The Israelites cross the Red Sea safely and sing a song of deliverance to thank God. Their journey to the Promised Land has begun. But it is not long before the Israelites start complaining about every obstacle and hardship.
When they came to the oasis of Marah, the water was too bitter to drink. So they called the place Marah (which means “bitter”).
Then the people complained and turned against Moses. “What are we going to drink?” they demanded. So Moses cried out to the Lord for help, and the Lord showed him a piece of wood. Moses threw it into the water, and this made the water good to drink.
It was there at Marah that the Lord set before them the following decree as a standard to test their faithfulness to him. He said, “If you will listen carefully to the voice of the Lord your God and do what is right in his sight, obeying his commands and keeping all his decrees, then I will not make you suffer any of the diseases I sent on the Egyptians; for I am the Lord who heals you.”
As the Israelites encountered danger, shortages, and inconvenience, they complained bitterly and longed to be back in Egypt. They just wanted life to get a little easier. Going back to Egypt seemed like the quickest way of escape. But through their hardships, God was teaching Israel to obey and trust him.
After God powerfully delivered the people through the Red Sea, trusting him should have been pretty easy. Yet the people complained against God, revealing their distrust (Exodus 15:24). Then they did it again (Exodus 16:2-3). And again (Exodus 17:2). Nonetheless, God patiently provided food and water for them (Exodus 15:25; 16:4; 17:5-6). In each situation, God asked the people to obey him (Exodus 15:26; 16:4-5; 17:6). By obeying, the people would see that they could trust him.
Our logic says that trust comes first, then obedience. But in these stories, God reverses it. Obedience comes first, and trust follows. Our obedience becomes an opportunity to see that God is trustworthy.
God promised that if the people obeyed him, they would not suffer from the diseases that plagued the Egyptians (Exodus 15:26). God promised to meet the Hebrews’ need for food in the desert, but he wanted to see if they would obey his detailed instructions—to see if they trusted him (Exodus 16:4-5, 23). We learn to trust God only by obeying.
What are you facing that requires trusting God? Are you avoiding following him in obedience first? What would you be risking that you’re afraid of losing? Acknowledge your fears to God and ask him for the desire to take the risk anyway.