Then Moses led Israel to journey away from the Red Sea. They went out to the Desert of Shur, walked for three days into the desert, and found no water. 23 Then they came to Marah, but they were not able to drink the waters of Marah, because they were bitter. (That is why its name was Marah.)
24 So the people murmured against Moses, saying, “What can we drink?” 25 He cried out to the Lord, and the Lord showed him a tree. When Moses threw it into the water, the water became safe to drink. There the Lord made for them a binding ordinance, and there he tested them. (Exodus 15:22-25 NET bible)
The Israelites are on a high. They have just been delivered through the Red sea and the Egyptian army who were close behind were all drowned. At the beginning of today’s chapter they are writing and singing songs of triumph. God has delivered them and the only way is up.
As many of you will be all too aware, after many great victories and highs come some very testing lows. This happens to all of us and even Jesus himself was not immune. Just as the Israelites had just passed through water, Jesus had just passed through the waters of baptism. It was a great occasion, enjoyed by all three members of the trinity; the Holy Spirit descending like a dove and the father exclaiming with great love and compassion; “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:17)
Immediately after this, Jesus, just like the Israelites, is led into the wilderness (but for a lot longer than 3 days). Just like them He was tired, hungry and thirsty. Would He moan at the first opportunity? Absolutely not!
In many ways you can’t really blame the Israelites. 3 days is plenty of time to get over the euphoria of escaping captivity as they get increasingly hungry and thirsty. At last they find some water but as soon as they drink it they realise that it is bitter and undrinkable. “What is God doing, I thought He was on our side?” So begins the first of many tests for God’s people to see if they really trust Him or not. Will they trust Him through the testing times as well as when everything is going well?
This situation shadows Jesus because of God’s answer for making the water pure. I don’t think it is a coincidence at all that God commands Moses to throw a tree into the water. Jesus was crucified on a ‘tree’. Without God our lives are bitter, the curse of sin makes everything distasteful. The poison of sin and disobedience affects everything. The cross of Christ is applied to our lives and we are made pure and holy, sweet to the taste and just as we are meant to be.
The bible also has a lot to say about the symbolism of water and how it brings life. A very famous passage is in John 7 where Jesus gives an invitation for living water.
On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” (John 7:37)
He is repeating an invitation by Isaiah “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters” (Isaiah 55:1)
And in the culmination of history, the invitation to take this living water is a central theme;
The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price. (Revelation 22:17)
How about you, are you thirsty?