A Devotion for 24 August 2023 Anno Domini
“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. 24And the people murmured against Moses, saying, What shall we drink? 25And 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: there he made for them a statute and an ordinance, and there he proved them.”
(Exodus 15:23-25, all scripture quoted is from the King James Version)
We often read over passages of the Bible without noticing the greater and extraordinary meaning that it lays before us. I have read the above passage many times over without seeing a beautiful principle hidden between its lines.
After leading the Children of Israel out of Egypt with many miracles and wonders – including the Pillar of Cloud by Day and Fire by Night; and the parting of the Red Sea waters – the first place at which they arrived was the Wilderness of Marah. They were perishing of thirst, but found the waters there bitter – the same that Naomi assumed on return from Moab.
In fact, that is what the name Marah means – bitter. It was the beginning of many tests for Israel in the wilderness journey most of which they failed in miserable abandon. So here they find themselves in desperate need of drinking water, but this water was undrinkable! As usual, their first response was not to call upon the Lord for provision, but to complain to the man God had anointed to bring them forth out of cruel bondage in Egypt. They murmured against Moses. The life of a dedicated minister of God can be a most unpleasant calling when the people he is sent to deliver are obnoxiously without faith or grace. Now, Moses did what his following should have done in the first place, He cried unto the Lord!
I believe we all have been guilty of this same breach of faith – I know I have. I have faced frustration, rebellious members, and a multitude of other problems that seemed totally impossible to overcome, but, finally, when I have called upon the Lord, He has made my path straight and my steps sure. Why, though, is He our last resort to solutions? (When all else fails, read the instructions, right?)
The Lord showed Moses a Tree. The Tree had been there all along, but it meant nothing until the Lord gave it meaning. When Moses threw the tree into the bitter waters, they became sweet to the taste and healthful to the body. God is good at such feats, but He also desires that we keep our hearts (wisdom) and minds (knowledge) open to His solutions rather than banging our heads constantly against a wall.
God uses trees often to emphasize some spiritual truth. The Cedars of Lebanon exemplify dignity and strength. The Palm Tree illustrates the kind of deep roots that a Christian should have in fathoming the deep meanings of Holy Scripture even in a desert place. A famous American poet, Joyce Kilmer, wrote the poem ‘Trees’ in 1913 and was later killed by a sniper’s bullet at the Battle of the Marne (1918) in World War I:
I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.
A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;
A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;
A tree that may in summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;
Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.
Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.
The Psalmist, David, compared the righteous man or woman to a tree whose nature is to feed upon the deep waters of love and truth: “And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water….” (Psalm 1:3) Of course, there is another all-important tree that we first find in the Garden eastward in Eden – the Tree of Life. This represents our Lord Jesus Christ that our early parents rejected. It is now to be found in the Heavenly City – New Jerusalem! “And he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb. 2In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the Tree of Life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.” (Revelation 22:1-2) But because of our sins, that beautiful Tree had to be an altar of curse and sacrifice of our Lord. “And if a man have committed a sin worthy of death, and he be to be put to death, and thou hang him on a tree: 23His body shall not remain all night upon the tree, but thou shalt in any wise bury him that day; (for he that is hanged is accursed of God;) that thy land be not defiled, which the Lord thy God giveth thee for an inheritance.” (Deuteronomy 21:22-23) It is true that Christ was hung (crucified) on a tree, but not for His own sins, but for ours that they might be remitted and we receive that grace and mercy reserved for His Elect.