So Moses brought Israel from the Red Sea; then they went out into the Wilderness of Shur. And they went three days in the wilderness and found no water. 23 Now when they came to Marah, they could not drink the waters of Marah, for they were bitter. Therefore the name of it was called Marah. 24 And the people complained against Moses, saying, “What shall we drink?” 25 So he cried out to the Lord, and the Lord showed him a tree. When he cast it into the waters, the waters were made sweet.– Exodus 15:22-25
Moses and the people of Israel had just experienced a tremendous victory over Pharaoh and his army at the Red Sea. By the miracle of God, the sea parted and permitted the Israelites to walk across on dry land. Then the seas collapsed on the pursuing Egyptians, destroying them all. With songs of victory in the air, the Israelites marched forward into the desert toward the Promised Land.
But after three days, they had found no water. Finally, out in the vast desert of Sinai, they found water, But the water was bitter and undrinkable. So they called the place Marah, which in their language means “bitter.” Again fears and grumbling ruled the camp. “And the people complained against Moses, saying ‘What shall we drink?’” Moses cried out to God in prayer, and the Lord showed him a tree which, when thrown into the water, made the waters sweet and delicious to drink. It doesn’t matter what that tree was. It wasn’t the tree that cured the waters of Marah. The power of God, exercised through that tree, made the waters sweet. When would this people learn that they could depend on God for all they needed?
We live in a sea of bitterness, surrounded by the COVID virus, people sick, people dying. We are growing bitter and sick of the stay at home orders. We yearn for all that we enjoyed before the virus struck. If only we had a tree that we could throw into these bitter waters to make them sweet again!
We do have such a tree. It is the cross of Christ. The cross sweetens every day and every bitter time. The cross reminds us of how much God loves us. The cross reminds us of all that God did to redeem us. The cross reminds us that God did not hold back his own Son but offered him up for us that we might have forgiveness and eternal life. The cross makes every difficulty manageable. The cross makes every bitter experience sweeter, even as Christ is our light shining in a dark place, our power against the impossible, and our constant hope in the face of every difficulty and every forecast of doom. In Him we have life even in the midst of death. Throw the tree of the cross into the bitterness of your life.