Exodus 15:22
Then Moses led Israel from the Red Sea, and they went out into the Desert of Shur. For three days they walked in the desert without finding water.
The Well of BitternessH.T. Robjohns Exodus 15:22-26
A Heaven-Sent PlantDean Edwards.Exodus 15:22-27
A Valuable TreeYouth's CompanionExodus 15:22-27
Anticipated Pleasure AlloyedScientific IllustrationsExodus 15:22-27
Bitter Things Made SweetG. D. Krummacher.Exodus 15:22-27
Bitter WatersProfessor Gaussen.Exodus 15:22-27
Bitter-SweetJ. J. Wray.Exodus 15:22-27
Difficulties of Leaders Through Opposition Among FollowersW. M. Taylor, D. D.Exodus 15:22-27
Elim: the Springs and the PalmsJ. B. Brown, B. A.Exodus 15:22-27
I Will Hear What God, the Lord, Will SayG.A. Goodhart Exodus 15:22-27
Jehovah-RophekaM. R. Vincent, D. D.Exodus 15:22-27
Life's BitternessHomilistExodus 15:22-27
MarahArchbishop Benson.Exodus 15:22-27
Marah and ElimA. Rowland, LL. B.Exodus 15:22-27
Marah and ElimH. J. Gamble.Exodus 15:22-27
Marah and EllimJ. Orr Exodus 15:22-27
Marah; Or, the Bitter Waters SweetenedSpurgeon, Charles HaddonExodus 15:22-27
Misery of MurmurersT. Brooks.Exodus 15:22-27
Moses At MarahJ. Parker, D. D.Exodus 15:22-27
Murmuring At JoysExodus 15:22-27
Murmuring FoolishJ. Venning.Exodus 15:22-27
Murmuring InjuriousExodus 15:22-27
Murmuring, a Time-Destroying SinT. Brooks.Exodus 15:22-27
Murmuring, the Mother Sin, to be Fought AgainstT. Brooks.Exodus 15:22-27
Murmuring, the Parent of Other SinsT. Brooks.Exodus 15:22-27
Poisoned WatersG. Wagner.Exodus 15:22-27
Sweetening the WatersG. Davidson, B. Sc.Exodus 15:22-27
Sweetness not Far from BitternessChristian AgeExodus 15:22-27
The Comparative Duration of Sorrow and JoyJ. M. Gibson, D. D.Exodus 15:22-27
The Evil of MurmuringT. Brooks.Exodus 15:22-27
The Lord that HealethR. Newton, D. D.Exodus 15:22-27
The Lord that HealethExodus 15:22-27
The Moral Lessons of MarahW. Kirkman.Exodus 15:22-27
The Mysterious TreeS. D. Burchard, D. D.Exodus 15:22-27
The Pilgrim's PathwayT. Kelly.Exodus 15:22-27
The Sin of MurmuringT. Brooks.Exodus 15:22-27
The Sweetening Tree in Life's Bitter StreamsHomilistExodus 15:22-27
The Tree of HealingW. Hardman, LL. D.Exodus 15:22-27
The Want of Water and the Want of Faith - Marah and ElimD. Young Exodus 15:22-27
The Waters of MarahR. Winterbotham, M. A.Exodus 15:22-27
The Waters of MarahF. B. Meyer, B. A.Exodus 15:22-27
The Waters of MarahJ. D. Brocklehurst, D. D.Exodus 15:22-27
The Well of BitternessJ. B. Brown, B. A.Exodus 15:22-27
Trial and BlessingJ. Urquhart Exodus 15:22-27
We have not Done with Hardship When We have Left EgyptW. M. Taylor, D. D.Exodus 15:22-27

So Moses brought Israel from the Red Sea, anti they went out into the wilderness of Shur, etc. The main topics here are -

I. THE SWEET FOLLOWED BY THE BITTER. Singing these songs of triumph, and praising God with timbrel and dance, on the further shores of the Red Sea, the Israelites may have felt as if nothing remained to them but to sing and dance the rest of their way to Canaan. They would regard their trials as practically at an end. It would be with regret that they broke up their pleasant encampment at the Red Sea at all. Their thought would be, "It is good for us to be here, let us make here tabernacles" (cf. Matthew 17:4). But this was not to be permitted. The old call comes - "Speak to the children of Israel that they go forward" (Exodus 14:15), and the halcyon days of their first great exuberant joy are over. Their celebration of triumph is soon to be followed by sharp experience of privation.

1. The Israelites were conducted by the wilderness of Shur. There they went three days without water. God might, as afterwards at Rephidim (Exodus 17:6), have given them water; but it was his will that they should taste the painfulness of the way. This is not an uncommon experience. Every life has its arid, waterless stretches, which may be compared to this "wilderness of Shur" "There are moments when the poet, the orator, the thinker, possessed, inspired with lofty and burning thoughts, needs nothing added to the riches of his existence; finds life glorious and sublime. But these are but moments, even in the life of genius; and after them, and around them, stretches the weary waste of uninspired, inglorious, untimeful days and years" (Dr. J. Service). It is the same in the life of religion. Seasons of spiritual enjoyment are frequently followed by sharp experience of trial. We are led by the wilderness of Shur. Spiritual comforts fail us, and our soul, like Israel's at a later period, is "much discouraged because of the way" (Numbers 21:4). We are brought into "a dry and thirsty land, where no water is" (Psalm 63:1). A certain sovereignty is to be recognised in the dispensation of Divine comforts. God leaves us to taste the sharpness of privation, that we may be led to cry after him (Psalm 119:81, 82).

2. They came to Marah, where the waters were bitter. This was a keen and poignant disappointment to them - "sorrow upon sorrow." As usual, it drove the people to murmuring, and Moses to prayer. Bear gently with their infirmity. Do them the justice of remembering that there is no record of their murmuring during the three past days of their great privation in the wilderness. It was this disappointment at the well of Marah which fairly broke them down. Would many of us have borne the trial better? It is easy to sing when the heart is full of a great fresh joy. But let trial succeed trial, and disappointment follow on disappointment, and how soon do the accents of praise die away, to be replaced by moaning and complaint! The "Song of Moses," which was so natural on the banks of the Red Sea, would have had a strange sound coming from these dust-parched throats, and fainting, discouraged hearts. The note of triumph is not easily sustained when the body is sinking with fatigue, and when the wells to which we had looked for refreshment are discovered to be bitter. Take Marah as an emblem

(1) of life's disappointments. Our life-journey is studded with disappointments. Hard to bear in any case, these are doubly bitter to us, when they come on the back of other trials, and cheat us of an expected solace. When friends, e.g., turn their backs on us in time of need, or come with cold comfort when we expected ready help, or give chiding instead of sympathy; when trusted projects fail, or fond anticipations are not realised; most of all, when God himself seems to desert us, and grants no answer to our prayers; the waters given us to drink are bitter indeed.

(2) Of life's bitter experiences generally. "Call me not Naomi," said the mother-in-law of Ruth, "call me Mara: for the Almighty hath dealt very bitterly with me" (Ruth 1:20). The only wells that never become bitter are the "wells of salvation" (Isaiah 12:3) - the waters of Divine consolations (cf. John 4:14). The waters of our creature-comforts admit of being very easily embittered. Relationships, friendships, possessions, business, social position - sweet to-day, any or all of these may be made bitter to us to-morrow. The life of Israel was made "bitter" by bondage (Exodus 1:14). God dealt "bitterly" with Naomi in taking husband and sons from her, and reducing her to poverty (Ruth 1:21). Hannah was "in bitterness of soul" because she had no child, and "her adversary provoked her sore, for to make her fret" (1 Samuel 1:6-10). Job was embittered by his afflictions (Job 7:11; Job 9:18; Job 10:1). The tears of the Psalmist were his meat day and night, while they continually said unto him, where is thy God? (Psalm 42:3). Mordecai cried, when the decree went forth against his nation, "with a loud and bitter cry" (Esther 4:1). Bitter waters there are, too, in our own hearts, and in society, engendered by sin - by the presence of envy, jealousy, strife, hatred, malignity, and revengefulness. No scarcity, then, of Marah experiences, no want of wells that stand in need of the healing tree being cast in to sweeten them.

3. God's ends in permitting Israel to suffer these severe privations. We do not ask why God led the Israelites by this particular way, since probably there was no other way open by which they could have been led. But we may very well ask why, leading them by this way, God, who had it in his power to supply their wants, permitted them to suffer these extreme hardships?

(1) We may glean one hint in reply from Paul's experience in 2 Corinthians 12., "Lest," he says, "I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelation, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure" (ver. 7).

(2) A second hint is to be drawn from ver. 25 - "There he proved them" Cf. Deuteronomy 8:2 - "To humble thee, and prove thee to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep his commandments, or no." We do not know what unbelief, what rebellion, what impatience there is in our hearts, till trial comes to draw it out.

II. THE BITTER CHANGED INTO THE SWEET. Moses, we read, "cried unto the Lord, and he showed him a tree, which when he had cast into the waters, the waters were made sweet" (ver. 25). Observe,

1. The agency employed. The tree had probably some peculiar properties which tended in the direction of the result which was produced, though, of itself, it was incompetent to produce it. The supernatural does not, as a rule, contravene the natural, but works along the existing lines, utilising the natural so far as it goes.

2. The spiritual meaning. That God intended the healing of these bitter waters to be a "sign" to Israel - a proof of his ability and willingness to heal them of all their natural and spiritual diseases, is abundantly plain from vers. 25, 26. The lesson God would have them learn from the incident was - "I am Jehovah that healeth thee." His Jehovah character guaranteed that what he had shown himself to be in this one instance, he would be always, viz., a Healer. As Jehovah, God is the Being of exhaustless resource. As Jehovah, he is the Being eternally identical with himself - self-consistent in all his ways of acting; so that from any one of his actions, if the principle of it can but be clearly apprehended, we are safe in inferring what he always will do. God sweetens, or heals, the bitter waters of life -

(1) By altering the outward conditions - e.g., by removing sickness, sending aid in poverty, taking away the cause of bitterness, whatever that may be. He healed Naomi's bitterness by the happy marriage of Ruth (Ruth 4:14, 15); Hannah's by giving her a son (1 Samuel 1:20); Job's by restoring his health and prosperity (Job 47:10), etc. The tree here is whatever agency God employs to accomplish his purpose.

(2) And this is the diviner art, by infusing sweetness into the trial itself. He makes that which is bitter sweet to us, by adding himself to it. This Divine change in our experiences is accomplished by means of a very simple but potent secret - as simple as the casting of the tree into the waters, as potent in its efficacy. Would we know it? It is simply this - denying our own natural will, and taking God's instead. "Not my will but thine be done" (Luke 22:42). This it is which will make even the bitterest of trials sweet. Call it, if you will, the taking up of the cross; it is, at all events, the spirit of the cross which is the sweetening, heavenly element in all affliction - the tree that heals. It is invaluable to bear this in mind, that be our trial, our grief, what it may, half its pain has departed the moment we can bring ourselves to embrace God's will in it. Heavenly consolations will sweeten what remains. Mediaeval mystics, like Tauler, dwelt much on this thought, and it is the true and all-important element in their teaching. With God at hand to bless, "Ills have no weight, and tears no bitterness;" or as another "sweet singer" expresses it -

"Just to let thy rather do
What he will.
Just to know that he is true,
And be still.

Just to let him take the care,
Sorely pressing,
Finding all we let him bear
Changed to blessing.

This is all! and yet the way,
Marked by him who loves thee best!
Secret of a happy day,
Secret of his promised rest."


(3) By removing the cause of all evil and bitterness - sin itself. It is as the God of Redemption that Jehovah reveals himself pre-eminently as the Healer. His Gospel goes to the root of the matter, and strikes at the malum originale of the bitterness in us, and around us. From this point of view, it is not fanciful to trace an analogy - we need not allege a direct typical relation - between this tree cast in to sweeten the bitter waters, and the Cross of the Redeemer. God through Christ; Christ through what he has accomplished by this Cross; the Cross, by being made the object of faith, and again, by being set up in men's hearts, effects this sweetening of the waters. We have but to compare ancient with modern civilization, to see how much the Cross of Christ, cast into the bitter waters of society, has already done to sweeten them. Trusted in for salvation, it renews the heart in its inmost springs, and so heals the bitter waters there; while, as the power of God unto salvation, it will ultimately heal the world of all its woes, abolishing even death, from which already it extracts the sting and bitterness.


1. As a motive to obedience. If God has healed us that is a new reason for loving, trusting, and obeying him (Psalm 116.). Accordingly, consequent on this healing of the bitter waters, God made "a statute and an ordinance" for Israel, taking them bound to serve him, and promising them new blessings, if they should prove obedient, This "statute and ordinance" is the comprehensive germ of the subsequent covenant (Exodus 24:3-9).

2. As a pledge. The sweetening of the waters, as already seen, was a revelation of Jehovah in his character as Healer. It pledged to Israel that he would, if only they obeyed his statutes, exempt them from such plagues as he had brought upon the Egyptians, and, by implication, that he would heal them of whatever diseases were already upon them. He would be a God of health to them. The healthy condition of body is one which not only throws off existing disease, but which fortifies the body against attacks of disease from without. Natural healing, as we see in the New Testament, and especially in the miracles of Christ, is a symbol of spiritual healing, and also a pledge of it. In the gospels, "to be saved," and "to be made whole," are represented by the same Greek word. We may state the relation thus: -

(1) Natural healing is the symbol of spiritual healing.

(2) Spiritual healing, in turn, is a pledge of the ultimate removal of all natural evils (Revelation 21:4).

(3) Each separate experience of healing is a pledge of the whole. It is a fresh testimony to the truth that God is a healer (cf. Psalm 103:1-4). Every recovery from sickness is thus, in a way, the preaching of a gospel. It pledges a complete and perfect healing - entire deliverance from natural and spiritual evils - if only we will believe, obey, and use God's method.

IV. ELIM (ver. 27).

1. An illustration of the chequered experiences of life. The alternation of gladness and sorrow; of smiles and tears; followed again by new comforts and seasons of joy.

2. There are Elim spots - places of cool shade, of abundant waters, of rest and refreshment provided for us all along our way through life. In the times of hottest persecution, there were intervals of respite. The Covenanters used to speak of these as "the blinks."

3. These Elim-spots should not lead us to forget that we are still in the wilderness. The prevailing aspect of life, especially to one in earnest, is figured by the wilderness, rather than by Elim. Our state here is one of trial, of discipline, of probation - no passing snatches of enjoyment should cause us to forget this. - J.O.

They came to Marah.
I. The water was DELETERIOUS, not distasteful only. Had the people drunk it, it would have wrought disease; but it was healed by the obedience of Moses to God's directions. So if we are attentive and obedient to His voice He will find us remedies from all things that might hurt us.

II. It was not possible, perhaps, that the children of Israel should, by persevering in the unwholesome draught which is there typical of sin, HAVE VITIATED THEIR TASTE TILL THEY DELIGHTED IN IT. But it is too possible in the antitype.

III. Though we axe compelled by God's providence to pass through difficulty and temptation, WE ARE NOT DOOMED TO DWELL THERE. If we are faithful, it is but in passing that we shall be endangered. If we use the remedy of obedience to God's Word to-day, to-morrow we shall be beside the twelve ever-springing fountains, and under the shade of the palm-trees of Elfin.

(Archbishop Benson.)

We have here a parable of the deep things of Christ.

I. Israel was in those days FRESH FROM THE GLORIOUS DELIVERANCE OUT OF EGYPT; they had sung their first national song of victory; they had breathed the air of liberty. This was their first disappointment, and it was a very sharp one; from the height of exultation they fell almost at once to the depths of despair. Such disappointments we have all experienced, especially in the outset of our actual march, after the first conscious sense of spiritual triumph and freedom.

II. Of us also it is true that GOD HATH SHOWED US A CERTAIN TREE, and that tree is the once accursed tree on which Christ died. This is the tree of life to us, though of death to Him.

III. IT WAS GOD WHO SHOWED THIS TREE UNTO MOSES. And it was God who showed it to us in the gospel. Applied by our faith to the bitter waters of disappointment and distress, it will surely heal them and make them sweet. Two things there are about the tree of scorn which will never lose their healing power — the lesson of the Cross and the consolation of the Cross; the example and the companionship of Christ crucified.

IV. THE LIFE WHICH FOUND ITS FITTING CLOSE UPON THE CROSS WAS NOT A LIFE OF SUFFERING ONLY, BUT EMPHATICALLY A LIFE OF DISAPPOINTMENT. Here there is comfort for us. Our dying Lord must certainly have reflected that He, the Son of God, was leaving the world rather worse than He found it in all human appearance.


(R. Winterbotham, M. A.)

I. THAT GREAT JOY IS OFTEN CLOSELY FOLLOWED BY A GREAT TRIAL. "Thou hast made my mountain to stand strong" is the grateful word of many a rejoicing Christian; and lo! suddenly touched by the finger of Providence, it reels and rocks as though heaved by an earthquake, and falls into the depths of the sea. In the day of prosperity be wise! Rejoice with trembling! Do not presume on the possession of present good. In the hour of peace forget not the preparation for a possible storm. Trust in God with a firm hand, both in sunshine and in shade.

II. HERE IS A GREAT TRIAL TRANSFORMED INTO A GREAT BLESSING. The bitter was not removed, but converted into sweet. So God can make the grief a grace anti change the burden into a blessing. The rod itself shall bud and blossom and bring forth almonds, so that the very thing that chastens the trustful soul shall present beauty to the eye and fruit to the taste. It was a Divine work. The Israelites, even with Moses at their head, had no skill to meet the given necessities of the hour. "The Lord showed them a tree," and so miraculously healed the forbidding spring. Brothers! human wisdom, earth's philosophies, the world's limited resources are all useless in the midst of our desperate needs.

III. HERE IS A GREAT TRIAL, SO TRANSFORMED, PREPARING FOR AND LEADING TO A STILL GREATER BLESSING. (see ver. 27). Christian, be of good courage. Egypt's chains were heavy; but the Red Sea victory made thee glad. Marah's waters were bitter; but the Lord distilled sweet streams therefrom to strengthen and refresh thy soul. Then He led thee to beautiful Elfin, with its springs and palm-trees, and its grateful rest, and in all and through all thou art "nearer" Canaan than when first thou didst believe. Amid all thine alternations of joy and sorrow there shall be, if thou art faithful to thy God, a clear current, progressive gain, and it shall still be better further on.

IV. THIS GRACIOUS ALTERNATION AND ABUNDANT DELIVERANCE WAS ALL EXPERIENCED ON THE LINE OF MARCH. Let the Christian never forget that these are the conditions necessary to secure his gracious progression of conquest, transformation, and exceeding joy.

(J. J. Wray.)

Heaven has prepared a sweetening tree for the bitter waters.

I. OF OUR SECULAR LIFE. Wrecked plans, blasted hopes, etc. The "tree" to sweeten this is Christ's doctrine of a Fatherly providence.

II. OF OUR MORAL LIFE. The bitter waters of an accusing conscience. "Whom God hath set forth," etc.

III. OF AN INTELLECTUAL LIFE. God's revealed character in Christ — all-wise, all-loving, all-powerful.

IV. OF OUR SOCIAL LIFE. "I am the Resurrection," etc. "Them that sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him."





III. THAT EVERY MAN WILL AT LENGTH COME TO HIS WELL; BUT THE WATER THEREOF WILL BE BITTER TO HIS TASTE. Sensual indulgence. Fashionable amusement; inebriety; riches; worldly renown; infidelity. All mere earthly pools are acrid and unsatisfying.

IV. THAT THERE IS A TREE WHICH CAN SWEETEN ALL EARTH'S WATERS. "The tree of life" — the Cross of Christ. "He, every one that thirsteth, come."

(S. D. Burchard, D. D.)

The wilderness brings out what is within. It also discovers God's goodness and our unworthiness.


1. We must expect bitter pools in a bitter world.

2. Many of us make our own Marahs.


1. To the praying man the Lord reveals the remedy.

2. God uses instramentality.

3. God does not always take away the Marah, but drops an ingredient into it to sweeten its bitterness.


Had they been allowed to select their path, they would have taken the short cut by the seaboard to their own promised land. But the cloud steered their pathway through difficulty and into difficulty. Behind them was the blood of the lamb. They were ransomed. Behind them the wonders of Egypt wrought on their behalf. Behind them the passage of the Red Sea. And they might have expected that, the moment they had left their foes behind, they had left all trouble and sorrow too. But instead of that, their redemption from Egypt was their redemption from comparatively easy circumstances into arduous and difficult straits. God led His redeemed in the very heart and teeth of difficulty. I am often met by men who have been redeemed by the blood of Christ, who are truly His servants, behind whom there lies a wondrous story of deliverance, and they have come to me with complaints, and they have said, "I thought when I had given up my old sins that my life would be calm and placid, and that difficulty would be at an end; but instead, I never did in all my life go through such a sea of difficulty as I have known since I became a Christian." Friend, that is always God's way with His redeemed ones. You must not think that difficulty is a proof that you are wrong. Difficulty is most likely aa evidence that you are right. Never be daunted by it. Why? Those verses we read from Deuteronomy answer the question. It is in order to humble us, to prove us, and to knew what is in our heart. Difficulty is sent to humble you. If I offer my hand to a little maiden on a cold and frosty day, and she thinks she can keep her feet by herself, she is net likely to take my strong hand until she has been humbled by a tumble or two. God has been compelled to break down your self-confidence. When you started the Christian life you thought your arm was so strong it could beat down every barrier, or that you were so elastic that you could leap over any wall, or that your brain was so keen that you could see through any difficulty. God began by little difficulties, and you leapt over them; and then He put greater ones, and you successfully overcame them; and God has been compelled to pile difficulty upon difficulty until you are now face to face with a very desert on the one hand, and an Alpine range upon the other; and now broken, cowed, defeated, you are just at the very position in which to learn to appreciate, and to appropriate, the infinite resources of God. And there is another thing that difficulty does for a man. It proves him. "He made a statute and an ordinance, and proved them." There are so many counterfeits, you do not know that you have got the real thing till you have tested it. You do not know the stability of a house till it has been tested by the storm. And it is only when difficulty comes that we really know what we are. You say that you have faith. How do you know? All your life has been sunny. Wait till God hides Himself in a pavilion of cloud. You think that you obey God, but up till now the path that God has led you hath been such an easy path, through a meadow where the flowers have been bestrewn. You do not know how much you will obey until you are proved. You say you have got patience; and there is nothing sweeter than patience — the patience and gentleness of Christ. Yet you wait until you are put into the midst of trying and difficult circumstances, and then you may talk about possessing patience. And then, once more, God not only humbles and proves us, but He tries what is in our hearts; not that He needs to know, but that He may give us the opportunity of equipping ourselves for larger work. For God thus deals with us: He puts us into difficulty and watches us lovingly to see how we act, for every day He stands before His judgment bar, and every hour is the crisis of our life. If we stand the test, He says, "Come up higher," and we step up to the wider platform and plateau of usefulness. But if, on the other hand, we cannot stand the test, we step down. Will you take heart from this? Will you mind the difficulties? Oh, meet difficulty in God, and see if it be not a training-ground for great and noble work in the hereafter. But there is disappointment too. It was hard enough to have difficulty, but it was harder to be tantalized. They marched on three days; they exhausted the water they had brought, or what was left was stinking, and they could not drink it. Ah, how weary they were! Ah, you men and women, so disappointment comes to all of us. The youth has disappointments. The lad at school thinks that he is a slave, that the drudgery of Egypt was nothing compared to this. How he longs for the time when he will be his own master! And off he starts. He buries his school books, and goes forth into the world. Alas, poor lad! he finds there is no way to Canaan except by the hard plodding sultry desert march. So it is with age — mature life! mean. So it is with the young convert. They think Christian living is a great holiday, a march-past with banners and bands. But they soon find that there is a stern warfare. They are disappointed in the Church they join, they find all Christian people do not act as they thought; they are disappointed because they do not at once find sin die within them, or the devil yield, or Christianity become what they hoped, just wandering through a pleasant garden plucking flowers.

(F. B. Meyer, B. A.)

I. "They could not drink of the waters of Marah, for they were bitter" — so THE GREATEST TRIUMPHS OF LIFE MAY BE SUCCEEDED BY THE MOST VEXATIOUS INCONVENIENCES. You may be right, even when the heaviest trial is oppressing you. You may be losing your property, your health may be sinking, your prospects may be clouded, and your friends may be leaving you one by one, yet in the midst of such disasters your heart may be stedfast in faithfulness to God.

II. "The people murmured against Moses" — so THE GREATEST SERVICES OF LIFE ARE SOON FORGOTTEN.

III. "And Moses cried unto the Lord"! — So MAGNANIMOUS PRAYER IS BETTER THAN OFFICIAL RESIGNATION. All great leaderships should be intensely religious, or they will assuredly fail in the patience without which no strength can be complete. Parents, instead of resigning the oversight of your children, pray for them! Pastors, instead of resigning your official positions, pray for those who despitefully use you! All who in anywise seek to defend the weak, or lead the blind or teach the ignorant, instead of being driven off by every unreasonable murmuring, renew your patience by waiting upon God!

IV. "And the Lord showed him a tree" — so WHERE THERE IS A BANE IN LIFE THERE IS ALWAYS AN ANTIDOTE.

(J. Parker, D. D.)

I. A GRIEVOUS NEED. Do we not see in mankind a weary marching host of pilgrims, looking eagerly for the next well, and hoping there to find satisfaction? It is trite but true of the greater part of them, "Man never is; but always to be blest." There are deep yearnings after unattained good; a burning desire for rest. Moreover, even to them who have found "the living waters" there may be many a weary march.

II. A SORE DISAPPOINTMENT. Intense as are human desires for final good, they are doomed, so long as fixed upon created objects, to perpetual and agonizing disappointment. The apples that seemed ripe for the gathering and fit for "baskets of silver" are found to contain only rottenness and dust. It is wisely ordered that no creature should give satisfaction to the heart. Even those who have chosen "the Lord" as their "portion" need to be perpetually quickened, lest they should cleave to the dust.

III. A REBELLIOUS AND UNREASONABLE treatment of afflictions. "The people murmured against Moses." So men complain still. They "charge God foolishly"; and governmental measures, blights, panics, failure of success, etc., are suffered to engender their thoughts and hard speeches.

IV. THE TRUE AND SURE REFUGE IN TIME OF AFFLICTION. There is no might of influence like that which is wielded by those who are "hid in the pavilion" of "the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords."

V. THE DIVINE SOVEREIGNTY. When men are "willing" to see what God shows, how quickly is the bitterness of life changed into "peace and joy through believing " "Looking away unto Jesus," they hear Him saying, "I am the Lord that healeth thee!" The mystic tree is "set forth" before the eye of faith, and its goodly boughs bend to the touch even of the chief of sinners.

VI. Another and most significant passage occurs in connection with Israel's sojourn by the bitter well, and which shows THE CONTINUAL OBLIGATION OF DIVINE ORDINANCES EVEN IN GREAT EXIGENCIES. "There He made for them a statute and an ordinance, and there He proved them." They were now tested as to their disposition to obey alike the stated and occasional commandments of God; and it is possible that some further instructions were conveyed on Divine authority. But "the statute and ordinance " plainly refer to the "solemn assembly" which was now to be observed.

VII. Once again, we learn beside the waters of Marah the COMPENSATORY LAW OF DIVINE PROCEEDINGS. We are "pilgrims as all our fathers were," and often reach a bitter well in our march through the wilderness; but beside each there is a tree whose virtue makes the nauseous waters sweeter than all the streams of Goshen.

(J. D. Brocklehurst, D. D.)

But we have here also the means of sweetening all bitterness. The bitterness of repentance is sweetened by this consideration, that, being a godly sorrow, it worketh a repentance unto life, which no one repenteth of. The bitterness of denying the world and self is sweetened by this, that he who renounces everything for His sake receives it again a hundredfold. The bitterness of the spiritual combat is alleviated by this, that it is the good fight of faith to which the victory and the crown of glory is held out. The bitterness of the various sufferings we have to endure is sweetened by the consideration that they are not worthy of the glory that shall be revealed; and also of the various temptations by which we are assailed, of which it is said, "Blessed is the man that endureth temptation; for after he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which God has promised to them that love Him." In short, this wondrous tree can sweeten all the suffering that would be otherwise intolerable. But still it is necessary that the remedy be shown and pointed out to us by the Holy Spirit.

(G. D. Krummacher.)


1. The perils and trials of the wilderness occur very early in the pilgrim life.

2. These evils assume varied shapes.

3. They touch very vital matters. God may touch you in the most beloved object of your heart.

4. There is a reason why the earthly mercies which supply our necessities must be more or less bitter. What can you hope for in a wilderness but productions congruous to it? Canaan! Who looks for bitterness there?


1. They murmured, complained, found fault. A very easy thing. No sense in it, no wit in it, no thought in it: it is the cry rather of a brute than of a man — murmur — just a double groan. Easy is it for us to kick against the dispensations of God, to give utterance to our griefs, and what is worse, to the inference we drew from them that God has forgotten to be gracious. To murmur is our tendency; but do we mean to let the tendencies of the old nature rule us?

2. Observe that the murmuring was not ostensibly against God. They murmured against Moses. And have you ever noticed how the most of us, when we are in a murmuring vein, are not honest enough to murmur distinctly against God. No; the child is dead, and we form a conjecture that there was some wrong treatment on the part of nurse, or surgeon, or ourselves. Or we have lost money, and have been brought down from opulence to almost poverty; then some one person was dishonest, a certain party betrayed us in a transaction by failing to fulfil his part; all the murmuring is heaped on that person. We deny, perhaps indignantly, that we murmur against God; and to prove it we double the zeal with which we murmur against Moses. To complain of the second cause is about as sensible as the conduct of the dog, which bites the sticks with which it is beaten.

3. Once more, while we speak of this tendency in human nature, I want you to observe how they betrayed an utter unbelief in God. They said unto Moses, "What; shall we drink?" They meant by it, "By what means can God supply our want of water?" They were at the Red Sea, and God cleft the intervening gulf in twain, through the depths thereof they marched dryshod; there is Marah's water — shall it be more difficult for God to purify than to divide? To sweeten a fountain — is that more difficult than to cleanse a sea? Is anything too hard for the Lord?


1. Take the case of prayer to God.

2. As soon as we have a prayer, God has a remedy. "The Lord showed him a tree." I am persuaded that for every lock in Doubting Castle there is a key, but the promises are often in great confusion to our minds, so that we are perplexed. If a blacksmith should bring you his great bundle of picklocks, you would have to turn them over, and over, and over; and try half of them, perhaps two-thirds, before you would find the right one; ay, and perhaps the right one would be left to the last. It is always a blessing to remember that for every affliction there is a promise in the Word of God; a promise which meets the case, and was made on purpose for it. But you may not be always able to find it — no, you may go fumbling over the Scriptures long before you get the true word; but when the Lord shows it to you, when it comes with power to the soul, oh, what a bliss it is!

3. Now that remedy for the healing of Marah's water was a very strange one. Why should a tree sweeten the waters? This was no doubt a miraculous incident, and it was also meant to teach us something. The fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil was eaten by our first parents and embittered all; there is a tree of life, the leaves of which are for the healing of the nations.

4. That remedy was most effective. When they cut down the tree, and put it into the water, it turned the water sweet — they could drink of it; and let me assure you, that in the case of our trouble, the Cross is a most effective sweetener.

5. It is transcendent. The water was bitter, but it became absolutely sweet. The same water that was bitter became sweet, and the grace of God, by leading us into contemplations that spring out of the Cross of Christ, can make our trials themselves to become pleasant to us. It is a triumph of grace in the heart when we not only acquiesce in trouble, but even rejoice in it.

( C. H. Spurgeon.)

I. THAT THE FIRST DAY'S JOURNEY, in spite of the splendid scenery of the coasts of the gulf, is PROBABLY THE MOST WEARISOME AND MONOTONOUS OF THE WHOLE WAY. Sand-storms, white limestone plains, the dust caked into a hard surface intensely hot and dazzling, no water, no trees — it is as if the desert put on its dreariest dress to greet its pilgrims, and gave to them at once a full taste of the foils and wants which they must endure in traversing its wastes. And is it otherwise in life? Is not the same character impressed for us on earth and life, when we enter on its sterner era, when we leave the home of our childhood, the Egypt of our careless, half-developed youth, and go out into the wilderness, to wander freely there under the law of duty, and before the face of God. Does it not seem to all of us strange and dreary? Who ever found the first aspects of duty pleasant? Is it holiday pastime, the first grappling with the realities of life? Who has not been choked and parched by the hot dust of the great desert! though it be full of looms, and mill-wheels, and manifold activity, it is a desert at first to us before we get accustomed to its atmosphere and at home in its life. Well does the schoolboy know it, as he plods into the wilderness of study, and faints under the first experience of its dryness and dust. Let him but hold on awhile, and lie will find springs and palm-trees, where he may rest and play; but it wants large faith and a goad of sharp necessity to get him through the weariness of those first days. God does not conceal from any one of us the stern conditions of our discipline.

II. It is a trite saying, THAT DISAPPOINTMENT IS THE HARDEST OF ALL THINGS TO BEAR. Hardest, because it finds the soul unbraced to meet it — relaxed, at ease, and tuned to indulgence and joy. Who has not muttered "Marah" over some well in the desert, which he strained himself to reach and found to be bitterness? It strikes me that we have, in this miracle, most important suggestions as to the philosophy of all miracles. I believe that the object of all miracles is to maintain, and not to violate — to reveal, and not to confound — the order of God's world.

(J. B. Brown, B. A.)


1. That the life of a God-led man is full of changes in outward circumstances.

2. That these changes are divinely ordained.

3. That each change brings its own temptations.

4. That these varied changes are intended to develop all our graces.


1. Marah was a place of temptation.

2. Marah was a place of disappointment.

3. Marah was a place of trustfulness and prayer.

4. Elim has its suggestiveness. God's bountiful goodness.

(A. Rowland, LL. B.)


1. The bitterness of the waters disappointed their most eager expectations.

2. The bitterness of the waters left them apparently without a grand necessity of life.

3. The bitterness of the waters immediately succeeded a remarkable deliverance.


1. Their mistrust was unreasoning, considering the person against whom they murmured. Not Moses, but God, was their Guide, as they well knew.

2. Their mistrust was unreasoning, considering the Divine promises they had received.

3. Their mistrust was unreasoning, considering the displays of Divine power which they had witnessed.


1. It indicates the importance of earnest supplication to God in all our trials.

2. It suggests the importance of a submissive spirit in supplicating deliverance from our trials.


1. By influencing the mind in the direction whence relief may be obtained.

2. By transmuting the temporal affliction into a rich spiritual blessing.

V. WE HAVE AN INTIMATION OF THE DESIGN OF ALL AFFLICTION IN THE DECLARED PURPOSE OF THIS PARTICULAR TRIAL. "There He proved them" — tested their faith and obedience. Afflictions prove us.

1. By discovering to us the unsatisfying nature of earthly things.

2. By disclosing the true measure of our piety.

(W. Kirkman.)

What is all this, but a striking picture of human life, and of that which the grace of God can and does effect? All the waters of human life have been poisoned by sin. There is not one drop that has been left quite pure, — all has been made bitter. Much there is still which at a distance looks beautiful and refreshing; and those who walk by sense and not by faith, are often, may, always, deceived by appearances just as Israel was. It is not until they taste for themselves that they find out the truth of Solomon's words, that all is "vanity and vexation of spirit." Look at the attractions of the world, which cause so many souls to wander. What are they all but a vain show, which can intoxicate or lull the soul for a time, but which leave it, oh, how weary and restless afterwards! The waters of the world are truly bitter waters. Or, look at the occupations of life. To some energetic spirits the very difficulty and toil of labour are attractive; but, after a while, will not the question thrust itself upon the busy mind — oh, what is the profit? what the end of all this? Suppose that everything prospers. Suppose that I have enough to satisfy every earthly want, to secure me every gratification, to encompass myself and children with every luxury. What then? There is a voice, a penetrating voice, that says, "Prepare to meet thy God!" that proclaims, "It is appointed unto men once to die, but after that the judgment." And then, what will become of me? Or, look again at the relationships of life. Instituted though they are by God, yet sin has embittered them also. Whence is it, that some of the deepest and most certain trials of life come to us? It is through our relationships and our friendships. Deep affection, sacred as it is, has always many anxieties associated with it. How many a mother's heart is gradually worn out by cares about her children! How many a father, when surveying the disturbances of his family, is impelled to adopt the words of the aged Jacob, "All these things are against me!" And then, how many a heart is left widowed even early in life, with a void which nothing earthly can ever fill! Is it too much to say that this world, viewed as it is in itself, is "Marah"? Its waters are bitter. Have not numbers who have embraced it as their all, gone down to the grave, restless, discontented and murmuring? It may seem to some as if we had invested the world with its pleasures, its occupations, and its relationships, in too thick a gloom. If so, we would remind you that we have been speaking of the world, as such, as it is in itself — of pleasures which are far from God — of business and occupation from which God is excluded — and of relationships which are put in the place of God.

(G. Wagner.)

Such are often the consolations of this world. We ardently long for them, and when we obtain them they are bitter. The things we have most wished for become new sorrows. And this is to teach us to seek our true joys in God alone, to make the wilderness of this world distasteful to us, and to cause us to long for eternal life. Suppose a man to be so poor as to earn his bread with difficulty; he can scarcely provide for his family. "Ah!" he may perhaps say to himself, "if I were only like so many people around me, who are not obliged to work, and are so happy in this world!" Suppose this man to become rich; but still a prey to care, surrounded by enemies, and unhappy in his children. How many bitter sorrows are still his lot: he was once in the desert of Shur, now he is at the waters of Marah! A woman finds herself solitary and lonely; she wishes for a friend and protector; she marries. But she finds out too late that her husband is a man of bad character or of bad habits. She was in the desert, she is now at Marah.

(Professor Gaussen.)


I. The young convert imagines that when he has got to the Cross he has got, so to speak, next door to heaven; he imagines that, once he has got pardon, he will never have another sigh; but oh! it is only a three days' march from the City of Destruction to the Slough of Despond, only a little way out to the darkness and the trouble; and then, when it comes, the young convert is sometimes tempted to look back to the delights of the old days, when he had not any fear of God before his eyes; for he has thus to learn in bitterness and disappointment that it is through much tribulation he is to be perfected for the kingdom.

2. So, too, with the mature believer; life is full of disappointments. It takes very little to turn the waters of our best comforts into bitterness; and disappointment in any case is hard to bear; but sometimes it is doubly hard when it comes upon the back of other trials.


1. God sends no needless trims. He does not afflict for His own pleasure, but for our good.

2. For every need God has provided the supply, for every bane the antidote. But you will not discover it yourself. He must point it out.

3. Notice the method of the Divine mercy. God does not take away the burden; He will give you more strength; and then you will have the strength, even after the burden is removed. You will be permanently the better for it.

(G. Davidson, B. Sc.)

God's plans of mercy to mankind are remedial. He allows sin and suffering to exist, but He provides means for the cure of these evils. The religion of Jesus Christ is the great healing and curative influence in the world.

1. Take, for example, the bitterness of temptation. A man has made noble resolutions, formed high plans of life, and lo, he finds, to his utter mortification, that his sinful nature still yields to any blast of temptation. He is like one who has built a noble palace and finds that some foul infection renders it hateful. Before the solemn aspect of the Crucified, the powers of evil lose their fascinating glow.

2. And then there is the bitterness of remorse, the sting of remembered guilt. A German writer describes a youth who returned, after a long absence, to his home. All welcomed him with joy. Everything was done to make him happy; but he still was oppressed with a silent gloom. Some friend urged him to say what ailed him and kept him so depressed amidst their happiness, and at length, with a groan, he explained, "A sin lies heavy on my soul." But the Cross of Christ removes this bitter sorrow, for He who is our peace has nailed "the writing which was against us" to His Cross.

3. What shall we say about the bitter cup of suffering which God, in His inscrutable dealings, places in the hands of so many to drink? Yet the sufferer finds succour in remembering that his Saviour has also suffered, and for his salvation. A poor woman in a ward of one of the great London hospitals had to undergo a fearful operation, and, as a special favour, besought that it might be performed on Good Friday, which was close at hand, that the reflection on her Redeemer's agony might the better enable her to endure her own sufferings. Is the bitterness of poverty, or of contempt, our lot? So was it that of Jesus, our Lord; and turning to Him, with all confidence we appeal to His sympathy. Are we called on to feel the terrible bitterness of bereavement, to gaze on the empty cradle, or the unoccupied chair? Then think how the Cross points upward!

(W. Hardman, LL. D.)

Scientific Illustrations.
We look with great expectancy for the arrival of some pleasure which we imagine will afford us the most complete satisfaction, and no sooner does it arrive than we find in its train a whole host of petty annoyances and unwelcome accompaniments. It is not only so in social life, but also in the material world. Mr. Matthew Lewis, M.P., in his interesting "Journal" of a residence among those in the West Indies, relates how eagerly in Jamaica, after three months of drought, the inhabitants long for rain; and when the blessing at last descends, it is accompanied by terrific thunder and lightning, and has the effect of bringing out all sorts of insects and reptiles in crowds, the ground being covered with lizards, the air filled with mosquitoes, the rooms of the houses with centipedes and legions of mosquitoes. And it will, on inquiry, be found that the enjoyment of nearly every anticipated pleasure is in like manner more or less alloyed by reason of the unpleasant things which seem inevitably to attend it.

(Scientific Illustrations.)

This may be regarded as a universal law so long as we are in the present life, and may be illustrated as really in common and secular matters as in spiritual things. The schoolboy is apt to imagine that he is a slave. He is under tutors and governors; and as he grinds away at his studies, not seeing any relation between them and what he is to do in the future, he is tempted to think that the drudgery of the Hebrews in the brickyard was nothing to that which he has to undergo, and he longs for the day when he shall be a free man and enter upon the active duties of life. His emancipation from the dry and uninteresting labours at which he has so long been held marks an epoch in his history, and he sings over it a song as sincere, if not as exalted, as that of Moses at the sea. The burial of the books by our graduating classes may be in the main a foolish freak; but yet it is the expression, in its own way, of relief from that which has hitherto been felt to be a restraint, and each of those who take part in it is intensely jubilant. But after he has entered on the active duties of the work to which he devotes himself, the youth has not gone far before he comes to Marah, and his first experience is one of disappointment. Ah! well for him then if he cries to God, and finds the healing tree which alone can sweeten its waters of bitterness! So it is, also, with every new enterprise in which a man engages. After his first victory comes something which empties it of half its glory. Pure and unmingled success is unknown in the world, and would be, let me add, a great calamity if it were to be enjoyed; for then the man would become proud and forget God, and lose all remembrance of that precious influence by which the disappointments in our experience are transmuted into means of grace.

(W. M. Taylor, D. D.)

Youth's Companion.
The eucalyptus tree is efficacious in preventing malaria. The cause is supposed to be that its thirsty roots drain the soil for many yards around, and that its large leaves exhale an aromatic oil and intercept the malarious germs. An incident shows its efficacy: An officer in India whose troops were often attacked by sickness removed their huts to a place where several large trees grew between them and the swamp, and from that time until the trees were cut down the troops enjoyed excellent health; afterwards sickness reappeared. It appears to be only in the case of zymotic diseases that the trees operate as a preventative, but that is of no slight value in many districts.

(Youth's Companion.)

It is impossible for us to win any victory over this terrible evil in our own strength. Even heathen teachers acknowledge this. Many of you will remember the classic fable when Ulysses was on his way from the ship to deliver from Circe those companions of his who had been changed into swine by the power of the enchantress of sensuality, he was met by the legendary god Mercury, who told him that he would never be able to overcome the enchantress by his own sword. Mercury gave him a plant, the root of which was black and the flower of which was white, and it was by the power of this plant that he was to win his victory over the enchantress. There is a deep moral truth in that myth of the old Greek poet. We have an enchantress to contend against; we have to contend against a mighty power that is changing our fellow-men into swine every day, and we cannot attain the victory over that power except by means of a heaven-sent plant, the Tree of Life, the blessed Cross of Christ.

(Dean Edwards.)

What a hard place was this of Moses here! Every great reformer has had to go through a wilderness to the promised land of his success; and always some of those who left Egypt with him have turned against him before he had gone far. I think of the almost mutiny of his men against Columbus, as, day after day, he steered westward and saw no land; I think of the trouble which Luther and Calvin had so often with their own followers, and of the banishment at one time of the latter from that Geneva, which, even to this day, is the creation of his greatness; I think of the curs that yelped at the heels of the Father of his country, when he was following that course which now the universal voice of posterity has applauded; I think of the difficulties which have embarrassed many meaner men in lower works of reformation, which have at length benefited and blessed the world; and I blush for the selfishness of those who prefer their own interest to the welfare of the community, while, at the same time, I honour the conscientious courage which determines to go on, in spite of opposition in the front and dissatisfaction in the rear. Oh! ye who are bravely battling for the right, the pure, the benevolent, whether it be in the sweeping out of corruption from political offices, or in the closing of these pestilential houses which are feeding the intemperance of our streets, or in the maintenance in the churches of the faith once delivered to the saints — take heart of grace from Moses here. Go with your causes to the Lord, and be sure that they who are on His side are always in the end victorious.

(W. M. Taylor, D. D.)

Consider that murmuring is a mercy-embittering sin, a mercy-souring sin. As the sweetest things put into a sour vessel are soured, or put into a bitter vessel are embittered; so murmuring puts gall and wormwood into every cup of mercy that God gives into our hands. The murmurer writes "Marah," that is, bitterness, upon all his mercies, and he reads and tastes bitterness in them all. As "to the hungry soul every bitter thing is sweet," so to the murmuring soul every sweet thing is bitter.

(T. Brooks.)

I have read of Caesar, that, having prepared a great feast for his nobles and friends, it so fell out that the day appointed was so extremely foul, that nothing could be done to the honour of the meeting; whereupon he was so displeased and enraged that he commanded all them that had bows to shoot up their arrows at Jupiter, their chief god, as in defiance of him for that rainy weather; which, when they did, their arrows fell short of heaven and fell upon their own heads, so that many of them were very sorely wounded. So all our murmurings, which are as so many arrows shot at God Himself, they will return upon our own pates' hearts; they reach not Him, but they will hit us; they hurt not Him, but they will wound us; therefore it is better to be mute than to murmur; it is dangerous to provoke a "consuming fire" (Hebrews 12.).

(T. Brooks.)

As the king of Syria said to his captains, "Fight neither with small nor great, but with the king of Israel," so say I, Fight not so much against this sin or that, but fight against your murmuring, which is a mother-sin; make use of all your Christian armour, make use of all the ammunition of heaven, to destroy the mother, and in destroying of her, you will destroy the daughters. When Goliath was slain, the Philistines fled; when a general in an army is cut off, the common soldiers are easily and quickly routed and destroyed: so destroy but murmuring, and you will quickly destroy disobedience, ingratitude, impatience, distrust, etc.

(T. Brooks.)

Every murmurer is his own tormentor; murmuring is a fire within that will burn up all; it is an earthquake within that will overturn all; it is a disease within that will infect all; it is poison within that will prey upon all.

(T. Brooks.)

As the river Nile bringeth forth many crocodiles, and the scorpion many serpents at one birth, so murmuring is a sin that breeds and brings forth many sins at once. It is like the monster Hydra — cut off one head, and many will rise up in its room. It is the mother of harlots — the mother of all abominations — a sin that breeds many other sins (Numbers 16:41; Numbers 17:10); viz., disobedience, contempt, ingratitude, impatience, distrust, rebellion, cursing, carnality; yea, it charges God with folly, yea, with blasphemy. The language of a murmuring soul is this: Surely God might have done this sooner, and that wiser, and the other thing better.

(T. Brooks.)

The murmurer spends much precious time in musing — in musing how to get out of such a trouble, how to get off such a yoke, how to be rid of such a burden, how to revenge himself for such a wrong; how to supplant such a person, how to reproach those that are above him, and how to affront those that are below him; and a thousand other ways murmurers have to expend that precious time that some would redeem with a world. Caesar, observing some ladies at Rome to spend much of their time in making much of little dogs and monkeys, asked them whether the women in that country had no children to make much of. Ah, murmurers, murmurers! you who by your murmuring trifle away so many golden hours and seasons of mercy, have you no God to honour? Have you no Christ to believe in? Have you no hearts to change, no sin to be pardoned, no souls to save, no hell to escape, no heaven to seek after? Oh! if you have, why do you spend so much of your precious time in murmuring against God, against men, against this or that thing?,

(T. Brooks.)

I was tired of washing dishes; I was tired of drudgery. It had always been so, and I was dissatisfied. I never sat down a moment to read that Jamie didn't want a cake, or a piece of paper to scribble on, or a bit of soap to make bubbles. "I'd rather be in prison," I said one day, "than to have my life teased out," as Jamie knocked my elbow, when I was writing to a friend. But a morning came when I had one plate less to wash, one chair less to set away by the wall in the dining-room; when Jamie's little crib was put away in the garret, and it has never come down since. I had been unusually fretful and discontented with him that damp May morning that he took the croup. Gloomy weather gave me the headache, and I had less patience than at any other time. By and by he was singing in another room, "I want to be an angel," and presently rang out that metallic cough. I never hear that hymn since that it don't cut me to the heart; for the croup-cough rings out with it. He grew worse towards night, and when my husband came home he went for the doctor. At first he seemed to help him, but it merged into inflammatory croup, and all was soon over. "I ought to have been called in sooner," said the doctor. I have a servant to wash the dishes now; and when a visitor comes, I can sit down and entertain her without having to work all the time. There is no little boy worrying me to open his jack-knife, and there are no shavings over the floor. The magazines are not soiled at looking over the pictures, but stand prim and neat on the reading-table just as I leave them. "Your carpet never looks dirty," said a weary-worn mother to me. "Oh! no," I mutter to myself, "there are no little boots to dirty it now." But my fate is as weary as theirs — weary with sitting in my lonesome parlour at twilight, weary with watching for the arms that used to twine around my neck, for the curls that brushed against my cheek, for the young laugh that rang out with mine, as we watched the blazing fire, or made rabbits with the shadow on the wall, waiting merrily together for papa coming home. I have the wealth and ease I longed for, but at what a price! And when I see other mothers with grown-up sons, driving to town or church, and my hair silvered over with grey, I wish I had murmured less.

Seneca hath his similitude to set out the great evil of murmuring under small afflictions. Suppose, saith he, a man to have a very fair house to dwell in, with very fair orchards and gardens, set about with brave tall trees for ornament; what a most unreasonable thing were it in this man to murmur because the wind blows a few leaves off the trees, though they hang full of fruit. If God take a little and give us much, shall we be discontent? If He take our son and give us His own; if He cause the trees to bring forth the fruit, shall we be angry if the wind blow away the leaves?

(J. Venning.)

It is not wise to fret under our trials: the high.mettled horse that is restive in the yoke only galls his shoulder — the poor bird that dashes itself against the bars of the cage only ruffles her feathers and aggravates the sufferings of captivity.

The Lord that healeth thee
No human experience is uniformly joyful or sorrowful. A great triumph is succeeded by a great obstacle and sometimes by a great defeat. But there is another equally constant fact to offset this. As we look at this alternation of Elims and Marahs in our life, and recognize it as a law of our human experience, we find it supplemented by something else which is equally a law; and that is the economy of God by which this alternation is happily adjusted. In other words, I mean this: that if it is a law of our life that joy and sorrow succeed each other, it is equally a law of our life that God interposes and keeps the joy from corrupting and the sorrow from crushing us. If sorrow is a part of God's economy, healing is equally a part. You hear abundance of popular proverbs to the effect that clouds have often silver linings; that calamity usually stops short of the very worst; that time dulls grief; that nature reacts from its depression, and much more of the same sort, all which may be more or less true, but which do not cover the same ground as this blessed name, "Jehovah that healeth thee": which throw man for his compensation for sorrow merely upon nature and circumstances. Both are-lawless and accidental, the alleviations no less than the sorrow itself. But there is a radical difference between a grief which is accidental, and a grief which falls in with happier things into an order arranged to make the man purer and more blessed. There is a radical difference between accidental mitigations, and the firm, wise, tender touch of an omnipotent Healer upon a sorrow: and there is a radical difference between that conception of sorrow which makes it an intrusion and an interruption, and a conception which sees both sorrow and healing as parts of one Divine plan, adjusted by that same Divine hand all along the line of man's life. With the alleviations of sorrow which come in what we call the natural order of things, I have therefore nothing to do here. That nature has certain recuperative powers is a familiar fact: that God often uses these or other natural means in His own processes of healing, as a physician uses for medicine the herbs and flowers which he gathers by the roadside, is an equally familiar fact. But we are not concerned with the question of means. Our text leads us back of the means. That to which alone sorrow can grapple securely is not means but God. God, on this occasion, though He uses a branch to sweeten the water, also uses it to direct the attention of the people to Himself. When He gives Himself a name by which they are to know and remember Him all through this desert journey, it is not, "the God of the branch," nor "the God of the rod," nor "the God of the strong east wind," but simply, "I am Jehovah that healeth thee." No matter what means I use. If He had called Himself the God of the rod, the people would have despaired of healing in any case where there was not a branch or a rod present. He would have them know that healing was in Him, by any means or by no means as He might choose. And thus it is well for us to bring every bitter experience of life at once to God — directly. The fountain of healing is there, and there is no need of our taking the smallest trouble in seeking any lower source of comfort. God is not like certain great medical authorities who leave all minor maladies to subordinates and hold themselves in reserve merely for consultation on cases of life and death. He wrought the great miracle at Marah, not only to relieve the people's thirst on that occasion, but to encourage them to seek His help in smaller matters. God sometimes reduces a man to terrible straits so that he may learn that lesson. The branch which he throws in is this: Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him. When one is in such confusion and bewilderment, a great deal of the distress is thrown off in the throwing off of all responsibility for the way out. Many years ago, while in Rome, I went down into the Catacombs. I had not gone five feet from the entrance when I saw that if I should try to find my way back, I should be hopelessly lost. Passages opened out on every side, and crossed and interlaced, and my life was literally in the hands of the cowled monk who led the way with his lighted taper. But that was a relief. Having no responsibility for finding the way, and having faith in my guide, I could give myself up to the impression of the place. There is a beautiful passage in the one hundred and forty-second Psalm which brings out this truth. The Psalm is ascribed to David when he was fleeing from Saul's persecution and wandering in a labyrinth of caves and secret paths. "When my spirit is overwhelmed within me, Thou knowest my path." Few things are more painful or humiliating than the sense of having lost the way. The sweetening branch then is just this blessed consciousness that Divine omniscience knows the path; that the knowledge is with one who knows just how to use it, who knows the path through, the path out, knows what the trend of the trouble is and what its meaning is. But let us not forget the other great truth of this story, a truth quite as important as the first, and perhaps quite as hard to learn; and that is, that God's healing is a lesson no less than a comfort. The aim of a physician's treatment is not merely to relieve his patient from pain. It is, further, to get him on his feet for active duty. God did not sweeten the waters of Marah in order that the people might stay there. Marah was only a stage on the way to Canaan; and the draught at the sweetened spring was but to give strength for a long march. And God never heals His people simply to make them easy. If He takes off a load it is that they may walk the better in the way of His commandments. Whatever God may say to us by sickness, when He comes to us as the Lord of healing He says, "I will raise thee up that thou mayst do that which is right in My sight; that thou mayst give ear to My commandments and keep My statutes." Healing means more toil and more burdens and more conflict, and these will continue to the end. But let us remember that God never forgets to give rest along the road, and refreshment at the right places to His faithful ones. Even on earth there will be intervals of sweet rest, though the desert lie on beyond.

(M. R. Vincent, D. D.)

It is with healing power in the lowest form of its development, viz., the supplying of bodily wants — the healing of physical diseases — that this precious name is first brought to our notice. And even this is a blessing not to be lightly esteemed. But, if our powers of perception were so adjusted that we could estimate spiritual diseases, as God estimates them; then, we should see, in the walks of daily life, even in the case of those who are said to possess sound minds in sound bodies, sights sadder far than any to be met with in our hospitals and asylums for physical and mental diseases. And the power to heal which the Lord claims when He is pleased to reveal Himself as Jehovah-Ropheka, is this power in its higher form — the power to heal the diseases of the soul.

I. HE IS AN EFFICIENT HEALER. He puts His own Omnipotence into the grace by which He heals; and what can resist that grace? He has fathomed the lowest depths of human depravity, and the chain of His grace has reached even unto that.

II. HE IS A PRACTICAL HEALER. It sometimes happens with earthly physicians that the medicine is mingled with our daily food, and that the food itself of which the patient partakes is made the means of healing. But this is what our heavenly Healer does continually. He connects the process of His healing with the food on which the souls of His people live, and the daily experience of life through which they are passing.

III. HE IS A UNIVERSAL HEALER. In many of our hospitals there is a ward for incurables. There are cases which every physician will decline to undertake because he knows that nothing can be done with them. But Jehovah-Ropheka knows no such cases. In the hospital of His grace there is no ward for incurables. There are no limits to the range and operation of His wisdom and power. He has not made a specialty of any particular case. There is no form of spiritual disease that can be incurable to Him.

IV. HE IS A PERMANENT HEALER. No earthly physician will undertake both to restore his patient to health, and at the same time to give him the assurance that the disease from which he has suffered shall never return to him. This is a matter quite beyond the reach of ordinary medical ability. But it is not so with our heavenly Healer. He undertakes to make His healing work not only perfect but permanent. Two things show us this.

1. One of these is the state into which Christ introduces the saved soul after death. It is a state in which there will be no sickness, sorrow, or sin. And what that state is, as the healed soul enters into it, it will be for ever. It is a "continuing city."

2. And then the state of the soul as it enters that blessed abode will show the same thing. "Presented perfect in Christ Jesus" (Colossians 1:28).

V. HE IS A GLORIOUS HEALER. Most physicians are satisfied if they can restore their patients to the condition in which they were before the disease seized upon them. If they can heal a man's wounds they are satisfied. They will not pledge that in securing this result there shall be no disfiguring scars remaining. But it is different with our heavenly Healer. He restores the sin-sick soul, not to its original state, but to one infinitely better than that. The creation state of the soul was pronounced good, the redeemed state of the soul is declared to be perfect.

(R. Newton, D. D.)

"Many a time have I been brought very low, and received the sentence of death in myself, when my poor, honest, praying neighbours have met, and, upon their fasting and earnest prayers, I have recovered. Once, when I had continued weak three weeks, and was unable to go abroad, the very day that they prayed for me, being Good Friday, I recovered, and was able to preach and administer the sacrament the next Lord's day; and was better after it, it being the first time that ever I administered it. And ever after that, whatever weakness was upon me, when I had, after preaching, administered that sacrament to many hundred people, I was much revived and eased of my infirmities." "Oh how often," he writes in his "Dying Thoughts," "have I cried to Him when men and means were nothing, and when no help in second causes did appear, and how often, and suddenly, and mercifully hath He delivered me! What sudden ease, what removal of long affliction have I had! Such extraordinary changes, and beyond my own and others' expectations, when many plain-hearted, upright Christians have, by fasting and prayer, sought God on my behalf, as have over and over convinced me of special providence and that God is indeed a hearer of prayers. And wonders have I seen done for others also, upon such prayer, more than for myself; yea, and wonders for the Church, and for public societies." "Shall I therefore forget how often He hath heard prayers for me, and how wonderfully He often hath helped both me and others? My faith hath been helped by such experiences, and shall I forget them, or question them without cause at last?"

( Richard Baxter.)

I. THAT, IN LIFE'S PILGRIMAGE, GOD CROWNS HIS PEOPLE WITH CONSTANT BLESSINGS AND DIVERSIFIED TOKENS OF HIS GOODNESS. These blessings, as here implied, are of great practical utility; they are —

1. Essential — "Water."

2. Refreshing — "Palm-trees."

3. Diversified — "Wells and palm-trees."

4. Proportionate,— "Twelve wells and threescore and ten palm-trees."


III. THAT, IN LIFE'S PILGRIMAGE, ELIM, WITH ITS REFRESHING SHADE, IS FREQUENTLY NOT FAR FROM MARAH, WITH ITS BITTER WATERS. Therefore, as pilgrims, we should not be too much elated or depressed with our camping-places. In the history of the Zion-bound traveller, it should not be forgotten, that it is always better further on.

IV. THAT, IN LIFE'S PILGRIMAGE, WE SHOULD REMEMBER THAT WE ARE NOT YET HOME, ONLY PILGRIMS ON THE WAY. Our immortality would starve to death on the richest oasis this desert world could give us, if we should attempt to make it our abiding home. So, they did not buy the land, or build a city, they only "encamped there."

(T. Kelly.)


1. There are the sorrowful scenes of life. You know well the sources from whence these sorrows arise. There is the sorrow that comes to us from our disappointments. We are constantly deceived and disappointed, partly because we indulge in unreasonable expectations, and partly because things differ so much in their reality from what they are in their outward appearance. Then there is the sorrow that proceeds from physical suffering. Another source of sorrow is our bereavements. A whole generation fell in the wilderness, and as the Israelites travelled onward, they had again and again to pause in their journey and bury their dead. Another source of sorrow is sin. This indeed is the great source of all sorrow, the fountain from whence these bitter waters flow.

2. There are the joys of life. Another day's march, and the scene was changed; verdure refreshed the eye, there was Tater in abundance to quench the thirst, and the weary pilgrim could repose under the palm-tree's welcome shade. True type again of human life — "Weeping endures for a night, joy cometh in the morning." "For a small moment have I forsaken thee, but with great mercies will I gather thee." The most weary pilgrimage has its quiet resting places, and the saddest heart is not without its joys. God is kind even to the unthankful, for on them He bestows His providential bounties, but "the secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him." He gives to them a "peace which passeth understanding," a "hope which maketh not ashamed," and "a joy that is unspeakable and full of glory." Life, then, has a varied experience.

II. BUT WHAT ARE THE REASONS FOR IT? There can be little doubt that if it were left to our choice, we should choose a less chequered course — we should avoid the bitter waters of Marah, and seek the palm-trees of Elim. Why is it that joy and sorrow, hope and fear, health and sickness, blessings bestowed and blessing removed, follow each other in such rapid succession.

1. It is to correct our self-will. Many whose hearts were stubborn enough when they began life, have found life so different to what they expected, that they have at length confessed — It is vain to fight against God; henceforth I place myself under His government — His will, not mine, be done.

2. To develop our character. If the events of life were exclusively sorrowful, then the test of our character would be but partial; so would it be if these events were exclusively joyful; and therefore it is sorrow to-day and joy to-morrow. Thus our whole character is developed.

3. To open our hearts to those sacred influences which soften and purify them.

(H. J. Gamble.)

I. Elim rises before us as the representative of the green oases, THE SPOTS OF SUNNY VERDURE, the scenes of heavenly beauty, WHEREWITH GOD HATH ENRICHED, though sparingly, OUR WILDERNESS WORLD. This world is not all bad; its marches are not all bare. "Cursed is the ground for thy sake" — and because for thy sake, it is not cursed utterly. It is not all black, bare, lifeless, as the crust of a cold lava flood; a prison-house for reprobates, instead of a training school for sons.


1. Had they pushed on instead of murmuring at Marah, they would have found all they sought, and more than they hoped for, at Elim. Ah! the time we waste in repining and rebelling — scheming to mend God's counsels! How many Elims would it find for us, if employed in courage and faith!

2. How near is the sweetness to the bitterness in every trial! it is but a short step to Elim, where we may encamp and rest. The brightest spots of earth are amidst its most savage wildernesses, and the richest joys of the Christian spring ever out of his sharpest pains. The humbling pains of disappointment tune the soul for the joys which the next station of the journey affords. It is when we have learnt the lessons of the wilderness, and are resolved to press on, cost what it may, in our heavenly path, that springs of unexpected sweetness gush up at our very feet, and we find shade and rest, which give foretaste of heaven.

III. Let us endeavour to DISCERN THE PRINCIPLE OF THIS ALTERNATE SWEETNESS AND BITTERNESS OF LIFE. These lights and shadows of nature, this glow and gloom, are caught from a higher sphere. Nature is but the reverse of the medal whose obverse is man. The ultimate reason of the bitterness of Marah is the sin in the heart of Israel and all pilgrims; the ultimate reason of the sweetness and freshness of Elim is the mercy that is in the heart of God. There is a fearful power in the human spirit to make God's brightest blessings bitter curses. Who was it who wanted to die, because God had found a deliverance for a great city in which were half a million of doomed men? At the door of your own spirit lie all the pangs and wretchedness you have known. You have cursed fate and fortune, and protested that you were the most wronged and persecuted of men. But the mischief lies not in God's constitution of the world, nor in His government of it, but in your hearts.

(J. B. Brown, B. A.)

Christian Age.
Sorrow is not all a wilderness, even to the most sorrowful. Amid all its bleakness and desolation it has oases of beauty and fertility. It has Elims as well as Marahs, and frequently these Elims are very near the Marahs — if we only knew it. But six short miles separated the twelve wells of water and the threescore and ten palm.trees from the bitter, nauseous well that filled the hearts of the thirsting multitudes with disappointment. And so near in human life is the sweetness to the bitterness in every trial. A few steps will take us through the valley of the shadow of death out into the green pastures and beside the still waters upon which it opens. Had the Israelites of old, instead of murmuring at Marah, pushed on a little further, they would, in two short hours, have found at Elim all they sought and more than they expected. And so the time we waste in repining and rebelling would be better employed in living faith and active duty, for thus would consolation be found. Instead of sitting down to murmur at Marah, let us march in faith under the guidance of our tender Shepherd, who will bring us to the next station, where we may lie down in green pastures and beside still waters.

(Christian Age.)

Is there ever a Marah without an Elim near it, if only we follow on in the way the Lord marks out for us through the wilderness? The notice of Elim occupies less than four lines, while there are as many verses in the record of Marah, and a whole chapter following about the wilderness of sin; and we are apt to draw the hasty inference that the bitter experiences were the rule, and the delightful ones the exception. And so it often seems in the checkered life of the tried disciple of the Lord. But look again. The bitter time at Marah was quite short, though it occupies a great deal of space in the history. These four verses tell the story probably of as many hours or less. But the four lines about Elim are the story of three weeks, during which they "encamped there by the waters." When troubles come, the time seems long; when troubles have gone, the time seems short; and so many are apt to think that they are hardly dealt with, whereas if they would look more carefully into the Lord's dealings with them, they might find that they have far more to be thankful for than to grieve over. Hours at Marah are followed by weeks at Elim.

(J. M. Gibson, D. D.).

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