Moses recorded Israel’s first steps into Sinai. “They journeyed for three days in the wilderness without finding water. They came to Marah, but they could not drink the water at Marah because it was bitter—that is why it was named Marah. The people grumbled to Moses, ‘What are we going to drink?’ So he cried out to the Lord, and the Lord showed him a tree. When he threw it into the water, the water became drinkable. The Lord made a statute and ordinance for them at Marah, and he tested them there. He said, ‘If you will carefully obey the Lord your God, do what is right in his sight, pay attention to his commands, and keep all his statutes, I will not inflict any illnesses on you that I inflicted on the Egyptians. For I am the Lord who heals you’ ” (Exodus 15:22-26).
Three things jump from this short section of Holy Writ: the prayer, the purpose, and the Person.
First, we see Moses’s prayer. One can assume that the pilgrims carried some water with them, but that wouldn’t have lasted long. The flocks and herds, along with two million weary people would consume great amounts, far more than their lamb-skin canteens would hold. Led by the Pillar of Fire, they journeyed three days into the scorching desert. Mercifully, they finally found there first watering hole. But alas, the water wasn’t drinkable. It was “marah” ... bitter. From a distance, Marah looked so clear and refreshing. Coming close, they could likely smell its rancid odor. It was chalky, alkaline, thick with minerals and salts. The people’s concern quickly turned to panic, driving Moses to his knees. Without water, the nation would surely die of thirst. So, Moses “cried out to the Lord” (Exodus 15:25). His prayer was urgent, like Peter’s as he sank into the angry wave on Galilee. “Lord, save me!” (Matthew 14:30). Moses begged God for an answer, for a miracle.
In response to Moses’s pressing prayer, God pointed Moses to a tree, or maybe a log. “Okay God, I see it. Now what do You want me to do with it?” When Moses tossed the tree into the pond, the water instantly became drinkable and life-sustaining. The tree, of course, prefigures the wooden cross at Calvary, the answer to man’s most pressing need. The tree meant life!
Second, we can ascertain God’s purpose. He “tested them there” (Exodus 15:25). This is the second time in Scripture that we find the word “tested”. The first is in Genesis twenty-two where God exercised Abraham’s faith by requiring that he take Isaac to Mount Moriah. “After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, ‘Abraham!’ ‘Here I am,’ he answered. ‘Take your son,’ he said, ‘your only son Isaac, whom you love, go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about’ ” (Genesis 22:1–2). God graciously gave Abraham an opportunity to obediently trust Him. God tested his faith. When he obeyed, his faith was exponentially strengthened.
At Marah, the word “tested” is used a second time as God discloses His purpose. He was exercising the faith of the liberated sojourners. God “tested them” and promised to faithfully provide for them and protect them.
The third thing I see is a Person, Jehovah-Rapha, “the Lord who heals” (Exodus 15:26). He healed the water and promised to heal their physical infirmities. God had revealed Himself as the God of holiness and justice as He poured out His wrath against Egypt. He revealed His power as He opened the Red Sea. In the Pillar of Fire, He revealed Himself as their Shepherd and Guide. At Marah He revealed Himself as an abiding and present God, near enough to heal their hurts.
I live in a fallen and failing body. Unless Jesus comes to rapture His church, my body will eventually fail, and I will die. Until then, I suspect that my aches and pains are here to stay. But one day, in the sweet-by-and-by, I will ache no more. I will be ultimately and eternally healed by Jehovah-Rapha.