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…
There is no reason why a powerful sermon should not be preached from a seemingly strange text. All depends on how the text is treated. God himself is the greatest of all preachers. See what sort of a sermon he preached from a text which most would have thought unpromising.
I. THE TEXT (ver. 22-25).
1. What it was. Israel three days without water; at length "a large mound, a whitish petrifaction," from which flowed a fountain. Eagerness followed by disgust. The water bitter, loathsome, undrinkable. "Marah." The people murmured against their leader. A bitter fountain and an embittered murmuring people. Such the text.
2. How treated. The text was improved by applying to it the context. Many other texts might be best improved in like manner. "The Lord showed him a tree," etc. (ver. 25). Clearly somewhere close at hand. The bitter waters made sweet. Discontent changed to satisfaction.
II. THE SERMON (vers. 25, 26). Israelites too much like the bitter water. When God looked to refresh himself by their confidence and gratitude, he was met by murmuring and distrust. They, too, must learn not to fix attention wholly on disagreeables, but to take the bitter out of them by considering the never-absent context. God himself is the context to every incident which could befall them, but they must apply his help by obedience and simple trust. Obey him and no bitter, in the heart or out of it, but his presence would sweeten. "I am the Lord that healeth thee," even as I have healed the waters. Notice: -
1. The sermon does not dwell upon the text, though it springs out of it quite naturally. Exceedingly plain and simple, so that a child can understand it.
2. The text (the ordinance) illustrates the sermon (the statute). Yet the illustration is not forced; not even strongly emphasized; just allowed to speak for itself. Some preachers make so much of an illustration, that that which it illustrates is forgotten. [You may drive a brass-headed nail so "home," that while it is fixed nothing will hang upon it.]
III. A RETREAT FOR MEDITATION AFTERWARDS (ver. 27). Some excellent sermons are forgotten directly in the hurry and bustle that succeeds them. To gain by sermons we must recollect them; and to recollect them we must have time and place for recollectedness. This God gave to the Israelites at Elim; yet, even so, they failed to profit by it. Had they used their time for meditation better, much after trouble, caused by forgetfulness, would have been saved. Application. "A sermon for preachers!" Yes, but a sermon for people also. If God's sermons can be so soon forgotten, even when he gives time for pondering them, how much sooner those we preach! Everything does not rest with the preacher. If the people will not take pains to remember - to ponder, meditate, inwardly digest - the best of preachers, even God himself, may preach home to them, and the result be nil. - G.
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.