Disciple Hour: Exodus 15:22–27

God is in the process of refining His people.  We are always being placed in certain situations to bring about our sanctification.  Call it refining, call it testing or call it sanctification, God is molding us into the image of Christ in order that we will better reflect Him and bring Him glory.

The Apostle Peter knows this as well as anyone…

1 Peter 1:1–9 (ESV) 

1 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, 

To those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood: 

May grace and peace be multiplied to you. 

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls. 

We were told back before the Red Sea miracle that God was leading His people by another route.  Not north in the direction of Canaan but south toward the wilderness.  God knew His people were not ready to go north because that would take them into war and they were not ready for war.  God had some refining to do first.  He wanted to teach them about Himself and about who they were.  Beloved this is what God is teaching us.  You cannot learn this in school, it’s not theory.  You have to learn this by an apprenticeship, first hand.  You must struggle through and grasp at hope only to find it dashed.  You must weep your way through this until all you have left is God.  Your best efforts come up short.  That’s where we discover who God is and who we are.  This is the painful process of removing the dross of sin and being refined as pure gold.

Today we are going to learn about two waters, if you will.  The water of Marah and the water of Elim.  We will see some refining take place as they learn about themselves and about God.

Exodus 15:22–27 (ESV) 

22 Then Moses made Israel set out from the Red Sea, and they went into the wilderness of Shur. They went three days in the wilderness and found no water. 23 When they came to Marah, they could not drink the water of Marah because it was bitter; therefore it was named Marah. 24 And the people grumbled against Moses, saying, “What shall we drink?” 25 And he cried to the Lord, and the Lord showed him a log, and he threw it into the water, and the water became sweet. 

There the Lord made for them a statute and a rule, and there he tested them, 26 saying, “If you will diligently listen to the voice of the Lord your God, and do that which is right in his eyes, and give ear to his commandments and keep all his statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you that I put on the Egyptians, for I am the Lord, your healer.” 

27 Then they came to Elim, where there were twelve springs of water and seventy palm trees, and they encamped there by the water. 


1.  The Wilderness Is the Unknown

22 Then Moses made Israel set out from the Red Sea, and they went into the wilderness of Shur. They went three days in the wilderness and found no water.

The Bible tells us that immediately after the Red Sea miracle, after singing the praises to God for His power and how they had their backs up against the sea with Pharoah’s army bearing down upon them and then God did a wonderful amazing miracle.  He parts the Red Sea and the Israelites cross on dry ground.  Then they sing His praises.  

How quickly we forget.  Grumble, complain, whine to God a little dross comes to the surface as God is refining us.  Some impurities float to the top and God scoops them out and turns the heat down for a while. 

The Israelites are heading into the wilderness, the place of the unknown.  As they travel without any real point on the map that they are going toward, God takes them on a three-day reconnaissance mission…a survey and a test.  

They discover there is no water.  Their previous test, there was too much water.  The Red Sea proved to be an impassable obstacle until God worked.  Now there is no water.  In both cases they complain.  

2.  They Found Water but Could Not Drink It

23 When they came to Marah, they could not drink the water of Marah because it was bitter; therefore it was named Marah. 24 And the people grumbled against Moses, saying, “What shall we drink?” 25 And he cried to the Lord, and the Lord showed him a log, and he threw it into the water, and the water became sweet. 


They were three days in the desert with no water.  They were very thirsty.  Their tongues were sticking to the roof of their mouths, they could hardly speak, they could hardly swallow.  They did however find the ability to grumble to Moses.    

Let’s see if we can discover something, not about them but about ourselves here.  They complained when there was too much water and then when there was not enough water or no water.  The real issue was that they complained when they made their assessment and could see no option.  What they did not do was turn to God.

As God’s people we must rein in our tongues.  Grumbling to God is not the way to handle life’s difficulties.  

When we are in a struggle, we must turn to God but be careful not to turn at God or turn on God.  We must not speak at Him but speak to Him.  

They were speaking at Moses when they should have been speaking to God. 

Can we identify with these people?  Are we too pious to admit that sometimes we are no different?  What is the unknown entity that brings about your grumbling?  Wives when do you grumble to your husbands?  Husbands, when to you grumble to your wives?  If you’re single, what is it that brings on your grumbling.  If you’re younger, what do you grumble about to your parents?  Either you’re not getting something you want or you are in some way insecure because there is an unknown factor that you are face to face with.

Their joy had turned bitter because of an unknown factor.  Their joy had turned bitter because there was something they needed and they were not getting it.  They needed water.

What is God showing them.  They search and search for water and time is running out.  You can only go so long without water, right?  So, there is a time element here.  When they do find it, they can’t drink it.  It’s bitter…probably stagnant, diseased or poisonous.  Okay, we found water now we are all going to be alright and then only to discover they can’t drink it.

This was a major disappointment.  How do we handle disappointments? 

The people grumbled and complained to Moses.  They had a small view of God.  Even after the Red Sea and the plagues they did not have the right view of God.  They blamed God, they were angry at God they thought that God had not planned their circumstances but rather they were there without water by accident and that God was not in control.

Could we say that the stagnant water is what we find by human effort?  

Moses, on the other hand cried out to God…Lord we don’t know what to do.  We don’t know what You’re doing.  We trust You in all things.  Please supply what we need.  Moses trusted God and even when things look hopeless Moses was confident in God.

Here’s the difference…Moses and the people were in the same dilemma.  They were very thirsty and the water they found was no help.  Time was running out for all of them, including Moses. 

Moses knew God and trust Him.  Would it be right to conclude that the specifics of the trial really are not the determining factor when it comes to trusting God in the midst of the trial?

We have a great advantage over these Israelites.  You might disagree by saying, they saw all the miracles, they walked through the Red Sea on dry ground.  Then I would respond yet, we have the completed Word of God, we have the fulness of the Holy Spirit, We know why God does certain things because Peter and Paul have told us why…

Peter tells us when we endure trials, we are being refined and made more like Christ.

Paul tells us that trials are to make us weak and less dependent on our own strength and more dependent on God.  When we are weak then we are strong.

James tells us…

James 1:2–4 (ESV) 

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. 


The water they found was no help at all.  In fact, it almost made things worse.  Then Moses prays and God turns the bitter water that could not be drunk into sweet water that was refreshing and they were no longer thirsty.

God was showing the people that they didn’t need to try harder in their own efforts but to turn to God and depend on Him.  God is out to change us from who we are to who He wants us to be.

3.  God Said, Follow Me Through the Wilderness

There the Lord made for them a statute and a rule, and there he tested them, 26 saying, “If you will diligently listen to the voice of the Lord your God, and do that which is right in his eyes, and give ear to his commandments and keep all his statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you that I put on the Egyptians, for I am the Lord, your healer.”

God’s desire was for His people to enter the unknown holding His hand.  Go into this scarry unknown looking to Me to guide you God is telling them.  I have not brought you this far to let go of your hand.  In fact, I am not doing this to destroy you or hurt you.  That’s not who God is.   

If you learn from Me and stop looking for your own solutions to life and follow Me, you will experience a different kind of reality all together.  You will miss out on the diseases and plagues that God brought to the Egyptians.  You will not be placed under so many trials because you will have learned to trust Me. 

God said to them that day, I am your Healer not your destroyer.  Just like at Passover when God told His people to paint the blood on their doors and He was the Destroyer for the Egyptians but not for His people.  To them He announces that He is the Healer.  The One who puts them back together.  God’s desire is for us to follow Him and when we come upon the unknown to trust Him.

Even though His people were grumbling, God gave them water at Marah (bitter water place).  Then He tells them that their lives will be so much better if they obey and trust Him. 

As a prelude to the good life, they could have by following God, He shows them a sneak peek.   

27 Then they came to Elim, where there were twelve springs of water and seventy palm trees, and they encamped there by the water. 

At Elim God had led them to a place with 12 springs, one for each tribe.  He led them to an oasis in the desert where there were palm trees with shade to comfort them in the heat and to give them rest.  

The doctrine we learn from this text is that we are to trust God through each and every circumstance of life.  Sometimes God gives us rest and peace and sometimes frustration and discouragement and all the while He is with us molding us into who He wants us to be.  

This text does not teach that if we obey God we will never go through trials.

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