Exodus 15:22-27 (The Sweetened Waters)

Exodus 15:22-27
The Sweetened Waters

For every sermon, one must think up an introduction… a little piece of information to make a smooth transition from the previous events of the day into the sermon itself. Today’s was easy. On 15 July, just 12 days before I typed this sermon, Jim sent me an email and asked about an account from the Old Testament.

It is found in 1 Kings 6 and it was a part of Jim and Linda’s Bible reading for the day. They wanted to know what it was there for. As he said, “Nothing is in the Bible that doesn’t belong there, but these few verses sure raise an eyebrow.  Can you give me a little insight on what this is telling us…..aside from the obvious that Elisha was gifted through God.”

I had never really considered those verses in detail, but I looked them over a bit and nothing came to mind. And so for night after night, I read them and thought about them as I slept. Then when I got to this passage in Exodus, I decided to do a detailed study of the account and add the story in with this sermon because the two accounts are so similar.

We’ll get to it at the end of the Exodus verses today. For now though, we’ll look at how the bitter waters of Marah became sweet…

Text Verse: And He said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts. Revelation 21:6

As always, there are pictures of Christ and His work all the way through the Bible. God uses the natural to reveal the spiritual. Water is given as a picture of life and even of Christ Himself, the true Life of us all. Someday, we will have a perpetual fountain of the water of life bubbling over in us for all eternity.

It is ours now if we but receive it, and it will be realized in us some wonderful day when Christ comes for us. What a great hope we have! What a sure and glorious promise to place our faith in! It’s all to be found in His superior word. And so let’s turn to that precious word once again and… May God speak to us through His word today and may His glorious name ever be praised.

I. Bitter Waters made Sweet (verses 22-251/2)

22 So Moses brought Israel from the Red Sea; then they went out into the Wilderness of Shur.

It seems as if a pun is being made in these first words of the day. Moses’ name means “He who draws out.” And so we are reminded after the great song of victory that “He who draws out” has “brought Israel from the Red Sea.”

Many scholars believe that this location is known even today as Ayun Musa, or the “Springs of Moses.” Apparently, there are a number of wells and a considerable amount of vegetation there. It is about seven miles south of Suez. If this is that location, it is where the Song of Moses was written and sung.

From there, their steps were directed into the Wilderness of Shur. This name, Shur, is actually shrouded in mystery because of the various possible root words that lead to it, and also that it isn’t agreed which root is correct.

But, there is a reason for selecting the name Shur because later in Numbers 33:8, the same area and journey is said to be in the Wilderness of Etham, a completely different name. The three roots from which the name is derived all have the common element of a sudden appearance, and thus the thought “Behold” seems to apply.

And in the context of the passage, that idea fits beautifully. In these verses, both the people of Israel as well as us will behold the healing of the bitter waters.

Shur is the same name of the place where Hagar, the concubine of Abraham and the mother of Ishmael, was fleeing to in Genesis 16. There, the Lord appeared to her at a well which was named Beer-lahai-roi, or the “Well of the One who Lives and Sees Me.” At that time, the Lord announced that she would have her son and that he was to be named Ishmael.

That well was not to be found by the Israelites though as they continued their trek after three long days…

22 (con’t) And they went three days in the wilderness and found no water.

Regardless of whether the well which Hagar came to was near to them or still a long distance off, unlike her, they found no water. In the desert, water is life. The people would have carried some, but there would not be a great supply. And considering the countless animals that went with them, this could easily become a great tragedy.

The animals would suffer the most and the most quickly. But we have to keep remembering that they are being led. There is nothing to suggest that the pillar of cloud and fire did not remain with them the entire time, guiding them. This then is a trial which has purpose and whether they could see it or not, was intended to instruct them.

23 Now when they came to Marah, they could not drink the waters of Marah, for they were bitter.

If Ayun Musa is the true spot which they departed from, the next logical spot which corresponds to this description would be a place known now as Huwara. It is approximately 35 miles from Ayun Musa and the entire distance between the two is sand and rough gravel. It would have been a hard, hot walk, even if in springtime.

Regardless as to whether this is the true place they came to, at the time, they called it Marah. The word marah simply means “bitter.” It is named because of the waters which were bitter and undrinkable. But there is a small note or germ of grace here.

The name Marah is spelled with a hey or “h” at the end of it. This is the fifth letter of the Hebrew aleph-bet; five being the number of grace. It is the same letter that was added to Abraham and Sarah’s name as a sign of covenant grace.

However in the book of Ruth, when Naomi asked to be called Mara, it is spelled without this “h.” In calling herself Mara, she was proclaiming her bitterness and it was as if she felt she was outside of the Lord’s covenant provision, wallowing alone in her bitterness.

This letter, hey or “h,” has the meaning of “look,” “reveal,” or “breath.” And thus, understanding this, the story takes on a greater meaning, a gift of grace will be revealed which will take the people’s breath away.

23 (con’t) Therefore the name of it was called Marah.

As I said, the place is named because of the waters. This is probably the case with almost every location which the people will travel to during the next 40 years. Unless they were already named places when they arrived, the places where they stop will be named based on what occurs at the place they stop.

This will be quite common as we travel with them through the wilderness. God will reveal something, or the people will act in a certain way, or some other thing will occur which will bring forth a name for the location.

24 And the people complained against Moses, saying, “What shall we drink?”

The Pulpit commentary notes, “The men who serve a nation best are during their lifetime least appreciated.” After three days of walking and coming to a well with bitter waters, the people did what the bitterness seemed to cry out for… they complained against Moses. Interestingly, the word for “complain” here is luwn. It literally means to lodge, as in lodging for the night.

And so it seems a strange word to be translated as “complain” or “grumble” and yet it is translated this way dozens and dozens of times during the wilderness wanderings. It appears that as lodging is a temporary thing, the grumbling is as well. Even though there is hardship in the night, with the Lord there is joy in the morning. The HAW describes this word, luwn, in this way –

“The theological usage emphasizes the brevity of God’s anger as opposed to the life-giving power of his abundant favor.”

That description actually fits quite perfectly with what happens next. Though the people complained against Moses, he knows where to go for relief…

25 So he cried out to the Lord, and the Lord showed him a tree.

Moses, or “He who draws out,” cries to the Lord. In so doing, he draws out from the Lord an answer to their dilemma – the Lord shows him a tree. The word translated as tree, is exactly that, ets or a tree. The word simply means “wood.” However, there is a picture being given to us which is more than a piece of wood.

Instead, we are seeing the work of Christ revealed once again, as He has been so many thousands of times already since “Holy Bible, page 1.”

25 (con’t) When he cast it into the waters, the waters were made sweet.

This is in essence correcting a contrary with a contrary. There is something bad which needs to be fixed and so something else which is bad will fix it. People can’t eat a tree, though they may eat what comes from the tree. But it is contrary to think that a tree would heal water in this way, especially on the scale which could satisfy two million people.

Therefore, the tree is actually a sign to the people and not the cure itself. And because it is a sign, it then must also be a pictorial lesson for us.

Having been shown the tree and without any further note of what transpired between the Lord and Moses, we next read that he simply threw it into the waters and with that, they were made sweet. The verb for “made sweet” is mathoq.

This is a word used for the first of just five times in the Bible. Each time it appears it is used to contrast something else. Here, the bitter waters are contrasted with them becoming sweet. In Job 20, the sweetness of evil is contrasted with sourness in the stomach, and even venom –

“Though evil is sweet in his mouth,
And he hides it under his tongue,
13 Though he spares it and does not forsake it,
But still keeps it in his mouth,
14 Yet his food in his stomach turns sour;
It becomes cobra venom within him.” Job 20:12

Again in Job 21, the bitterness of life is contrasted with the sweetness of the grave. In the 55th Psalm, the sweet counsel of a friend is contrasted with his later betrayal of him. And in the proverbs, the temporary sweetness of stolen water, is contrasted with the consequences of the action –

“‘Stolen water is sweet,
And bread eaten in secret is pleasant.’
18 But he does not know that the dead are there,
That her guests are in the depths of hell.” Proverbs 9:17, 18

This is the idea that we are given here. A contrast is made between two things, bitter and sweet. But what is to be remembered is that the original change actually came about because of a tree. It is the lesson of the Garden of Eden.

Where there was ease, comfort, and fellowship, they were lost by a tree, the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. In their interaction with this tree, came trial, difficulty, and a broken relationship. If it was a tree which caused the rift, then we are being given a picture of a tree which will also heal the rift.

In this story, water is emblematic of life, because without fresh water the people will die. Therefore, the tree is also emblematic of the granting of that life; its restoration. This then is a picture of the cross of Christ – that tree which made our waters sweet once again. As Christ Himself proclaimed –

“Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.” John 4:13-14

However, before the well could bring forth the fresh water, there was bitterness. There was bitterness in man who lacked everlasting life, and there was bitterness in Jesus’ cross which could only bring us everlasting life through His death. The waters were bitter, but the waters were healed.

Now, through Christ, a fountain of life has bubbled forth, just as happened at Marah when the waters were sweetened.

The bitter waters of life have stolen all joy
There is no soundness in my bones, I am weak and drained
What can heal the waters, what can I employ?
That will bring life to this body so that health is attained

Is there a way to purify this fount?
What can heal these waters, what can I employ?
And because they flow, it would take an ever-lasting amount
What kind of thing could bring this eternal joy?

I behold there a tree, and on it a bitter-filled sight
A Man whose life is ebbing away
But I perceive that He will heal the waters of my plight
Through His death the waters are sweetened in a marvelous way

II. I Am the Lord Who Heals You (verses 251/2-27)

25 (con’t) There He made a statute and an ordinance for them, and there He tested them,

It seems that these words should be their own verse, separated from the previous words of verse 25. So much so is this, that I have started an entirely new thought in today’s sermon. And yet, it is right that the words are contained in one verse.

God has shown the people grace in the wilderness. He gave them sweet water in repayment for their complaints. He healed them despite their lack of faith. And now, a threat is implied. In the same verse where grace is bestowed, a statute and an ordinance are given.

The giving of this statute and ordinance would make no sense if He had not healed the waters. But because He had, it became an object lesson for them. He was able to heal the water, and now He was asking for implicit trust in the mandates that He would proceed to give them.

The word “statute” is khoq. It implies something prescribed or owed. The word “ordinance” or mishpat, implies a judgment based on justice. Grace is not based on these things. A law doesn’t confer grace: it confers a requirement which is to be obeyed. When it is isn’t, then one may receive punishment, or they may receive mercy. But either way, grace is excluded.

They received grace in the healing of the waters; they now receive a law to guide them after their healing. In the giving of that law, it then says that “He tested them.” It is the word nasah. It was first used in Genesis 22:1 when the Lord tested Abraham by asking him to sacrifice Isaac. Now it is used for the second time in the Bible to test the descendents of Abraham.

In their testing comes a promise, but also a veiled threat…

26 and said, “If you diligently heed the voice of the Lord your God and do what is right in His sight, give ear to His commandments and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you which I have brought on the Egyptians.

The word im, or “if,” is a conditional word. It implies that if something is in compliance, then there will be one result. If it is not, then there will be another. The Lord promises them now, after this first testing which ended in grace, that further testings will carry rewards or losses.

This is sounding like our own walk in Christ, isn’t it! We are saved by grace, with no works on our part. We have walked in a wilderness, we have complained of our situation, and by His unmerited favor, He has given us the life-giving waters.

But after our salvation, and after our being granted eternal life, we are given commandments and statutes. If we comply, things will normally go well for us. If we don’t, we only have ourselves to blame. The commands and exhortations from the hand of Paul are many. But they are given for our well being.

The Lord is showing us from this ancient story that His ways are always the better option. And so He first tells Israel, that they should diligently heed His voice with the words shamoa tishma – “listening you shall listen.” Pay heed! Take note! Hear the word! And what is it that they should be so attentive to?

1) v’hayashar b’enav taaseh – They should do what is right in His sight. The word is yashar and means “upright.” It is the first time it is used in the Bible and it is the Lord imploring them to do what is morally honorable and proper in His eyes, not theirs. He sets the standard; they are to accept it.

Unfortunately, the people failed often, generation after generation found it more suitable to follow their own desires than the will of the Lord. It is the theme of the book of Judges. The very last words of the book repeat the sentiment found throughout the book –

“In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” Judges 21:25

2) v’haazanta l’mitsvotav – and give ear to His commandments. The mitsvot are the comprehensive list of laws which form the Law of Moses. They are told to listen to these, not just to hear. We hear things all the time, but we often don’t listen. Every week, you come and hear a sermon from Charlie, but you don’t always listen…sometimes you drowse and sometimes you nod off.

The Lord will give commandments and they are to be listened to, unlike Charlie’s sermons. Many generations later, the Lord spoke to Ezekiel and said that the people had failed to do exactly this –

“So they come to you as people do, they sit before you as My people, and they hear your words, but they do not do them; for with their mouth they show much love, but their hearts pursue their own gain. 32 Indeed you are to them as a very lovely song of one who has a pleasant voice and can play well on an instrument; for they hear your words, but they do not do them.” Ezekiel 33:31, 32

The Lord is warning the people of what lies ahead. A law will be given and there will be consequences for failing to heed that law.

3) v’shamarta kal huqav – “and keep all His statutes.” A commandment is something one is to do in obedience to the one in authority. A statute is similar. It is something owed to the one in authority. It is something apportioned to someone to guide them in their societal conduct.

The rest of the Old Testament is replete with examples of the people, both the leaders and the common people, failing to adhere to this admonition. During the giving of the law, the Lord will be very specific concerning the blessings and the curses which will come upon the people for either adhering to these things or for straying from them.

These are recorded in the first person from the Lord in Leviticus 26 – “I will do this and I will do that.” They are recorded in the third person by Moses in Deuteronomy 28 – “The Lord will do this and the Lord will do that.” It is the Lord who gives the laws, it is the Lord who executes the judgments upon violators, and it is the Lord who heals the people who adhere or who repent. The psalmist understood this –

“I will extol You, O Lord, for You have lifted me up,
And have not let my foes rejoice over me.
O Lord my God, I cried out to You,
And You healed me.
O Lord, You brought my soul up from the grave;
You have kept me alive, that I should not go down to the pit.” Psalm 30:1-3

It is the Lord who judges and the Lord heals. He is the Lord…

26 (con’t) For I am the Lord who heals you.”

ani Yehovah rophekha – It is a title as much as a proclamation. “I am Yehovah who heals you.” The healing of the waters was for their physical healing. The Lord promises now that in adherence to His word, there is such healing to be found.

This word, heal or rapha, is used 67 times in the Old Testament and it is often used in exactly the manner that He proclaims here. After much disobedience and a second exile which lasted for 2000 years, the Lord promised that He would a second time heal His wayward people. This is recorded in Hosea 6 –

“Come, and let us return to the Lord;
For He has torn, but He will heal us;
He has stricken, but He will bind us up.
After two days He will revive us;
On the third day He will raise us up,
That we may live in His sight.” Hosea 6:1, 2

It is also the same word which is used to describe the work of the Lord as He went to the cross for our healing –

“But He was wounded for our transgressions,
He was bruised for our iniquities;
The chastisement for our peace was upon Him,
And by His stripes we are healed.” Isaiah 53:5

The Lord is telling this group of people, in advance, that what He has done for them at Marah is a part of His nature – He is gracious. But He is also telling them that there are other aspects of who He is – He is just; He is righteous; He is holy. And in His proclamations, they are to see that there are consequences for violating these awesome attributes that He is revealing to them.

He is their Healer if they will but allow themselves to be healed. For us, the healing of the waters isn’t for our physical healing. Rather, it is for our spiritual healing. The fount was poisoned by the devil, but Christ purifies it once again, if we will but trust. It is, in fact, by grace we are saved – through faith.

*27 Then they came to Elim, where there were twelve wells of water and seventy palm trees; so they camped there by the waters.

The chapter ends with this most unusual verse. It gives us enough to know that things went well after the next trek, but only enough to tantalize the thoughts, wondering why more isn’t given.

This place, here called Elim, is believed to be identified today as the Wadi-Ghurandel. It is an oasis with many types of trees, including palms and which has a stream flowing through it. Barnes notes that it is about a mile in breadth, but in length it stretches out a long way to the northeast.

The name Elim, comes from a root which indicates to protrude or stick out, such as a porch on a house, a ram in a flock, or a large tree. There at Elim the Bible records 12 wells. However, the word in Hebrew it says enot mayim, “eyes of water.” And so these are springs, not really wells.

There are also seventy palm trees. The word is temarim, which is the plural of Tamar, the same name as the daughter of Judah who bore his child. The name pictures an upright or righteous person. At this location, it is said that the people camped there by the wells.

I dread leaving verses like this unattended concerning a picture that they are making and there is every reason to believe that the Lord is telling us something with the specificity – 12 springs and 70 palms. What is this referring to?

If Christ is the Water of Life and there are twelve springs, these then picture those who send out the word of the water of life to the people. In Matthew 10, the apostles are given the power to heal, just as the Lord said that He would be Yehovah Rophekha in the previous verse –

“And when He had called His twelve disciples to Him, He gave them power over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease.” Matthew 10:1

And the seventy palms then would represent the 70 disciples, or righteous ones, chosen by Christ in Luke 10, to follow suit –

“After these things the Lord appointed seventy others also, and sent them two by two before His face into every city and place where He Himself was about to go. … And heal the sick there, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.'” Luke 10:1 & 9

Again, like the apostles, they were given the power to heal by Yehovah Rophekha, the Lord Jesus. The name Elim is given to show that the work of Christ protrudes out for all to see as the apostles and disciples spread its message to Israel.

Chapter 15 closes with a picture of the Lord and His ministry to the people of Israel. A ministry which was intended for the healing of the people if they would but pay heed to Him and to His words.

I am the Lord who heals you
I am the One who can take away your pains
In following Me, you are following the Path which is true
And in doing so, are to be found eternal gains

I am the Lord who heals you
In Me there is a well bubbling up to everlasting life
I will fulfill every promise as I said I would do
I will end the enmity between us, I will end the strife

There is healing in My wings
For I am the Lord who heals you
And I will do marvelous things
For I am ever faithful and true

III. Bonus Insert (2 Kings 6:1-7)

In the book of 2 Kings, the prophet Elisha performs two miracles, both of which parallel the account which we have just seen. The first is found in 2 Kings 2:19-22 where Elisha throws salt into water to heal it. The second is found in 2 Kings 6:1-7 and deals with him throwing wood into water to raise an axe head.

Although space won’t allow us to cover both, or even one in detail, I decided to add in a quick look at the second to round out our time in God’s precious word today and to satisfy Jim and Linda’s well-directed curiosity. Here are those verses –

And the sons of the prophets said to Elisha, “See now, the place where we dwell with you is too small for us. Please, let us go to the Jordan, and let every man take a beam from there, and let us make there a place where we may dwell.”
So he answered, “Go.”
Then one said, “Please consent to go with your servants.”
And he answered, “I will go.” So he went with them. And when they came to the Jordan, they cut down trees. But as one was cutting down a tree, the iron ax head fell into the water; and he cried out and said, “Alas, master! For it was borrowed.”
So the man of God said, “Where did it fall?” And he showed him the place. So he cut off a stick, and threw it in there; and he made the iron float. Therefore he said, “Pick it up for yourself.” So he reached out his hand and took it.

And the sons of the prophets said to Elisha, “See now, the place where we dwell with you is too small for us.

The term “sons of the prophets” means those who are of the prophets as disciples. They are a collective group of people who study under the hand of Elisha. Collectively, they come to Elisha and say that the place where they are dwelling can no longer sustain them. Instead, they wish to go to the Jordan to build a larger place to study.

The name Elisha comes from two words – el, meaning God and yasha meaning to be saved. So his name means God is Salvation or God the Savior. To him, they ask nelekha na ad ha’yarden – “Let us go, we pray you, to Jordan.”

Please, let us go to the Jordan, and let every man take a beam from there, and let us make there a place where we may dwell.”
So he answered, “Go.”

The name Jordan is given and therefore it is relevant to the story. It means “the Descender” because it descends from the high mountains of Lebanon all the way to the Dead Sea, the lowest spot on earth. The word for “beam” is used just five times in the Old Testament.

It comes from a word which means to occur or happen, especially that which happens beyond one’s control. The idea in a beam is probably that by putting beams together it causes a building to occur. In response to their request, Elisha simply says leku – “go.”

Then one said, “Please consent to go with your servants.”
And he answered, “I will go.”

Where it says “one said” the term ha’echad is used. It means “the one.” One is singled out as making the request. He asks Elisha to come along and calls himself and the others abadekha – “your servants.” The request was probably so that the project would be blessed by his presence and for him to oversee the project.

Elisha, seems impressed enough by the man’s faith in his ability to be of assistance, and so in response he in says ani elek. “I will go.” There is an immense sparseness of verbiage being employed by Elisha in this account. He is direct, his words are simple, and unlike me in my sermons, he doesn’t waste any words.

So he went with them. And when they came to the Jordan, they cut down trees.

Together they all went and came to the Jordan where they cut down ha’etsim or “the trees.” The word for “cut” here is gazar. It means to completely divide or separate. It is used when speaking of Christ’s death in Isaiah 53 –

“He was taken from prison and from judgment,
And who will declare His generation?
For He was cut off from the land of the living;
For the transgressions of My people He was stricken.” Isaiah 53:8

But as one was cutting down a tree, the iron ax head fell into the water; and he cried out and said, “Alas, master! For it was borrowed.”

The person cutting down the tree seems to be the same person who asked Elisha to come in the first place. The term ha’echad, or “the one” is again used, possibly to imply the same person. The term for “cutting down” in this verse is not the same as the previous verse. This word is naphal, not gazar. It means to fall, as if a tree falls.

While in the process of felling a tree, ha’barzel or “the iron” comes off of the axe handle and falls into the water. Charles Ellicott notes that the wording here is unusual. He says –

“The subject of the verb is made prominent by being put first in the accusative. It is thus implied that something happened to the iron.” Ellicott

His response to this contains pitiful words, ahah adoni v’hu shaul – “Alas my lord, and it (was) begged.” He couldn’t afford his own and so he begged to use one belonging to another. He was morally responsible to pay for it, but he could not.

So the man of God said, “Where did it fall?” And he showed him the place.

Here Elisha is called ish ha’elohim – Rather than “the man of God” it should say “man of ‘the’ God,” thus signifying the One true God. He asks where the iron fell in the water and the man showed him.

6 (con’t) So he cut off a stick, and threw it in there; and he made the iron float.

To rectify the situation, Elisha takes the action. He doesn’t ask the person to get him a stick, instead he gets one himself. The word for “cut” is another word entirely from the two previously translated as cut. This word is qatsav – to cut. The only other time it is used is in the Song of Solomon when referring to shearing sheep.

Once he had the wood, he threw it in the water. It is the same word, shalak, that was used to describe what Moses did at the waters of Marah. In both accounts, they cast the stick into the water. For Moses, the waters were made sweet. For Elisha, the axe head was made to float.

The word for float is tsuph. It’s used only two other times in the Bible. Once when the waters flowed over the Egyptians in the Red Sea, and once in Lamentations 3 when Jeremiah says –

“The waters flowed over my head;
I said; I am cut off!” Lamentations 3:54

Interestingly, Jeremiah uses the same word in Lamentations, gazar, about himself as was used in verse 3 concerning cutting down the trees.

*Therefore he said, “Pick it up for yourself.” So he reached out his hand and took it.

In his normal verbose way, Elisha simply says, ha’rem lakh – “take up to.” The word rum that he uses carries the idea of exalting something. By lifting, something is raised up, or exalted. The once-lost axe head has been restored.

So what is this story telling us? To understand, we need to first go back to Deuteronomy 19 and read a something similar about an axe head –

“And this is the case of the manslayer who flees there, that he may live: Whoever kills his neighbor unintentionally, not having hated him in time past— as when a man goes to the woods with his neighbor to cut timber, and his hand swings a stroke with the ax to cut down the tree, and the head slips from the handle and strikes his neighbor so that he dies—he shall flee to one of these cities and live lest the avenger of blood, while his anger is hot, pursue the manslayer and overtake him, because the way is long, and kill him, though he was not deserving of death, since he had not hated the victim in time past. ” Deuteronomy 19:4-6

In this account, the person is legally and morally culpable of an offense even though it was unintentional. The same is true with the man at the Jordan. He is morally and legally responsible to restore what was lost, even if he didn’t intentionally lose it.

The axe head is a picture then of fallen man. He has inherited sin through Adam. Even if he didn’t do anything intentionally wrong, he still bears the guilt because of simply existing. He is submerged in sin and there is seemingly no hope for him. He is covered by the waters and cut off. This is explained by Paul in Romans 5 –

“Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned—” Romans 5:12

Being morally culpable, whether one knows they have done wrong or not, is a tenet found both in civil life and in the Bible as well. In civil life we use the term, “Ignorance of the law is no excuse.” If we break a law, even if we didn’t know it existed, we are still guilty. The same is true with spiritual matters. Jesus said –

“And that servant who knew his master’s will, and did not prepare himself or do according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. 48 But he who did not know, yet committed things deserving of stripes, shall be beaten with few.” Luke 12:47, 48

The waters cover fallen man because man is fallen. However, the very waters that cover him are also the medium though which his moral and legal responsibility is reversed. Jordan, or the Descender, pictures the time of Christ’s advent, just as it did at the burial of Jacob and at other times when it is mentioned. Christ became a Man. The same medium through which sin came will be used to deal with sin.

Jesus descended from the high mountain, picturing heaven, even to the Dead Sea itself. Elisha, or God of Salvation, is a picture of the work of Christ. Christ bore Calvary’s cross Himself, pictured by Elisha cutting the wood Himself.

The wood was cast into the waters, just as Christ was cast into the pit of death. But through that act, the axe head was restored. The legal and moral responsibility was paid by another and it was removed from the offender.

In our baptism is a picture of what we see here. We are immersed in the waters of death with our legal and moral bonds weighing us down, but we are raised to newness of life, free from those bonds.

As in the account with Moses, the tree cast into the waters symbolizes the cross of Calvary and the expiation of our sins. The waters are the Source of life for the believer, Christ. They are the law, which overwhelms us and by which we are cut off, and yet Christ is the embodiment of that Law and so it is through Him and His fulfillment of that law that our sin is removed and eternal life is granted to us.

However, there is the final verse with those instructive words, ha’rem lakh, “Pick it up for yourself.” We have to do something, we have to reach out, by faith, and receive back the restored rights. Each of us should do just as the man there with Elisha – “So he reached out his hand and took it.”

If you have never reached out your hand to receive God’s pardon which is found in Christ Jesus the Lord, do it today! The entire Bible, even these obscure little passages that seem almost quaint, is there to show us of the love of God in Christ our Lord.

The axe head was still in the water, still in Christ, until it was received from Him. The hole in Jesus’ side was there for all to see, but Thomas doubted and so Jesus told him to “reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing” (John 20:27).

This is what Jesus asks each of us to do, reach out for the axe head, reach out our hand and take what has been offered, reach out for restoration through Christ. I pray that you will do so today…

Closing Verse: “And the Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ And let him who hears say, ‘Come!’ And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely.” Revelation 22:17

Next Week: Exodus 16:1-8 (Bread from Heaven) (45th Exodus Sermon)

The Lord has you exactly where He wants you. He has a good plan and purpose for you. Even if a deep ocean lies ahead of You, He can part the waters and lead you through it on dry ground. So follow Him and trust Him and He will do marvelous things for you and through you.

Precious Water of Life

So Moses brought Israel from the Red Sea
Then they went out into the Wilderness of Shur
And into the wilderness they went days three
And found no water; nothing to drink, nothing tasty and pure

Now when they to Marah came
They could not drink the waters of Marah for they were bitter
Therefore Marah was called its name

And the people complained against Moses, saying
“What shall we drink?” Tell us, we are praying

So he cried out to the Lord
And the Lord showed him a tree
When he cast it into the waters
The waters were made sweet, sweet as can be

There He made a statute and an ordinance for them
And there He tested them, and said
“If you diligently heed the voice of the Lord your God
And do what is right in His sight and not wrong instead

And give ear to His commandments and keep all His statutes
I will put none of the diseases on you
Which I have brought on the Egyptians
For I am the Lord who heals you; this I will do

Then they came to Elim
Where there were of water twelve wells
And seventy palm trees, beautiful it would seem
So they camped there by the waters, as the account tells

Such a beautiful story of God’s tender care for us!
He took what was bitter and healed it
And if we will just receive His Son, the Lord Jesus
And to Him our souls entrust and commit

We will be saved unto the ages of ages, for all eternity
It is a gift and an offer from our glorious God
How can such love be found! How can it be?
That He would heal us from the sins of our earthly trod

We hail You, O our majestic King!
We praise You glorious Lord Jesus!
Hear our voices as to You we sing!
You who have done such marvelous things for us!

Hallelujah and Amen…


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