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April 21, 2024 | Daily Devotionals | April 21

Sweet Waters


So the people grumbled at Moses, saying, “What are we to drink?” Then he cried out to the Lord, and the Lord showed him a tree; and he threw it into the waters, and the waters became sweet.  Exodus 15:24-26


The human body can go about 40-50 days without food. But deprive it of water and you’re dead in 3, 4 days tops. My mind always goes to the worst-case scenario when I think about running out of water. Like Tom Hanks in Castaway, or even worse, James Franco in 127 Hours. At least Hanks’ character was on a tropical island with coconuts. But the guy in 127 Hours is stuck in a slot canyon in the Utah desert. And spoiler alert . . .


He’s forced to cut off his own arm with a pocket knife to survive!


When the Israelites triumphed over Pharoah and made their escape, I can imagine the exchange between Moses and Aaron later that night in the tent: “Now what do we do?” Scholars disagree on how many Israelites left Egypt; the number varies between 30,000 to 2 million. Whatever it was, there were a lot of mouths to feed and now they’re in an unfamiliar desert with no idea where to find food and water. Then God leads them to a place called Marah—a place of bitter waters. They’ve gone three days now without water; this is a desperate situation. People are going to start dying.


Then you have one of those “weird stories” in the Bible: God tells Moses to throw a “tree into the water,” (or “stick of wood” in the Message; Exodus 15:25). Bam, bitter waters made sweet. Problem solved. Of course, now there’s this little problem of food. But we know the answer: manna from heaven. 


Water is one of the most-used metaphors for spiritual life in the Bible. I think it’s because it’s so easily relatable to us. Jesus understood this when he asked the woman at the well for a drink of water. He’s not supposed to receive a drink from an unclean Samaritan, yet here He is, doing just that. Cutting through her sinful past He says, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:13-14)


The Lord turns the bitter waters sweet—figuratively and literally. Like the woman at the well who carries a ton of baggage, we receive the sweet water when we step into faith. The water is there—like Moses, all we need to do is toss our branch into His river. 


Father, thank you for the sweet living water that you give to us so we may never grow thirsty. 


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