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 fit to drink. There the Lord issued a ruling and instruction for them and put them to the test.
I can just imagine the scene. God’s people Israel had just been delivered from years of captivity by an incredible miracle. We do not know how close the king’s men were to the shore when the Red Sea collapsed on them, but I imagine the Israelites did not feel the reality of their liberty until that moment. It was almost as if the enemy was gone in an instant, but the joy of that freedom would not last long. It took only a few days in the desert without water for the people’s happiness to turn to grumbling. For them, it might have felt as if they were free yet lost. Moses the intermediary would bear the brunt of their displeasure as they cried out for a solution to their dryness. God would answer with provision and testing.
This seemingly fruitless search for water undoubtedly was part of the test. Never was it God’s plan to keep his people wandering in the desert to the point of death for lack of water. The purpose behind the test was not to push them physically but to push them spiritually. There is a proper response when we face a need. Consider the times we pray for God to step in and provide. We can pray out of faith and humility, or we can pray with complaints and anger. We can ask God to meet our need by confessing our faith that He will do so, or we can try to back him in a corner to defend his word and pacify us. For those who have just been the recipients of his miraculous work, the correct approach to prayer should be obvious.
We will face challenges in life which tempt us to approach God with doubt first and faith later after He has come through for us. We also might think we are able to justify this, but the truth is that each of us has seen him work in miraculous ways in our lives. He has nothing to prove to us. The test is all about our faith, not his provision. The attitude with which we go to the Father in our times of need shows us the kind of faith we have. We should look at our need as an opportunity for us to see even more of God’s miraculous power unfold before us. Father, remind us of how exciting it is to experience your miraculous provision, and help us have this perspective when we are in need and seeking help from You.