Nobody likes going through difficult times. But hardship is a part of all our lives. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but every single one of us will be going in and out of difficulty for our entire lives. There are those preachers and teachers out there that will lie to you and tell you that if you are in Christ that you will never go through hard times, and that everything will be a walk in the part. But that is not what Jesus preached and taught. He said in John 16:33, “…in the world ye shall have tribulation”. The question is not if difficult times will come, but when they come, what are you going to do?
In Exodus 15, the children of Israel had been gloriously redeemed from bondage in Egypt, and God had just overthrown their enemies in the Red Sea. They have now made their way three days into the wilderness. (Here is that three days popping up once again. 1 Corinthians 15:4 tells us to dig deeper.) They have traveled for three days, and verse 22 tells us that they haven’t been able to find water to drink. Now that is a big problem, because if they go too much longer without water their supplies will run out and they will die of dehydration.
And that’s when they spot it. There, off in the distance…water! After three days with no water, just the sight of it would be a joyous occasion. Hope fills the hearts of the people. I can imagine them running in excitement to get to the water and take a drink. But as they get to the water, something is terribly wrong, the water is undrinkable. Can you imagine how soul-crushing that would be? You are at the point of death, and you believe that you have found the answer to your problems only to have your hopes completely dashed in pieces. Proverbs 13:12 says, “Hope deferred maketh the heart sick: but when the desire cometh, it is a tree of life.” I have been to that place of disappointment before, have you?
You are smack dab in the middle of a terrible time in your life, and you believe that you have finally found the way out. You have finally reached the point where you can crawl out of this dark pit that you are in, only to once again find yourself sliding right back into it. That hope that has been crushed brings discouragement, depression, and a bitter spirit. That is exactly what happens to the children of Israel, and in verse 24, they murmur against Moses.
The people complain to Moses, but it wasn’t Moses that had led them to this place, it was God. God had been leading them this whole time. He lead them by a pillar of clouds by day, and a pillar of fire by night. Remember back in Exodus 14:2 when God told them to turn and take a detour into dead end trouble? There was a purpose for God leading them into that difficulty, and there was a purpose in Him leading to the place of bitter water. And God has a reason for leading you to the place that you are today. Verse 25 tells us that God was testing them there. It was an opportunity for their faith in Him to grow, and the difficulties that we go through are opportunities for ours to grow as well.
The people complain to Moses, and Moses turns and cries out to the Lord, which is what each of the Israelites should have done in the first place. And that should be our first response to trouble, crying out to the One that can do something about our situation, God. God tells Moses to cast a tree into the water and it will be healed. (Dig deeper here too!) He then relates to the people what to do when they come to bitter water situations. And it is so important that He tells them twice. He tells them in verse 26 to listen to the Word of God, and then put it into practice in their lives. Do you want to know what to do when life gets tough? The answer is simple, and yet difficult. Do what you know God wants you to do. Trust Him and flesh out the Bible in the circumstances that you are in. That is how we find healing in the bitter water circumstances of life.