Exodus 15:26 reads, “If you diligently heed the voice of the LORD your God and do what is right in His sight, give ear to His commandments and keep all His statures, I will put none of the diseases on you which I have brought on the Egyptians. For I am the LORD who heals you” (NKJV). In order to understand and appreciate this verse, we will take a look at the verses that precede it.

Verses 22-23, “So Moses brought Israel from the Red Sea; then they went out into the Wilderness of Shur. And they went three days in the wilderness and found no water. Now when they came to Marah, they could not drink the waters of Marah, for they were bitter. Therefore the name of it was called Marah.” We will see when we come to verse 26 that the Lord TESTED the children of Israel. What exactly was involved in this test? First of all, when they passed through the Wilderness of Shur they found NO WATER, for it was an arid desert. When they arrived at Marah, they found water but discovered it was BITTER WATER. Let’s remember that they had just experienced their redemption from bondage to the Egyptians at the Red Sea and were filled with PRAISE to the Lord for His glorious deliverance. Now they are passing through a barren wilderness with heavy trials along the way. Will they continue to praise the Lord and trust Him to deliver them?

Verse 24: “And the people complained against Moses, saying, ‘What shall we drink’?” Ah, instead of the Lord filling their vision and praise filling their mouth, their minds and hearts are “filled with discouragement” and their mouths are “filled with murmuring!” Had they forgotten the Lord’s gracious intervention at the Red Sea so quickly? Yes, they had! This was actually the second time that they had murmured, for earlier in Exodus 14:11-12 we read, “Then they said to Moses, ‘Because there were no graves in Egypt, have you taken us away to die in the wilderness? Why have you dealt with us, to bring us up out of Egypt? Is this not the word that we told you in Egypt, saying, Let us alone that we may serve the Egyptians? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than that we should die in the wilderness’.” It would seem a rebellious pattern was forming. In this case the water was BITTER and so were they! They needed to learn that “bitter experiences” should not lead to “bitter hearts.”

Verse 25: “So he (Moses) cried out to the LORD, and the LORD showed him a tree. When he cast it into the waters, the waters were made sweet. There He made a statute and an ordinance for them. And there He tested them.” Here we see Moses, their divinely-given leader, doing what they should have done. He cries out to the Lord in heart-felt passion in dependence upon the Lord. Before we are quick to condemn their lack of faith and dependence, do we “cry out to the Lord” when faced with “bitter trials” in life? The Lord quickly responds to Moses’ cry by showing him a tree and having him cast it into the waters, resulting in the waters being made sweet. I don’t believe this tree had any magical properties in it that brought about the sweet waters; it simply symbolized God’s ability to work a miracle on their behalf. I believe the “tree” also reminds us of another “tree” in Scripture. I’m speaking of the cross on which our blessed Savior died. When we are facing a “bitter trial” we need to have the cross of Calvary before us, and if we do our “bitterness” will become “sweet.” We will realize that all our present trials are “but for a moment,” and that the work our Savior accomplished on the cross gives us an “eternal hope of glory.” I would encourage you to read 2nd Corinthians 4:16-18.

In verse 26 the Lord sets before His people a promise, that if they are “obedient to His Word,” they will experience “physical health.” Did they learn their lesson at Marah by obeying God’s Word instead of murmuring and complaining? We need only read on in Exodus to see that they continued to rebel against the Lord resulting in physical sickness and death. In fact, when they came to the end of their journey by reaching the Promised Land, most had been “overthrown in the wilderness” (see 1st Corinthians 10:5-10 and Hebrews 3:7-19 where the children of Israel serve as an example to us today.) There we learn that “obedience to God’s Word” will result in “spiritual health,” but disobedience will yield bitter results. (272.3) (DO)