Biblical Interpretation from Someone with no Training in Biblical Interpretation
God speaks to us in many ways; he does this in order to show his omnipresence in all he does and also because some formats are better for some lessons, and other formats better for others. By far and away though, usually the Lord speaks to me through his Word; teaching me things as I read the Bible (which I highly recommend you do). But sometimes he uses other methods. I was watching a sermon one day and the pastor was talking about Moses tossing a stick into some undrinkable water to make it potable. The message focused around the “desert” being more fun and exciting than it may seem (because we can see God working during our difficult times). But while the pastor was talking, the Holy Spirit kept my mind stuck on the water and stick; explaining that they are our lives and Jesus.
Ok, let’s get the Bible story in question out here first so that we’re all on the same page. History records in Exodus 15:22-25,
Then Moses led Israel from the Red Sea and they went into the Desert of Shur. For three days they traveled in the desert without finding water. When they came to Marah, they could not drink its water because it was bitter. (That is why the place is called Marah.) So the people grumbled against Moses, saying, “What are we to drink?”
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.
There the Lord made a decree and a law for them, and there he tested them.
So the Israelites came to potentially toxic water and Moses tossed a branch into said water and everything was magically acceptable.
So what does it all mean? Life is difficult; some might say impossible. People can be toxic and situations can be unlivable. The Lord’s response to that during another of Israel’s crisis times was this:
“Listen, O high priest Joshua and your associates seated before you, who are men symbolic of things to come: I am going to bring my servant, the Branch. See, the stone I have set in front of Joshua! There are seven eyes on that one stone, and I will engrave an inscription on it,” says the Lord Almighty, “and I will remove the sin of this land in a single day” (Zechariah 3:8-9).
The effects of the branch on the water represent Jesus’ presence in a person’s life post-salvation. The reason God uses a piece of wood to symbolize the healing of the water (and our lives) is because Jesus was crucified on a wooden cross. Therefore, to all of us weary of this world, Jesus says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). Christ came and not only purifies us from sins (healing us personally from our internal bitterness) but he also makes life more manageable. To help out his followers, Jesus told them “And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it” (John 14:13-14). And Hebrews 7:25 reminds us, “Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them” (Hebrews 7:25).
Don’t take Jesus’ power for granted. The Lord has total power and can help you in all problems and situations that life may throw at you. As he spoke through the prophets, “Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save, nor his ear to dull to hear” (Isaiah 59:1). Even while the Israelites were in the desert (40 years of which was actually a punishment from God) the Lord was constantly helping them and supporting them. We read of that time,
He guided them with the cloud by day
And with the light from the fire all night.
He split the rocks in the desert
And gave them water as abundant as the seas;
He brought streams out of a rocky crag
And made water flow down like rivers (Psalms 78:14-16).
Even in their most hopeless times, the Lord brought about sustenance. I mean, really, picture this in your head. The Israelites were in the desert, only sand and rocks for miles and miles. It’s desolate, it’s hot, it’s dry, and it’s hopeless. But from the very rocks that mocked the Israelite’s every step the Lord brought forth water. God can fill your life with good things too and help you overcome this cursed world. After all, Jesus taught, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). That’s our God, one who has overcome the pure awfulness of our world. Trust in him and ask him to make your bitter water (whatever it may be) fresh; and have the faith to know that he’ll do it!
Rock on God!