According to the Reese Chronological Bible, God’s people departed from Egypt on Saturday April 16, 1462 BC. As they were leaving, God’s presence settled among them in the form of a pillar of cloud, which turned into a pillar of fire at night. When the cloud moved, Israel followed. When the cloud stopped, Israel stopped. Moses led them “out of” Egypt. Then he led them “from” the Red Sea.  Moses told them when it was time to leave. God told them where to go next. After Israel left the Red Sea they followed the cloud for three days without finding water. Their first stop on the way to worship God was Marah. The water supply was getting low and they could not drink the water at Marah because it was bitter. Instead of calling upon God, they quarreled with Moses. It wasn’t Moses fault God led them to bitter water.

The bitterest experiences of my life have taken place in the church. Just as God led Israel to the bitter waters of Marah, God led me to those bitter experiences. Which brings up a valid question? If God loves us, why does he allow bitterness in our lives? To answer that question we need to examine what Israel did at the Red Sea and apply the law of jealousy.


  The Egyptians — all Pharaoh’s horses and chariots, horsemen and troops — pursued the Israelites and overtook them as they camped by the sea near Pi Hahiroth, opposite Baal Zephon.  As Pharaoh approached, the Israelites looked up, and there were the Egyptians, marching after them. They were terrified and cried out to the LORD.  Exodus 14:9-10  

While Israel camped by the Red Sea word traveled through the camp that the Egyptians were coming. When Israel “looked up,” they saw the Egyptians approaching and cried out to the Lord. Their cry for help was a sweet odor to their Lord, but that sweetness quickly turned bitter. Instead of waiting for their Lord to respond, the leaders of Israel ran to Moses and complained.

 They said to Moses, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? Didn’t we say to you in Egypt, ‘Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians’? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!” Exodus 14:11-12

Moses assured the frightened, angry Israelites there was nothing to worry about. All they had to do was wait. The Lord would fight for them and they would never see the Egyptians again.

After Moses dismissed them, he did the same thing Israel was doing before they stopped to quarrel. He cried out to the Lord. The Lord responded to Moses’ plea with a question. “Why are you crying out to me?”[1]

Israel’s fear and desperation could be excused but not Moses’. While they were camped at Etham, the Lord told Moses what Pharaoh would do. Moses knew that Pharaoh would think they were confused and hemmed in by the desert. Moses also knew that Pharaoh would pursue them, so he could make them his slaves again.

God told Moses to stop praying and start moving. Moses instructed Israel to pack so they could continue their journey, but they had a problem. The Red Sea was in front of them and the Egyptians were behind them. While the Israelites were getting ready to travel, God stopped Egypt from approaching by moving to the rear of the camp. The pillar of cloud that resided among them became darkness to the Egyptians and light to Israel all night while an east wind blew until the sea split and Israel had dry land to walk on.

Sunday morning, as the day began to dawn, God’s people were standing on the opposite side of the Red Sea beholding their God in action. Israel saw the wheels flying off the chariots of the Egyptians and heard them cry out, “The Lord is fighting for Israel.”[2] Then Moses raised his rod and the oppressive government of Egypt was destroyed. God’s people didn’t have to fight. All they had to do was wait.

Trembling with fear and awe, God’s people held a worship service. Moses led them in a song praising the Lord as their strength and salvation. When the men were finished, Miriam and the women picked up tambourines and began dancing and singing. Miriam’s song revealed why God leads his people to bitter water. The women sang, “In your unfailing love you will lead the people you have redeemed.” [3]

God leads his people with unfailing love. Now you know why God leads us to bitter water. His love does not fail, but our love does and his love is jealous.


 Do not worship any other god… Exodus 34:14

The command not to “worship any other god” acknowledges the existence of other gods. If there are no other gods, why did God tell us not to worship any other god? The immediate assumption is that we should not bow down to images fashioned out of wood and stone, but Paul made it clear that an idol crafted by human hands is nothing.[4] Since that kind of worship was rampant when God gave this command to Moses it is certainly a part of it, but not all of it. Removing the idols of wood and stone from Israel’s midst never stopped them from worshipping idols. Who is this other god that I must not worship or I’ll make God jealous?

There are concepts in the Bible difficult to understand. Peter said that Paul writes things hard to understand which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction.[5] I’m about to write something hard to understand so be careful that you don’t twist it to your own destruction. Let me tell you what I am not saying first. I am not teaching that we are God. I am teaching that a paradox proves there is one God and no one like him. Understanding a paradox keeps us on the road that leads to an abundant happy life instead of a bitter miserable existence in a desert.

Some religious leaders picked up stones to kill Jesus because they thought he had blasphemed God by claming to be the Son of God. Jesus asked them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I have said you are gods’? If he called them ‘gods,’ to whom the word of God came– and the Scripture cannot be broken–what about the one whom the Father set apart as his very own and sent into the world? Why then do you accuse me of blasphemy because I said, ‘I am God’s Son’?[6] Most of the time Jesus called himself the Son of Man, but he never denied that he is also the Son of God. The religious leaders were offended that he accepted the title of Son of God and considered him worthy of death. Before they could cast a stone, Jesus called the offended leaders gods. They couldn’t argue because that is what the scripture says and it cannot be broken.

The God they were so concerned Jesus had offended created humanity in his own image and called Adam and Eve gods. After Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden tree, “the LORD God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil.”[7] Most of the Bible translations say “like one of us,” the American Standard Version says “as one of us.” The Hebrew word translated “like” means to be united as one. [8]

We were created in God’s likeness, but Adam and Eve were not satisfied and sinned in an effort to become even more like God. They obtained exactly what they were after, because God said they did. So, why do Christians strive so hard to be like Jesus yet readily admit that we all fall short? Thus we have a paradox. I am like God. I am nothing like God. Both statements are true. The paradox justifies God and his claim that there is no one like him. I could possess all of God’s wisdom, strength and authority, and I would still fall short of being like God because no one loves like God does.

Jesus quoted from Psalm 82 when he told the angry religious leaders with rocks in their hands, “ye are gods.” The Psalm opens with the statement “God presides in the great assembly; he gives judgment among the “gods.”[9]  The Psalm asks the gods a question: “How long will you defend the unjust and show partiality to the wicked.” [10] Most governments seek to do what is right, but they all corrupt. If becoming like God made us like God, why are there rulers that defend the unjust and show partiality to the wicked? If we are created in God’s likeness and united as one with him to know good and evil, why is there anyone who is wicked and unjust? Why aren’t we all like God?

God’s judgment about the gods he presides over is this, “They know nothing, they understand nothing. They walk about in darkness; all the foundations of the earth are shaken.[11]  If becoming like God made us like God, why are there so many unanswered questions in this world? Humanity can’t agree on where we came from and why we are here. Most people spend a lifetime searching for purpose. If becoming like God made us like God, why are we walking around in darkness shaking the foundations of the earth with our sin?

God had something else to say to the gods who desire to be like him, “I said, ‘You are “gods”; you are all sons of the Most High.’ But you will die like mere men; you will fall like every other ruler.[12] We are gods, but we are not GOD! If we were God’s equals, we would be stronger than death.

We are gods by God’s testimony in three places, Genesis, Psalms and Jesus. Yet at the same time, I am not God. Both statements are true. I am like God. I am nothing like God. The paradox reveals a life giving truth. There is one god who is stronger than death and he is a jealous God whose love never fails.


Do not worship any other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God. Exodus 34:14

We are commanded not to worship any other god because our God is a jealous.  We define jealousy as a green-eyed monster: the fruit of an unhealthy relationship from which nothing good comes. Does that mean God is a green-eyed monster that will make my life miserable? Is that why he brings me into the desert, waits until I am thirsty, and then gives me a glass of bitter water to drink? What was going on between God and Israel after they left the Red Sea? Is God being vindictive when he leads us to bitter water or specifically bitter experiences? Paul gave us a clue in his letter to the Corinthians when he wrote, “I am jealous for you with godly jealousy.[13] There is a difference between human jealousy and godly jealousy.

Paul put his life in jeopardy to win the Corinthians to the Lord. They rewarded Paul’s love by running to other teachers for instruction and openly criticizing Paul. Instead of listening to someone who loved them, they listened to teachers who abused them. The Corinthians, “put up with anyone who enslaves you or exploits you or takes advantage of you or pushes himself forward or slaps you in the face.[14]

The kind of teachers the Corinthians embraced have always been present in the church. They make people slaves to their opinions of right and wrong. If you don’t conform, you are labeled a troublemaker and marked as an uncommitted Christian. They will exploit and take advantage of your sincere efforts to serve God. When it comes time to reap benefits, they push you out of the way. Their words and actions are like a slap in the face.

The sin of the Corinthians was the sin of Israel. They rejected those who loved them to embrace those who don’t. Why did the Corinthians cling to abusive teachers when it was Paul who put his life in jeopardy that they might hear the gospel?

In response to their rejection Paul wrote, “Now I am ready to visit you for the third time, and I will not be a burden to you, because what I want is not your possessions but you. After all, children should not have to save up for their parents but parents for their children. So I will very gladly spend for you everything I have and expend myself as well. If I love you more, will you love me less?[15] Does it sound like Paul’s jealousy made him bitter with the Corinthians for rejecting him? To the contrary, his godly jealousy provoked him to love them even more.

The difference between God’s jealousy and human jealousy is bitterness. God gets jealous, but he does not get bitter any more than the Apostle Paul did. When God gets jealous, he gives you bitter water to drink because he is looking for a reliable witness to reveal to everyone what God already knows. You don’t love him.


You must understand the law God gave to Moses to understand why God led Israel to the bitter water of Marah. His kingdom does not function like the kingdoms of this world. Our leaders make laws to control the masses even as they exempt themselves. God obeys every law he decrees. In God’s kingdom the intent of law is to restrain those who govern. God’s law protects the weak from the strong and the powerless from the powerful. There is nothing in all creation that can restrain an all-powerful God except his own integrity. The law God gave to Moses governs everything God does because God is the only one who can limit what he does.

An examination of the law of jealousy reveals why God led Israel to bitter water.

 Then the LORD said to Moses,  “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘If a man’s wife goes astray and is unfaithful to him by sleeping with another man, and this is hidden from her husband and her impurity is undetected (since there is no witness against her and she has not been caught in the act), and if feelings of jealousy come over her husband and he suspects his wife and she is impure–or if he is jealous and suspects her even though she is not impure– then he is to take his wife to the priest. He must also take an offering of a tenth of an ephah of barley flour on her behalf. He must not pour oil on it or put incense on it, because it is a grain offering for jealousy, a reminder offering to draw attention to guilt. (The Living Bible says, “to bring out the truth as to whether or not she is guilty.”) Numbers 5:11-15

According to the law God lives by, if a husband is jealous, he can bring his wife before the priest to bring out the truth of whether or not she is faithful to him. The purpose of the law of jealousy is to produce a reliable witness. If you are thinking an all knowing God should know if you are guilty or not, I don’t doubt that he does. God does not need the witness to know the truth. God’s people need the witness. If we don’t know God’s actions are justified there will be no peace in his house. The witness that justifies God’s actions in our eyes when he removes someone from among us is their bitterness. Bitter water will not make you bitter unless you are guilty.

Let me summarize the ritual. (I recommend that you study this law using several different translations, as it can be difficult to understand, especially in the KJV.)  In basic terms, the jealous husband brings his wife to the priest with a grain offering that the NIV calls a reminder offering. The priest uncovers her head. Thus the wife is standing before a jealous husband without his protection because the husband is the head of the wife. Then the priest makes her drink a jar of bitter water. If she is innocent nothing will happen and everybody goes home happy. If she is guilty the bitter water will become bitter within her.

Whether she is guilty or innocent, she still has hope because the law requires the couple to bring a reminder offering. Before she drinks the bitter water, the priest takes the reminder offering and waves it before the Lord. A wave offering is also called a peace offering. Regarding this offering, Boyd’s Bible Handbook says, “It typifies Christ anointed with the spirit, living, loving and dying for man by the hand of the lawless, yet in accordance with the determined counsel and foreknowledge of God. Christ as the meat offering meets the demand of God against man because of man’s lack of love toward him (God) and his fellowman…”

Before she drinks bitter water the Priest reminds her of the one who has power to sweeten the water or void the curse, if she has committed adultery. Jesus is our peace with God. If Jesus is not enough to sweeten the water for a guilty wife, the bitter water or bitter experience will swell within her until it burst out of her mouth, a river of bitter words against God and man.


 So the people grumbled against Moses, saying, “What are we to drink?” Then Moses cried out to the Lord, and the Lord, showed him a piece of wood. He threw it into the water, and the water became sweet. There the Lord made a decree and a law for them and there he tested them. Exodus 15:22-27

Two hundred years in Egypt, where Israel watered their gardens by foot, had taught them how to conserve water. The Bible says they traveled three days without finding water. The water supply they brought with them was getting dangerously low and they were worried.

The cares of life were creeping in. When is this cloud going to lead us to some water? Doesn’t God know I’m almost empty? God finally led them to some water but it was bitter. The Hebrew word translated bitter means the same thing it does in English. Bitter like lemonade without sugar. It won’t kill you to drink it, but it’s not pleasant. Israel was in the desert. They can’t go back. If they don’t get some water soon they can’t go on. What did Israel do for God to bring them to this terrible, miserable place?

God led them to bitter water because they made him jealous when they worshipped another god. I know what you are thinking? When did that happen? It happened when they quarreled with Pastor Moses before God had a chance to answer.

The first time Israel cried out to the Lord was in Egypt and God helped them by delivering them from Pharaoh’s arrogance. The second time was at the Red Sea, but they didn’t wait for God to respond. This was also the last time that this generation cried out to the Lord. From this point on this generation demanded Pastor Moses to meet their every need? The unbelieving spirit of this generation ultimately brought their Pastor down with them.  

When Israel quarreled with Moses at the Red Sea they made God suspicious. Moses did not bring them into the desert. God did! Why did they give Moses the credit for their deliverance? Moses would have been more than happy to leave them alone and return to Midian. Moses did not want to go get them. God made him! Moses came to Egypt because God loved them. The God of Abraham would not leave them alone. He loved them first with a love that does not fail.

With some exceptions, from the deliverance out of Egypt until today, the children of Jacob never loved the God that loved them first. They loved the Pastor. In Jesus day, 1,500 years later, they were still saying, Moses gave us manna in the desert. Jesus corrected them saying, Moses did not give you manna, my Father did.[16]

The Bible has a word that describes people who call on God and then quarrel with his messenger.

 What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. You adulterous people,… James 4:1-5

God led Israel to bitter water because they were not faithful to him and he wanted to know whom they really loved. When you call upon the eternal all wise Spirit of God, a pillar of wisdom among us, than run to another god, who knows nothing and understands nothing to solve your problems you are an adulterous people. The mere man you are trying to crawl in bed with won’t be able to satisfy you and you will end up in an argument with your adulterous lover.

When you want something and turn to his people for the answer, you are not being faithful to God. When you are in right relationship with the Father you don’t need to send someone to the Father on your behalf. Jesus said the Father loves you. God wants you to talk to him and let him solve your problems. We are all the same in God’s eyes. I don’t have any more pull with the Father than you do, so why should I go to him on your behalf.

 Or do you think Scripture says without reason that the spirit he caused to live in us envies intensely? James 4:5

There is a disagreement in the various translations and commentaries as to whether “spirit” in James 5:4 is the Holy Spirit or the human spirit. I believe this verse is a reference to the Holy Spirit because it reflects God’s character. The Living Bible says, “Or what do you think the Scripture means when it says that the Holy Spirit, whom God has placed within us, watches over us with tender jealousy?”

God the Father is jealous to solve your problems. When you run to other gods, the sons of God who are nothing like him, you arouse his jealousy. God’s foolishness is wiser then the greatest wisdom of man. He can do so much more for you than I or any other minister can, so why run to less than God when you are afraid? Why do you pour out intimate details to people who may not love you, when you can pour your heart out to a God whose love for you never fails?

When Israel called on God than quarreled with Moses before God had time to answer they made God suspicious. Israel could see a physical manifestation of God in the form of a pillar of cloud by day and fire by night. If they loved God, what are they doing at Moses tent? If they believed God loved them, why didn’t they wait for the pillar of wisdom among them to solve their problem?

What could Moses do for them? First, they wanted an 80-year-old man with nothing but a stick in his hand to save them from death by stopping the Egyptian army. When they got to Marah they demanded Moses to supply water for over a million people. How long would it take an old man to dig a hole with a stick big enough to hold water for all these people, much less fill that hole with water? They were demanding Moses to do things only a God could do.


Was Israel unfaithful to their God or were they immature. It’s hard to tell some times. New believers don’t know how to depend on God. God in his graciousness will use a man or woman to help them but its best not to depend God’s children. Moses was a man like they were and has already proven it by the mistakes he made in Egypt and mistakes he is yet to make in the desert.

 Then Moses cried out to the Lord, and the Lord, showed him a piece of wood. He threw it into the water, and the water became sweet. There the Lord made a decree and a law for them and there he tested them. Numbers 15: 25

God used the law of jealousy to test Israel. That is why God showed Moses a piece of wood. The Hebrew word translated wood is ‘ets,’[17] which means a tree but is also translated a carpenter. When they came to the place of bitter water God showed them a carpenter. Jesus worked as a carpenter before he entered the ministry to build God’s house. Jesus alone sweetens the bitter water we encounter in the desert.

At Marah, God looked for a witness to expose who they really loved. If you make God jealous he will lead you to bitter experiences because his love never fails but our love does. If you can survive the bitter water without becoming bitter, if Jesus is enough to sweeten those bitter experiences, God will lead you to Elim.

 Then they came to Elim, where there were twelve springs and seventy palm trees, and they camped there near the water. Exodus 15:27

Each of the twelve tribes had their own spring of water. Each of the seventy elders among them had their own palm tree to rest under because the carpenter made peace between a jealous husband and his unfaithful wife. The carpenter was enough to sweeten bitter water for Israel.

Is he enough for you?

[1] Exodus 14:15

[2] Exodus 14:25

[3] Exodus 15:3

[4] 1 Corinthians 8:4-6

[5] 2 Peter 3:15-16

[6] John10:34-36

[7] Genesis 3:22

[8] Genesis 1:26

[9] Psalm 82:1

[10] Psalm 82:2

[11] Psalm 82:5

[12] Psalms 82:6-7

[13] 2 Corinthians 11:2

[14] 2 Corinthians 11:20

[15] 2 Corinthians 12:14

[16] John 6:30-32

[17] Strongs # 6086

About Teena Myers

Teena Myers is the Chairman of Southern Christian Writers, a freelance writer and author of three books.
This entry was posted in Road to Worship and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to FAITHFULNESS

  1. Pingback: The Curse of The 'Green-Eyed Monster'

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