The Book of Exodus, chapter 15, verses 22 through 26, records for us the history of Israel at Marah. This was Israel’s first stop on their journey out of Egypt into the land of Canaan. It was here at Marah that Israel asked the question: “What shall we drink?” At first glance the question seems perfectly justified. We read in verse twenty-one that they journeyed three days in the Wilderness (Desert of Shur—elsewhere described in the Bible as “that great and terrible desert”) and found no water. There can be no doubt about it, Israel was in desperate straits. They were in a burning, hot desert and had no water to drink. They were in desperate need of a drink of water lest presently they die of thirst. Thus for them to ask Moses: “What shall we drink?” does not seem strange at all.
Nevertheless, that was a faithless question for Israel to ask. Consider Israel’s previous history and it will become evident that Israel displayed a wicked lack of faith in asking that question. Jehovah had not only shown His power and faithfulness in the sending of the ten plagues, but also had indubitably demonstrated His Covenant faithfulness in the destruction of Pharaoh in the Red Sea and in the delivering of Israel through the sea on a dry path. Israel had just sung of that marvelous deliverance in the Song of Moses. “Who is like unto thee O Lord…”, they sang just three days previous. Now in faithless unbelief they ask Moses: “What shall we drink?” How insulting that question must have been to God! Evidently, they did not believe that the God Who had delivered them miraculously out of Egypt could provide water for them.
Much more could be written in explanation of this event in Israel’s history. What has been said, however, suffices to establish the point that Israel’s question certainly revealed a serious lack of faith. In the light of the clear revelation of Jehovah’s covenant faithfulness Israel had no reason asking God through His servant Moses: “What shall we drink?”
How many times haven’t we asked that same faithless question? Especially we young people are guilty of asking: “What shall we drink?” No, we don’t literally ask that question, but the idea is the same. We ask, for example, such questions as: “Will the Prot. Ref. Churches continue to exist or will they gradually disintegrate?”; “What future is there for us in the little Prot. Ref. Churches?”; “What happens when Rev. Hoeksema is no longer with us?” So we could multiply examples.
At first glance these questions, just as Israel’s question, seem justified. Have not our Churches been torn by division and strife twice since 1924? We refer, of course, to 1953 and 1962. Will this continue until our Churches no longer exist? Besides, certainly it is beyond doubt that God has been pleased to use Rev. Hoeksema mightily in the defense of the truth and in the leadership of our Churches. Who will take his place? More than that, we have a serious shortage of ministers and there is not a great deal of relief in prospect for the immediate future. Will not our Churches “die on the vine” without ministers?
From every human standpoint, there can be little doubt that these questions are justified. We are a small, struggling denomination of churches. In comparison to other denominations—even those closest to us in doctrine—we amount to next to nothing. Humanly speaking, the prospects of future growth in size and numbers are not very bright.
Yet to ask the above questions is no more justified for us than it was for Israel to ask at Marah: “What shall we drink?” The Lord has proved His faithfulness time and again to us. We have a glorious heritage to uphold. Let our reaction to these things never be: “What shall we drink?” But let us say with the apostle Paul, who in answer to the question: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation…distress…persecution…peril…sword?” said: “Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us” (Romans 8:35 and 37).
When we analyze our history and look to our future as Churches and individual Christians in that faith of Paul, we may be assured that our future is indeed bright. Jehovah, Who loved us in Christ from the beginning, will continue to love us and preserve us to the end when He will take us to be with Himself in eternal glory! Let us then beware lest we ask: “What shall we drink?”