–By Elizabeth Ahlman
Then Moses made Israel set out from the Red Sea, and they went into the wilderness of Shur. They went three days in the wilderness and found no water. When they came to Marah, they could not drink the water of Marah because it was bitter; therefore it was named Marah. And the people grumbled against Moses, saying, “What shall we drink?” And he cried to the Lord, and the Lord showed him a log, and he threw it into the water, and the water became sweet (Exodus 15:22-25a, ESV).
The people of Israel are coming off quite the high as we enter into this reading. Yahweh just saved them from the hand of the Egyptians by drowning them in the Red Sea. In response to this, Israel sings praise to Yahweh complete with dancers. Ten plagues. The Passover. Crushing waters. Yahweh has certainly worked wonders to bring Israel out of the hand of the Egyptians. But then, suddenly, Israel comes up against an unexpected problem. Yahweh leads them away from the Red Sea and into the wilderness of Shur. For three days they find no water. By this time they must be incredibly thirsty. They’re traveling through the desert after all. Water is life. Panic is probably setting in, as well. If they do not find water soon, they will die. Water is life. Finally! Finally, they arrive at Marah. Here! Here is water! Water is life! They must have been elated for just a moment. But then, all of their hopes come crashing down. The water is bitter. They cannot drink it. Water is life. Without water, and soon, they will begin to die. The weariness of their bodies which have walked for three days in the desert is almost palpable. Their feet must be dragging, their tongues dry, their babies crying, their milk drying up, their skin papery to the touch, perhaps. And hope comes fleetingly and is quickly snatched away. And so they grumble. “Moses what should we drink? Are we to die here in the desert? Did God bring us out, crushing our foes with the waters of the Red Sea, only to let us die of dehydration? Water is life. Where is the water that will give life? Why is there only bitter water?”
Often in this life we too encounter our own Marahs. We’re traipsing wearily through days of lack. You did it! You earned that degree. But there’s no job and you are waiting, and the money is dwindling. You haven’t been feeling quite yourself lately so you head to the doctor’s office. And it’s not a simple cold or a lingering cough. It’s cancer. And it’s advanced. After years of waiting, you hold the promise of a child in your womb. And then inexplicably, in a moment, that promise is gone. A phone call comes in the midst of a normal day. Your father has died at the age of 59. A massive heart attack. You worked hard to buy this new home, but now you’re laid off. And there’s mere days left before the money runs out and the bank takes your home. Your teenage daughter goes for a drive with her friends, and they never return. A winding road. A drunk driver. The weariness of these things and more, these things that weigh on us, is palpable. Our feet drag as we are sent home after a day of chemo, our sobs shake our bodies as yet another rejection letter arrives in the mail, our hands shake as we hold the bills we can’t pay, our screams pierce the air as we say good-bye to the child we can never hold, or the child we have held for too short a time. And so we ask. “Where, O Lord, are you? Are we to languish here without any hope? Have You brought us this far only to leave us here desperate and alone? Where is Your help? Where is Your grace? Where is Your goodness now?”
The people grumbled. And Moses prayed. And Yahweh heard the people’s prayers and He showed Moses a tree. A special kind of wood. And Moses took a log of it and threw it into the water. And the water became sweet. The people drank and were refreshed. There was water. And the water was life. Yahweh hears your prayers, too. He hears your groaning and your crying. He hears in your sobs the words you cannot form in the depths of your despair. He sees the weariness of your body and your soul. And He shows you a tree. A special kind of tree. A tree on which hangs a man who is God’s own Son. He is bloodied and beaten. His weariness is palpable as He cries out the words you yourself have dared not speak: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” And He dies. And they pierce his side through with a sword and out flows blood and water. And that water is life. It is your life, a gift from God Himself who makes all that is bitter sweet again. A life that cannot be snatched away by cancer or sorrow or loss or fear or lack. A life that is hidden with God in Christ. A life which you gain through the waters of your Baptism. A life that is for you and for all the world. Water is life.
Heavenly Father, wash us anew in the waters of our Baptisms and refresh us with the sweetness of Your gifts, Your grace, and Your mercy even as we struggle so that we may share that same water of life with those around us who are desperately in need of it; through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
- Please pray for all the Eurasia missionaries in the field that whatever struggles they have, they would be refreshed by the water of life.
- Pray for all those in the Eurasia region who do not yet have the water of life, that the work the Lord is doing through our missionaries would bring them to the waters of Holy Baptism.
- Please let us know if we in the Eurasia region can be praying with you during your struggles.
- Missed last week’s Eurasia Blog Wednesday devotion? You can still read it here.