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.” Exodus 15:25-26
Here where the water is bitter. Here where the future is unknown. Here where the level of security in circumstances is at it’s lowest…this is where God calls them to be a people who listen?! I would think that he might have brought this up at a better time. Like say, right after leading them through the Red Sea when trust is high and everyone is feeling good. But he waits until the water is bitter. He waits until they are at a point of demaanding and questioning. God waits until they need him to give and then he says to them, “If you will listen carefully…”
But I would rather talk. I would rather explain. I would much rather talk than listen. That’s our natural reaction, isn’t it? Even those of us who don’t talk out loud. We talk internally, telling ourselves how unfair it is. How wrong they are. How much better it should be. And on and on.
Listening though…well it’s hard to nail down what that even looks like or how it’s practiced. Especially when life is bitter. We would rarther complain, demand and question. We would rather something or someone just fix our circumstances than stop and listen.
It’s interesting to me that the Israelites seem to assume that the water being bitter is a probelm; that it’s wrong. Isn’t that just how we are? But how can God be the Lord that heals you if nothing is ever broken, if things are never bitter?
I’ve noticed in my life this tendency; this assuming that difficulty or the bitter water is a mistake, a problem. Maybe God was “asleep at the wheel” and it’s up to us to wake him up our complaining and demanding. But what if the bitter water, the unwanted experiences, the probelms we face, what if all of that is mean to be an experience with the Lord that heals us? What if it’s meant to be a call and an invitation to listen carefully?
What would it be like if when facing tragedy and difficulty we stopped challenging God’s faithfulness to us and started looking at our faithfulness to him? If we listen carefully we might just learn and hear and see that there is more going on than just what’s in front of us. We may experience something beyond the bitter taste in our mouths.