It looked like a sandstorm on the horizon, a grey cloud swirling over the desert. It could have been an army of men on horseback, or camels. But it wasn’t. It was thousands of men, women and children, racing over the dunes with sand billowing around them. They had been travelling for three days without water, after God had miraculously made a way through the sea in their flight from the Egyptians (Exodus 14:21). Someone spotted what looked like an oasis in the distance. They desperately pushed on ahead towards the water, driven by thirst.
The Israelites had been grumbling and complaining since their dramatic escape from Egypt. Pharaoh had reluctantly let them go from many years in captivity, then changed his mind and sent his armies after them in pursuit. They had been trapped by the Red Sea, but God made a way where there was no way, and the Egyptians perished (Exodus 14:28). Now, even when the hand of God had already delivered them from their enemies, they were sure they were going to die from thirst.
On reaching the oasis, they dropped to their knees to drink, then choked and spat out the water in disgust. It was bitter. Again, Moses had to endure the frustration and anger of God’s chosen people.
The Israelites had been promised a new life in a new land. God had delivered them from the tyranny of their oppressors. He was with them day and night, and still they grumbled. God’s desire and plan was to bless them. But first they had to taste for themselves their own bitterness, and have it made pure.
‘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 sweet’ (Exodus 15:25). This wood was prophetic, a forerunner of that through which God would bring salvation, the tree on which was pinned the sin of the world. The wood, cast into the waters of bitterness, foreshadowed the cross on which death itself was conquered.
The tree was introduced to Adam by God in the Garden of Eden, where he was given a choice. ‘In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.’ (Genesis 2:9). Adam made the wrong choice.
The tree of life lives on. In the Holy City, the New Jerusalem, ‘the angel showed me the river of the water of life ... flowing from the throne of God ... On each side of the river stood the tree of life ... And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations (Revelation 22:1-2).
It is there for all who would receive the cleansing of the blood of Christ, shed for the world on the cross of Calvary. ‘Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life’ (Revelation 22:14).
Prayer: Lord, I thank You for Your promise to those who thirst after You, ‘They shall be filled.’ There are many people living in confusion, searching for hope. Help them to place their hope in You, to recognise that You are the only one who can meet their needs, and that Jesus is the only answer. My soul longs for You in this dry and weary land. Fill us Lord, with living water, in Jesus’ name. Amen.
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