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Exodus 15:22–27 KJV 1900
22 So Moses brought Israel from the Red sea, and they went out into the wilderness of Shur; and they went three days in the wilderness, and found no water. 23 And when they came to Marah, they could not drink of the waters of Marah, for they were bitter: therefore the name of it was called Marah. 24 And the people murmured against Moses, saying, What shall we drink? 25 And he cried unto the Lord; and the Lord shewed him a tree, which when he had cast into the waters, the waters were made sweet: there he made for them a statute and an ordinance, and there he proved them, 26 And said, If thou wilt diligently hearken to the voice of the Lord thy God, and wilt do that which is right in his sight, and wilt give ear to his commandments, and keep all his statutes, I will put none of these diseases upon thee, which I have brought upon the Egyptians: for I am the Lord that healeth thee. 27 And they came to Elim, where were twelve wells of water, and threescore and ten palm trees: and they encamped there by the waters.
Intro: Learning valuable lessons can be a bitter experience. While this is true, it is also true that experience is the best teacher.
You can tell a child that a stove eye is hot, but it never seems to click until they have touched it for themselves. When they do, they understand immediately what hot means. It is a lesson they will never forget as long as they live, but it was a bitter lesson to have to learn.
Unfortunately, we all seem to possess this same characteristic. We have to be burned before we can learn!
In this passage, Israel is fresh from a great spiritual victory. They have been delivered from slavery, they have been given a new life and they have witnessed God destroying their enemies in the depths of the Red Sea. Now, three days later, they are faced with a trial. After three days with no water, they come to a place called Marah. While they are there, they are taught some valuable lessons. I’d like to share those lessons with you today.
It may be that someone is going through a time of trial. If so He gives a lesson or two to teach you, if you will allow Him to. If everything in your life is sailing along smoothly, praise the Lord. But, look out! One day soon, you will come to your own Marah. When this happens, you may need the lessons we can learn right here.
I would like for us to step back in time and join Israel at Marah, and consider the lessons revealed here as I try to preach on Lessons Learned At Life’s Bitter Pools.


A. Life Is A Mixture—Israel had just experienced the blessing, but they must face the bitter as well. Then, as soon as this bitter time was past, they enjoyed a time of blessing, v. 22–23, 27.
I suppose, like a lot of people in our day, they assumed that once you sign up to follow the Lord, everything is going to be perfect and that there will be no bumps in the road. Unfortunately, this is just faulty thinking!
According to God’s Word, life is a mixture of good and bad—Job 14:1; Job 5:7; Eccl. 2:17, 23. For all his days are sorrows, and his travail grief; yea, his heart taketh not rest in the night. This is also vanity. There will be glorious days, The birth of a child, falling in love, getting married, enjoying the good things of life, etc., and there will be bad days . Times of sickness, death, hardship, discouragement, and depression. We need to be prepared for whatever kind of day the Lord wills for us to have!
B. Life Has A Master—When Israel arrived at Marah, they seemed to forget all the wonderful things God had done for them. They forgot about the plagues God sent upon Egypt. They forgot their deliverance and the miracle at the Red Sea. They forgot that the Lord had been in absolute control. They forgot that God is the Master of life. Both of the good times and the bad. Psa. 37:23 The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD: and he delighteth in his way.
Sounds a lot like us doesn’t it? We will cruise through life enjoying the Lord’s blessings and take those blessings for granted! Then, let a difficulty come and we wring our hands, hang our heads in defeat and worry about what to do! We forget that the same God who was in control in the good days is still on the throne in the bad days!
He is in charge of all of life—Rom. 8:28! The Disciples on the boat, John 6:1–21. They rejoiced at His miracles, but when the storm came, they forgot what they had just seen Him do. Sounds just like us, doesn’t it? We need to learn the lesson that He is the Master of our sea!
C. Life Is A Ministry—God used all of the times Israel faced, both good and bad, to minister to the Israelites. What they learned about God in both of these times of life, shaped their perception of who God was and what He could do for them.
The same is true for us. Every situation in life serves as ministry of the Lord to us. He uses all the times of life to shape us in His image.
Just as a child is the product of his/her environment, so the Christian is a product of the situations he faces in his life. Everything we face in life is designed to teach us more about God. There are lessons in both the good times and the bad times that can be learned at no other times and in no other ways!
In all of life, God is simply trying to make us more like Him—Eph. 4:13. Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:
Rom. 8:29 For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. is the reason for Rom. 8:28!


Life is like a laboratory. Every experience, whether good or bad, x-rays our heart and reveals us exactly as we are. This bitter time at Marah revealed certain characteristics about the Israelites that they probably would rather have not known.
I am afraid that we are in the same shape as they were. The fact is, we can learn a lot about ourselves when the bottom falls out of our lives! They learned:
A. They Were Living For Self—They were only concerned with bodily satisfaction. They had forgotten the great things God had just recently done in their lives. Instead of being caught up in His wonder, glory and worship, they were totally consumed with their personal needs!
When we get into a tight spot, we seem to forget the greatness of God and our world suddenly gets very small. We tighten the boundaries of our lives until we are the centerpiece and the focus of every thought and motive. We must remember that God doesn’t want us living for self and our selfish needs. He wants us to live for Him! When we do, He has promised to take care of life’s trials—Matt. 6:33! But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.
B. They Were Walking By Sight—Israel was guilty of looking for satisfaction in the world around them, instead of the God who bought them. When their expectations failed them, they became disappointed with God.
How many times have we been guilty of the same thing? We expect something, some job, someone, something to come along to make us happy and all the time, we never look for joy in the one place where it will always be found—even in the bitter times of life! Neh. 8:10 Then he said unto them, Go your way, eat the fat, and drink the sweet, and send portions unto them for whom nothing is prepared: for this day is holy unto our Lord: neither be ye sorry; for the joy of the LORD is your strength.
Luke 10:20 Notwithstanding in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven.
Phil. 4:4 Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice.
Our duty as believers is to learn to depend on the Lord, completely and totally, for every situation in life. We are to be a people of faith, Rom. 1:17. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.
Rom. 1:17. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.
When we step outside of faith and walk by sight, we have left God’s best and have entered sin—Rom. 14:23. And he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin.
C. They Were Never Satisfied—Just 3 days before, they had seen the Lord destroy the greatest army in the world! They had seen God part a great sea and deliver them. Then they had seen Him take that same sea and use it to defeat their enemies. When these things happened, they opened their mouths and praised the Lord in song. Now they are standing by a pool of bitter water, complaining because the Lord didn’t do it their way, in their time!
How like us! When we are up on the mountain, we can be so quick to glorify God and even stand publically and give Him thanks. Let a little trial come our way, however, and we whine, gripe and complain about the terrible time we are having to go through. Isn’t that silly? Sure it is!
God’s plan for our lives is that we learn to give Him glory in every situation life throws at us. If we are on the mountain, then praise Him for His blessings! If we are in the valley, then praise Him for His faithfulness. Whatever we face in life, we are to praise His Name— 1 Thes. 5:18 In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. Job and his attitude:
Job 1:21 And said, Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.
David—Psa. 34:1- I will bless the LORD at all times: his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
A Lady I used to work with. Had a serious bout with cancer. God healed her and all she said about it was, “Thank God, for several months, I didn’t have to shave my legs at all!” Now there is an attitude of gratitude!


A. He Is Aware Of Our Needs—God knew what they would face at Marah. He had planned their journey Himself. He knew about their need before they did!
Nothing in your life takes God by surprise! He is already in your tomorrow and He knows what you will face when you get there, Matt. 6:32. For after all these things do the Gentiles seek: for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.
He knows of that sickness you have yet to develop. He knows of your grief while the one you are grieving still lives. He knows about that bill that has yet to be mailed. He knows about that family problem, that church problem, that has yet to arise!
I am glad I serve a God who knows what I need before I ever need it. He has never been caught off guard. He has never been surprised. He has never scratched His head and said, “I didn’t see that coming! What am I going to do? I wonder how they will get out of that mess!” He is aware! He is aware and He is at work on both ends of time to accomplish His purposes in our lives, Elijah1 Kings 17:4, And it shall be, that thou shalt drink of the brook; and I have commanded the ravens to feed thee there.
He is aware! He is aware and He is at work on both ends of time to accomplish His purposes in our lives, Elijah1 Kings 17:4, And it shall be, that thou shalt drink of the brook; and I have commanded the ravens to feed thee there.
B. He Is Able To Meet Our Need—Moses was commanded to cast a tree into the waters and, when he did, they were made sweet. God, in His wisdom, had already prepared that tree for the meeting of their need. When they arrived, He was ready. He manifested His power and they got what they needed from the Lord.
He is able to meet our need as well! When man was placed on this earth, he had no needs. God placed a perfect man into a perfect world. There in the Garden of Eden, Adam had everything he could possibly need. Yet, when man sinned, he became a needy creature. Not only did he need salvation, he also needed the very basic essentials of life itself.
When Jesus came and died on Calvary, He repaired everything Adam had destroyed. Through His death on that tree, He was able to make the bitter waters of life sweet again! Through His death on the cross, we find everything we need to have our needs met. When we are in a right relationship with God, through the shed blood of Jesus, we are in a position to have every need of life met by His power. Through the cross of Christ, the bitter waters of life are made sweet again! Through the cross, God is able to meet our need.
Not only of salvation, but in every area of life. The cross unlocks His power in our lives. God is abundantly able to meet any need you face as you go through the bitter times of your life—Phil. 4:19 But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.
Phil. 4:19 But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.
Eph. 3:20 Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us,
Psa. 50:10–15. For every beast of the forest is mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills.
11 I know all the fowls of the mountains: and the wild beasts of the field are mine.
12 If I were hungry, I would not tell thee: for the world is mine, and the fulness thereof.
13 Will I eat the flesh of bulls, or drink the blood of goats?
14 Offer unto God thanksgiving; and pay thy vows unto the most High:
15 And call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me. That is a lesson we need in these days!
C. He Has Already Provided For Our Need—Years before Israel arrived at Marah, God caused a seed to germinate, a seedling to develop and a tree to grow in the very place where they would need it. He went ahead and prepared a way before a way was ever needed.
He does the same for us! Did you ever realize that your need, as frightening as it may be, is only the evidence of God’s supply in waiting? Phil. 4:19.
God is always ahead of the game. He was in the furnace before the Hebrew boys were thrown in. He was in the lion’s den before Daniel arrived there. He was in Paul’s prison before Paul was arrested. When you arrive at that moment in life when you need Him, you find that He is already there, just waiting to take care of you!
You will never face a need in life that God hasn’t already met! If that ever sinks in, it will change our lives forever. It will totally destroy worry, doubt and fear. It will liberate us from selfish interests and give us peace about all of life!
Conc: At Marah, God revealed Himself to Israel as “Jehovah-Rapha”, or “The Lord Your Healer.” If Israel had never faced this bitter time, they would have never known this aspect of God’s character.
• Just as Job would have never known that God could restore him unless he first lost everything.
• Just as Lazarus would not have know the joy of life, if he hadn’t did.
• Just as Mary and Martha would not have known that Jesus was the “Resurrection and the Life” unless they had first known grief.
What I am saying is that the Lord uses the bitter episodes of life to reveal himself more fully to His children. When we stand at the bitter waters of our Marah’s, and we will, may God help us to know that He is on His throne and that He is in control. God help us to look for His hand and His waiting provision. If you are like me, these are lessons which need to be taken to heart today.
If you are struggling, I beg you to bring your need to Jesus. When you take the witches brew of your life, with all of its goods and bad’s, and throw in the cross, it all straightens out! He can make sense of any mess. The key is learning not to kick against what He is trying to teach you, but instead to rest in His power and to allow Him to have His way in your life.
Do you need some help in your Marah today? There is help for those who need it!
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