Then he cried out to the LORD, and the LORD showed him a tree; and he threw it into the waters, and the waters became sweet There He made for them a statute and regulation, and there He tested them.Exodus 15:25(NASB)
When Christ died on the Cross He paid the price for our sin, and when He rose from the grave He broke the power of sin and death in the lives of all who believe. In Exodus we see a shadow of things to come... a similar pattern where the blood of the Passover lamb prefigures Christ, the Lamb of God, Whose shed blood paid the price for our sin redeeming those in bondage... while crossing the Red Sea speaks of the power of evil being broken in the lives of God's people.
In Exodus 15 we have the expressive 'Song of Moses', which begins by glorifying the Lord Who delivered Israel from their Egyptian captors. It continues by graphically describing how God defeated the Egyptian army, by casting Pharaoh's chariots and his army into the deep floodwaters of the sea and shattering the might of the enemy before their very eyes.
It is after this glorious song of victory that highly exalts the Lord God of Israel, that we follow them setting out on their journey towards Sinai, where each step they take is filled with spiritual lessons for every child of God in every dispensation. Each place they passed gives glimpses into God's gracious character and faithfulness towards His people while acting as a warning, an example, and an admonishment to us all.
Following the great victory at the Red Sea, they set off across the 'Wilderness of Shur'. After travelling for three days in the wilderness they arrived at a place called Marah, which means 'bitter'. Although there was water at this oasis, they were unable to drink it because it had a pungent taste. As a result, the people grumbled at Moses, and kept asking, "What shall we drink?"
These people had witnessed the ten plagues in Egypt, been rescued from 400 years in Egyptian slavery, passed through the Red Sea on dry land, and watched as God destroyed their enemies in a watery grave - but instead of trusting God and turning to the One Who redeemed them from Egypt, they started to grumble and complain because they had no water to drink.
The Lord wanted to teach them to depend on HIM. He wanted them to trust HIM and seek His protection and provision. He had brought them to a place with bitter water as a test. God wanted to see if His people would turn to Him in faith and to call out to Him to supply their needs, but instead, they started to murmur against Moses.
The nation demonstrated that they were spiritually immature, and as they continued to complain against both Moses and the Lord, we recognise that they did not have a teachable spirit but were proud in their own conceit.
The man whom God used to deliver them out of Egypt was the man they turned on in anger when God tested them at Marah. "And so Moses cried out to the LORD." Moses did what the people refused to do - he called out to God for help, "and the LORD showed him a tree. And Moses threw the tree into the waters, and the waters became sweet."
How interesting that the Lord showed Moses a tree which his servant threw into the water to cause it to be healed of its bitter taste and "become sweet." It was not a magic tree that Moses tore up by the roots and tossed into the bitter water. It was not some occultic trick. The tree that turned bitterness into sweetness was a picture of the wooden Cross of Calvary, which takes what is bitter and heals it.
God was showing His people that in Him - in CHRIST, the promised Messiah, God is able to turn bitterness into joy, to turn obstacles into opportunities, and to change problems into precious promises, that are 'yes' and 'amen' in Him. The Lord was demonstrating His power and sufficient grace so that they would trust Him when in need - and rely on Him alone.
At Marah the Lord was teaching His people a life-principle. He was teaching them about trust and dependence and so "He made for them a statute and regulation." The Lord tested them at Marah, but sadly they failed the test. The Lord was teaching His people truths that would save their soul, if they listened to His voice and obeyed His command... for He said to them, "If you will give earnest heed to the voice of the LORD your God, and do what is right in His sight, and give ear to His commandments, and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you which I have put on the Egyptians; for I, the LORD. I am your healer."
The New Testament gives witness to us that these things that happened to Israel, are there for OUR learning. They are in Scripture to teach US how to live godly lives. They are to train US to trust God's Word and listen to His leading and guidance. They are to encourage US to trust in the Lord with all our heart and not to lean on our own imperfect and incomplete understanding. They are to point us to God as our sole Provider and Healer - the Rock of our salvation and the Hope of all the ends of the earth.
As a nation, the Israelites were spiritually immature. They were a proud, unteachable people. They lacked spiritual stamina and failed to recognise God as their Provider and Healer... their almighty God and gracious Saviour. May we have the humility of heart and a teachable spirit that is ready and willing to listen to His voice, trust His Word, obey His command, and do only those things that honour His name.
Heavenly Father, there are times when I become astonished and even angry with Israel's lack of discernment and inability to trust in You as their Provider and Healer, their almighty God and gracious Saviour. But Father, as I consider their lack of trust, their foolish murmurings, and prideful attitude, I recognise the times that I have been guilty of the same unbelief. Forgive me for my lack of faith and I pray that in my personal difficulties, I would shake off my cloak of unbelief, and trust in You for EVERY eventuality of life, even those times when I do not understand or when things seem unfair. Thank You that Jesus came to earth and turned my bitterness into sweetness and saved me by grace through faith in Him. Keep me low at the Cross and broken before You. This I ask in Jesus' name, AMEN.