September 20, 2021
22 Then Moses led Israel from the Red Sea and they went into the Desert of Shur. For three days they traveled in the desert without finding water. 23 When they came to Marah, they could not drink its water because it was bitter. (That is why the place is called Marah.) 24 So the people grumbled against Moses, saying, “What are we to drink?”
25 Then Moses cried out to the Lord, and the Lord showed him a piece of wood. He threw it into the water, and the water became fit to drink.
There the Lord issued a ruling and instruction for them and put them to the test. 26 He said, “If you listen carefully to the Lord your God and do what is right in his eyes, if you pay attention to his commands and keep all his decrees, I will not bring on you any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians, for I am the Lord, who heals you.”
27 Then they came to Elim, where there were twelve springs and seventy palm trees, and they camped there near the water.
At coffee this morning one of the guys was complaining that the coffee was bitter. I found it very good and smooth. I think the problem was that he added 3 packets of a sugar substitute. Adding things to the coffee always makes it taste bad. Yet somehow he did finish the cup of coffee.
But water on its own should not taste bitter. Bitter water is a sign that the pH level is higher than normal and is not healthy to drink. And the Hebrew here could also be a statement that the water is poisonous, which is also unhealthy to drink, which you likely realized already anyway.
But we see God answer the problem for the people twice today. First God shows Moses a piece of wood to throw in the water so that the people can drink the water. There is no natural explanation of a piece of wood making the water pure. It is simply a miraculous act of God that changes the water.
Then God brings them to Elim. An oasis with 12 springs of water. 70 palm trees, likely date palms in that region. So fresh water and something fresh to eat. God brings them to a place where they can rest and find comfort. He gives them more than the water they are asking for. He gives them shade, fruit and rest on their journey.
This does not mean that things are now all settled. They still have a long way to go on their journey. There will be more traveling and more struggles along the way. But here at this new start on the other side of the Red Sea we see God giving the people a taste of what is coming for them. With more to come.
We are also walking on a journey together. There is this small journey through the past 18+ months, with more of this ahead. And there is the longer journey of walking in faith together, seeing how we follow our God and Saviour. We have times when we can rest and we see promises fulfilled. And we have our struggles that come.
We see God at work in our rest and the blessings, just as Israel did in the desert oasis with the water and the palms. We see God at work in the journey that seems like a desert, sustaining us along the way and reminding us of the promises of rest and blessing yet to come. God is faithful. God walks with us always.
Song – I Want Jesus to Walk with Me
Bless to us, O God, the doors we open, the thresholds we cross, the roads that lie before us. Go with us as we go, and welcome us home. Amen.