Many believers arrive at places of trial and testing. Sometimes the Lord brings us to places similar to Marah, where the waters of life are bitter (see Exodus 15:22-23). And once there, we too face unfulfilled thirst, nagging questions and grave doubts. You may protest, “No, you can’t compare me to those idolatrous, fornicating Israelites! You can’t say I’m like them!”

But the poor Israelites did not recognize these things about themselves; they did not realize what was in their hearts until their time of testing came. I believe the same is true of God’s people today. The prophet Jeremiah writes, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9).

Remember, these are the same people who would later tremble before the Lord at Mount Sinai after hearing His commandments. They would quickly answer, “Everything God has said, we will do. We’ll obey every command!” And the Israelites sincerely meant every word they said. They were full of the fear of God, and were convinced they would not fail to honor Him. But they had no idea what was in their hearts; in truth, they were spiritually bankrupt.

You see, Israel was living off the experience of their pastor and teacher, Moses. They had no faith of their own and when God removed Moses from their midst, they backslid within forty days!

The same thing happens with many Christians today. When they hear God’s Word preached, they eagerly pledge to obey it with all their hearts. But in reality, they are living off someone else’s experience. They feed on teaching tapes, seminars, the revelations of their pastors—and they have no deep experience of their own with Christ.

Beloved, you cannot get God’s true revelation from someone else. A preacher can stir and inspire you, and you may learn to spout biblical precepts. But until you have your own experience with Jesus and develop a history with Him, you cannot know Him. His word has to work its way into your heart until it becomes a living experience.