Around the age of two, toddlers begin insisting that they can do everything by themselves. Their eager self-sufficiency and the “I do it!” mentality lead to many tears of frustration. They want to zip their jackets alone, but they can’t. They try to tie their shoes, but their little hands refuse to cooperate. If only they would just ask for help!
Often the Israelites acted like a bunch of obstinate toddlers, and it’s all too easy to spend a lot of our time finger-pointing. We wonder why the Israelites were so dull-witted. God had provided for them already in miraculous ways, and wasn’t that reason enough to believe in His goodness for the future? Why was every obstacle a cause for their despairing lack of faith?
If we put ourselves in their place, we might discover a little more sympathy. The Israelites had just spent three days walking in a hot, dry desert. Their provisions were spent, their children were thirsty, everyone was getting tired from the journey. They heaved a sigh of relief at the first sight of Marah—water! They dropped their provisions and ran to the water’s bank, lapping the water eagerly into their hands, only to spit it out again immediately. It was bitter!
God told them outright He was testing them. Every difficulty they faced in the wilderness was an opportunity either to grow in faith or to doubt God. Moses provides an example of what they should have done—and what we should do when God brings us to places of bitter water.
We’ve got to call out to Him! The people of God have to have an ear for His voice. We could let ourselves drown in the discouraging realities of our lives. We could focus on our dry mouths and the bitter water and take these as evidences that somehow God doesn’t see and God doesn’t care. Or, we could use our suffering as a reason to depend more on God.