The Israelites were moving away from Egypt, away from the Red Sea and through the desert of Shur (15:22).
Very thirsty they came to a spring of water that was unfit to drink. It was bitter and the people complained against Moses who was leading them (15:24)
Moses then cried out to the Lord for help, upon which we read the simple answer. Here is a piece of wood, throw it in the water and the water will be sweet and fit to drink (15:25).
I cannot help but realize that the wood tossed into the water at Marah was a prophetic act turning out attention to the cross.
For the cross does this exact thing. The cross of Christ has turned bitter water sweet.
Where all has been bitter the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ changes the context completely.
Instead of threat of death, we have sweet life.
Instead of fear of thirst, we are confident of provision.
Instead of bitter, life is eased, and expanded, and multiplied (go on to read through Exodus 15:27).
For those of us who walk with Christ we are called to the same ministry.
Our presence and our manner is meant to eliminate assignments unto death (we do not cooperate with condemnation), faith is meant to ease fear and the complaining that goes with it, and we are meant to bring a fragrance of Christ whereby the sweet returns to our days experiences.
This is the work of believer and of the church.
The entire conversation has been changed in the person of Jesus Christ. No longer need we nit-pick, no longer need we live in fear, no longer are we party to condemnation. Rather, we realize there is enough for everyone and we live this out in the world.
We realize that ‘bitter’ is part of the old way, the new way is ‘sweet’, we therefore bring gladness to the hearts around us, we open up the way for others.
Poverty and neglect shuts down options. Love opens it all back up again.
The church is called to love, but to do this it has to stop needing to be right, stop requiring payment for offenses, and stop keeping church life small and narrow.
A church that is pinched and suspicious, critical and condemning, hasn’t yet drank at the now-sweet waters of Marah, and hasn’t yet moved on to the oasis of Elim – God help us walk in grace and the work of Jesus Christ.
For otherwise, we may as well go back to Egypt.