Anyone with a little Bible knowledge will know the title is a quote from Psalm 23. Such a wonderful image right? He leads us beside still/calm waters, and restores our soul.
But as I have been studying the book of Exodus, I read how God also led his people to waters that were undrinkable. The Mara Oasis. (Exodus 15) The water at Mara was so bitter, it was undrinkable.
They had been traveling away from Egypt, now free from slavery, following a pillar of cloud by day, and a pillar of fire by night, thirsty, tired, and to be honest, they are now in a really bad mood. The pillar of cloud and fire leads them to an oasis, only to find it undrinkable. Undrinkable? Led, by God, to undrinkable water? When they were thirsty and tired?
The older I get, the more confident I am that God knows what He is doing, that He is sovereign, and truly is working for my good as He promises. (Romans 8:28) So I ask myself as I read this… why did God lead them to undrinkable water?
So they would be reminded of their true need. Him. Fixing bad water is no big deal for God. He had just completed 10 plagues in Egypt that caused the Israelites to be set free. He opened the Red Sea so they could cross, and caused it to close on their enemies. He can clean up this water.
Did God’s people stand there, expectantly waiting for God to provide? Sadly… no. They were complaining to Moses. “Why would God lead us here if the water isn’t fit to drink!?” They are tired, and thirsty, but they have also lost their perspective. Their faith is small, even after all they have seen God do on their behalf.
God tells Moses to toss a piece of nearby wood into the water and it becomes clean. God exhorts His people to follow Him, and do what He shows them is right. He calls Himself “The Lord who heals you.” Not long after, it says He led them to Elim, a place with twelve springs and seventy palm trees.
But first, He led them to Mara.
Dear Friend, don’t be tempted to complain, and fear that the Lord has forsaken if you find yourself in “Mara.” Sometimes our good God leads us to Mara to remind us of our need for Him. For the Lord who heals us. They were not physically ill. But they were sick-at-heart. They were soul-weary. And body-weary. And He led them to a place where only He could be what they needed.
And then… He brought them to Elim.
Sometimes Mara can feel like a season. But remember God’s ability to provide what you need in that time. And remember He will not leave you there forever. Follow His lead. Do what is right in His eyes. His ways are higher than our ways, and His thoughts are higher than our thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8-9) He sees what we don’t see. We can trust Him.
If you find yourself beside still, and bitter waters, and would like prayer, send me a note. I would honored to pray for you. <3