So Moses brought Israel from the Red sea, and they went out into the wilderness of Shur; and they went three days in the wilderness…
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.
II. THE NEARNESS OF ELIM TO MARAH OPENS UP TO US A DEEP TRUTH IN THE SPIRITUAL HISTORY OF MAN.
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.)
Parallel VersesKJV: So Moses brought Israel from the Red sea, and they went out into the wilderness of Shur; and they went three days in the wilderness, and found no water.