My Old Testament studies are showing me ways that these ancient Scriptures point to Jesus Christ, the Messiah who was promised by God as early as Genesis. However, before He came, the people of God must learn that their ways were sinful, their own efforts to be good were futile, and that they must obey God all the time. He graciously made and confirmed His covenant with them, but like us, they kept turning away from Him.
Their lives after the Exodus provide many examples. They had been delivered from slavery in Egypt, but instead of being thankful that they were free from bondage, they started griping about everything.
When they came to Marah, they could not drink the water of Marah because it was bitter; therefore it was named Marah. And the people grumbled against Moses, saying, “What shall we drink?” And he cried to the Lord, and the Lord showed him a log, and he threw it into the water, and the water became sweet. There the Lord made for them a statute and a rule, and there he tested them, saying, “If you will diligently listen to the voice of the Lord your God, and do that which is right in his eyes, and give ear to his commandments and keep all his statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you that I put on the Egyptians, for I am the Lord, your healer.” (Exodus 15:23–26)
This story is a mini-picture of the work of Christ. First, they discovered the bitterness of the water, just as sinners must realize the bitterness of sin. Then they grumbled against Moses. Moses represents the Law that God handed down to them, the Law they could not keep and that was too hard for them. They didn’t like the high standards of God nor the hardships of the life God gave them.
Since they were not praying for themselves, Moses, as their leader and God’s prophet, interceded for them. God immediately showed him a log. Could this fallen tree be a symbol of the tree upon which Christ died? It reminds me of it, for only the Cross of Christ can change my situations of grumbling into blessing. Their story then ends with a rescue, but also a command and a promise from God if they obey.
In this story, God speaks to me about the importance of Moses’ prayer. For many years, I have known that prayer is my main ministry, and that most of my struggles are against the enemy’s efforts to stop me from praying. Some think it useless to pray because they feel sure of having His blessing, but I know that taking God’s blessings for granted is a dangerous assumption. I also know that just as these people needed a cry for their deliverance, so does everyone else caught in the bondage of sin, Christians and those who do not yet know Christ. I also must daily seek the Lord for His blessing in my own life.
The bitter water was made sweet by the introduction of a tree. Surely it is the tree of Calvary that changes the bitterness of life. This week, my sister talks of God’s grace as she and her family experience a devastating flood. She knows the power of that tree. Her voice is sweet, not bitter.
Only the Cross can so powerfully sweeten our thoughts and even our desires. It is the tree that makes us realize what would be our portion had God not sent His Son to die for our sin. That “log” is a great symbol of the life-giving power of God.
Today’s devotional says that healing does not come because of a prayerless faith. God wants me to pour out my heart before Him so He can pour blessing into my soul. In this story, the people did not pray. I wonder what would have happened to them if Moses had not prayed on their behalf?
The Scriptures describe other situations like this one where if Moses not interceded, God may have destroyed them. This is also true for those in my life who are bitter and complaining. They need the grace of God to change their hearts and bring healing to their lives, not destruction.
I am convinced that being inclined to pray is also the work of that tree. Otherwise, I would not do it. The Cross and the death of Christ is my death also. His resurrection is my new life. He changed me so I do not have to be in bondage to sin and bitter toward God. In Christ, He gives me a sweet life, filled with His virtue and faith, pure and refreshing.
No matter what is tossed into my life to keep me from doing what He wants me to do and to keep me from praying as Moses did, I am released from the clutches of the one who would stop me. Because of that tree, and because of Christ, instead of being angry at my sin God can say to me, “I am the LORD, your healer.”