was useless because it only produced water too bitter to drink. What a heartbreaking moment for Moses! Moses barely held up his heart and mind under the unbearably painful situation. And the Israelites complained, and the complaints pushed Moses over the edge. Moses himself was about to collapse, and the non-stop complaints of the Israelites did not know when to stop.
Only three days ago, the people were tremendously joyful and thankful to Moses after crossing the Red Sea and absolutely trusted in Moses and God. Now they became enemies against Moses and harshly criticized Moses by pouring out their anger and frustration for not having water to drink even after arriving at the oasis found after three days of journey through the desert.
Moses did not know what to do but silently stared at the Israelites as they complained. It was a really painful moment. All of his prayers came to nothing. The oasis was completely useless, which he initially regarded as the answer from God for his prayer.
Moses closed his eyes and remembered his painful days when he was rejected by his own fellow Israelites and became a fugitive. Then he followed the trails in his mind filled with the forty years of journey with God afterward. One thing that was absolutely true during the journey was God was always with Moses and faithful in all situations, whether Moses was completely down due to his disappointment or up in thanksgiving. Although it was not what he wanted, after all, it became the most precious gift from God.
Only three days ago, he was a hero to all because all praised Moses for dividing the Red Sea. All blamed Moses because Moses led them through the desert without water and then to the oasis. But the oasis produced bitter water. Moses finally was able to take off his eyes from the complaining people and fix his heart, mind, and soul to God, who was always with him throughout his life. Moses then lifted his eyes and prayed to God while remembering and giving thanks to God for what God had done for him for the last forty years.
Moses’ heart was in constant prayers, and the people complained and complained. Then, Moses boldly prayed, “Isn’t it time to see your glory instead of seeing the misery of these Israelites who are dying because they could not drink the bitter water from the oasis?” After this prayer, Moses put his trust in God again. He believed God would save the Israelites through the Red Sea by dividing the sea. It was only three days.
Then God showed Moses a piece of wood. Moses threw it into the water, making it good to drink. Yes, God did it again as Moses believed, despite all things against him, whether it was the bitter water in the oasis or the shallow faith Israelites who viciously complained. Moses saw what the three short days could do to the Israelites.
All drank the water and were satisfied. Before the miracle of sweetening the water, the Israelites thought their hope was completely gone. Even the oasis could not save them. They thought they would soon die without water in the middle of the useless oasis. However, they were wrong. God was them despite their unbelief, and God proved again He was the one and only Ever-Loving Father to the Israelites. Then they called the place Marah (which means “bitter”).
Moses proved his faithfulness to God at Marah, but the Israelites failed. Indeed the oasis was an opportunity that God provided to prove their faith before God, but except Moses, sadly, all were unable to prove their faith. God let the Israelites prove their faith and see tier faith with their own eyes, but their mouths were too quick to complain.
They could not connect the dire situation with God, but they just thought they would die alone in the middle of the oasis producing bitter water after the three days of journey through the desert following Moses and God. Yes, it was true that they were almost dying without water after three days of journey through the desert. Still, none even attempted to return to God, their Ever-Loving Father, to receive His mercy and love during the dire situation.
Indeed, the Marah’s bitter water was a testing ground to prove their faith in God and, most of all, in themselves. If they had overcome the dire situation in prayer in Him, they could have been shining stars in the night sky. As the night deepens, the stars get brighter. God gave this opportunity and wanted to see the Israelites overcome in faith, but they couldn’t. Because of their failure, was God mad at them? No. God was not. God kept loving them because they were God’s children, whom God would never abandon. Then God lifted up Moses, who was truly humble and faithful in God, and through Moses, God made the water sweet for the Israelites, His children, to drink.
Sometimes we feel like making a journey in the desert. All opportunities we hoped for dried up before our eyes, and only no good news kept finding us. Keeping knocking, but no door was open. But the clock kept ticking. Like the Israelites in the desert for three days without water, our situation only worsened.
Have we prayed? Yes, we prayed and prayed, but nothing changed. Then suddenly, a really good opportunity popped up and presented itself before us, exactly for what we prayed.
Then we gave thanks to God for hearing our prayer. However, it was not the end of the story. The opportunity looked like what we were praying for, but it was not. Like the oasis in Marah, it was completely useless, which only prolonged our bitter life experience. Then what shall we do?
Should we complain and blame God like the Israelites? Or should we be like Moses? Indeed, the moment is the God-sent opportunity to prove our faith in God to ourselves, which is more precious than we get what we have prayed for a long time.
Why? Do we want to give fish to our children or teach our children how to catch fish? God is our Ever-Loving Father. Why not God teaches us how to overcome all things in faith rather than getting what we want, which can easily spoil us? Again, let’s think about this: which is better – to get what we want or to truly learn how to overcome all things in faith, giving thanksgiving to God even in the time of trial?
Let’s see Moses. Moses was truly disappointed at the reality of the oasis only producing bitter water. Then he was pressured by the Israelites who used to praise him only three days ago. Even in this terrible situation, Moses proved his faith and won the victory. Moses got closer to God while deepening his relationship with God. The Israelites squandered the excellent opportunity to prove their faith and grow deeper in God in faith to be ready for the next stage of life challenges. They fell back to their immaturity in faith like little children. Even so, God proved Him as Ever-Loving Father by providing what the Israelites needed out of His love toward the Israelites, His beloved children.
Then at Marah, God set before them the following decree as a standard to test their faithfulness to Him.
God said through Moses, “If you will listen carefully to the voice of the LORD your God and do what is right in his sight, obeying his commands and keeping all his decrees, then I will not make you suffer any of the diseases I sent on the Egyptians; for I am the LORD who heals you.”
Then they spent days at Marah, while drinking and enjoying the sweet water to which God turned the bitter water. Yes, God provided.
God is our Ever-Loving Father. We might not have the faith of Moses, but God loves us. God always provides according to His infinite goodness in His love. Indeed, hardship in our lives is a precious opportunity presented by God for us to prove our faith and grow deeper into Him.
When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things. (1 Corinthians 13:11)