The Waters of Marah .... Bob Moore

Empowered by the Almighty, Moses led the Hebrews out of Egyptian bondage with a mighty hand. Not only did he smite their captures with a series of plagues, but he open the way for their deliverance through the Red Sea. Their pursuers were drowned in that same watery grave. Upon being freed from oppression, the Israelites did not immediately reap the benefits of the promised land. Instead, they endured the bitterness of the wilderness. The Bible records, "And when they came to Marah, they could not drink of the waters of Marah, for they were bitter: therefore the name of it was called Marah. And the people murmured against Moses, saying, What shall we drink? And he cried unto the Lord; and the Lord shewed him a tree, which when he had cast into the waters, the waters were made sweet" (Exodus 15:23-25).

The redemption wrought by the Savior opened the way to salvation. Jesus is the "gate of heaven" and the "door of the sheepfold." Those without him are enslaved to the kingdoms of this world and subject to the bondage of sin. Just as Moses opened a passage through the sea for the Hebrews, the Savior has opened a path through death for the faithful. As the obedient pass through the waters of their baptism, they are liberated from the devil's slavery. En route to the promised land, a place where their enemies cannot come, they may use their time and talents to build up God's kingdom instead of some worldly empire. Like the Israelites on the other side of the Red Sea, they are no longer summoned to the brick pits of the world. They are called to the mountain of the Lord.

Christians put off the "body of sin," as apostle Paul calls it. When they do, they become free to yield their bodily members to God's service. Before their rebirth, their efforts and interests are motivated by carnal desires and confined to worldly pursuits. Even when they dedicate themselves to goodness and virtue, they do so for temporal purposes. Just people strive for peace to end conflict in this world. They promote honesty and integrity to reduce friction between people and among societies. They serve others to improve conditions in this life. Those rejuvenated in Christ are motivated by spiritual desires and dedicated to eternal purposes. They strive for peace to end conflict between sinners and their Creator. They promote honesty and integrity to make those embracing such virtues more like Jesus. They serve others by pointing them toward eternal life.

Although born again, a Christian finds that he must still live in this world. Anxious for the promised land of eternal glory, he views his remaining time on earth as a pilgrimage through a vast wilderness. The hardships of the journey recall his attention to earthly endeavors. Because he remains in the flesh, he must continue to mind the things of this life. As he does, he must learn that although he is in the world, he cannot be of the world.

The Israelites had the same difficulty. They were called to see God, for their name "Israel" literally means "man sees God." Moses had led them into the wilderness so that in its freedom they could worship the Almighty. They found the journey too harsh. Its disciple pained their bodies and vexed their spirits. At times they yearned for the meager comforts of their captivity, saying, "Would to God we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the flesh pots, and when we did eat bread to the full; for ye have brought us forth into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger" (Exodus 16:3).

To underscore the difficulty the Christian has during his remaining life, the Lord led the Hebrews from the Red Sea to the waters of Marah. For three days the entire nation traveled without finding water. When they finally came to some, they found that it was too bitter to drink. They cried out for relief. Moses asked the Lord how to ease their burdened. After being showed a tree, God told him to cast it into the water, after which the water became sweet, quenching the thirst of all.

Sometimes, Christian pilgrims endure the travails of life without the refreshment of living waters. Like those that were stoned, sawn asunder, tempted, and slain by the sword, they receive "not the promise" (Hebrews 11:39). Even when they come to the refreshments available in this life, like the Hebrews at Marah, they find them too bitter for comfort.

Moses sweetened the waters at Marah by casting a tree into them. Jesus Christ, God's only begotten son, came into this life to be nailed to a tree. On it he bore the sins of the world and opened the door to heavenly places. Through that door tokens of eternal glory rain upon the faithful. Its sweetness refreshes their drooping spirits and revives their determination. When confronted by life's disappointments, they depend upon the intercession Jesus made on the cross. By its wood, God gives grace to his congregation, the church.

The intercession Jesus made is not only for the day of judgment. While Joshua, the Hebrew word for Jesus, led God's congregation over Jordan, just as Jesus leads those of his church over death, Moses sweetened the water at Marah, not the Jordan river. God cast the tree into the bitter waters not only to rescue His people from death, but to refresh them during their pilgrimage. As every believer struggles with his infirmities, he finds divine intercession. Paul testified, "The Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which can not be uttered" (Rom 8:26). Because the son of God bore our sins while in our flesh, he understands by experience the infirmities in our bodies. He knows the difficulty of righteous living and the attractiveness of sin. Because "he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted" (Hebrews 2:18).

Even when believers stumble, their Savior intercedes for them. John said, "If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous" (1 John 2:1). Because he knows the frailties of the flesh, he has compassion on those feebly trying to follow him. He pleads for them in front of the Father, advocating their cause. Perhaps he shows the prints in his side and begs that his pains do not go unrewarded. Perhaps he says that he died for his church and asks that its members continue to receive divine assistance, permanently postponing eternal judgments. Through his personal intercession the Savior protects his people from the bitterness of divine judgment. Not only delivering them from death and hell, he delivers them all their life from the just consequences of sin, so that by receiving divine grace the steadfast can complete their journey to the promised land.