Safely on shore, Israel rejoiced as no nation has rejoiced together ever before or ever since. Songs of gratitude to the Lord poured out of happy hearts. Their God was more powerful than Pharaoh! Whole bodies erupted in celebratory dance for hours and hours. A contagion of laughter and hugs swept through people who had been strangers a week earlier. A mass of berated and abused slaves had miraculously become a huge family with a common endowment.
By morning, Israel, having petered out, simply wondered what marvel would happen next.
The second day of freedom was calmer. More food preparation, less dancing. Freedom had begun to settle in. It was more natural and less of a shock.
Moses found a boulder to climb on so he could be seen and heard, and standing on it he announced to his vast crowd of refugees that the journey to their new home, the Promise Land, would commence the following day. “Get plenty of rest tonight. We have left our bricks and straw and our taskmasters with their whips. We owe Egypt nothing more for its food. Egypt has been paid in full! Let us forge ahead and follow the cloud to our new homes where we may raise our children and build our communities working for each other and for ourselves. Follow me!”
And so they did. Like a swarm of earthbound flies, like a great army of humanity young and old men, with their women, and their children, their animals and with every thing they owned walked to find the land of their own. Israel journeyed over field and desert and into the wilderness of Shur.
For three long hot days and two short cold nights Israel walked in dry wilderness. Loud chattering settled into a muffled roar of shuffling feet; even the animals trudged along without voice. There was less and less to say; each morsel of life wanted to conserve his or her energy with silence. Feet grew tough, even children’s feet became as tough as leather. Israel was united as one body walking. Not since Israel was one man, Jacob, had Israel been so contained and so aware of its God.
Gersam and Eliezer enjoyed their position in the lead. “Look!” shouted Gersam, “Water!!! The young bucks all ran up to the pond and scooped up the water with their ready hands, only to spit it out!
“Ptouie!” Moses caught up and looked curiously at his sons. “What’s wrong?”
“This water is bitter!” said Gersam.
“It is undrinkable,” added Eliezer between spits.
In syncopated rhythm most of the thirsty people complained to Moses whom they came to regard as their highly paid tour guide, “What shall we drink?” Their complaints tasted as bitter as the water to the ears of Moses.
Moses wincing, looked up into the heavens and cried out, “Lord! What shall I do? Your people need water to drink and this pond is as poison to them?”
“Tch tch” said Gracefeld as the angel made its spirit way over to Perambula to speak. Perambula peeked out from the cloud to meet Gracefeld in the air and answered, “What’s that for?”
“The Lord seems to have a real issue with water, and I wonder if these poor people are alert enough to figure it out for themselves.” Said Gracefeld.
“Do you mean death and life?” Asked Perambula.
“Of course! I think some angel must have poisoned this lake while we weren’t looking to remind and teach them. First, the Flood annihilates life, then first born babies are drown in the Nile, then the marvels begin with the bloody Nile, and end with the parting of the Red Sea that killed the enemy.”
“Yes the water is the means of death, needed to sustain life. It’s a paradox.” replied pleased Perambula. “But no Gracefeld. These people are simply thirsty. They don’t need philosophy, the need drink.”
Gracefeld shrugged angel wings and watched.
As Moses stood by the bitter waters listening attentively for a reply from the Lord, the message welled up in his soul, “Look there, that wood. Pick it up and fling it into the water.” Moses picked it up and looked curiously at it.
Perambula gasped! Gracefeld smiled. The angels which flow as freely through time as through air recalled the future day when God’s Son died on wood, and while still hanging went into Hades to release the dead who were there. “Wood will be the medium through which God restores life, not water!” exclaimed Perambula cheerfully feeling wise, “The wood removed the bitterness from the water as it will someday remove the bitterness of death from life.”
Gracefeld completed the equation by adding, “so that the water can be the agent of life again, because of WOOD!”
Perambula feeling as wise as God added, “Reversing the power of The Flood, the drowning of the firstborn, and the drowning of the enemy army! It’s brilliant! Wood renders life more powerful than death.”
Gracefeld submerged in the part, topped it off by proclaiming, “By wood, I render thee, oh precious water, life giving again!”
God looked on smiling that His angels, His hard working angels were enjoying some merriment too, and didn’t dare disturb them.
Moses hurled the wood into the pond. After the splash, they all watched the concentric circles radiate outward. When the pond was still again, Moses walked toward the edge of it, bent down and under thousands of watchful eyes, scooped some of the lake into a metal cup for a taste.
Eliezer and Gersham looked at their father in awe with the taste of bitterness still on their tongues.
“It’s good now. Sweet as honey. Taste it, I kid you not. Tell the people to fill up their water bottles, and then let’s all bathe. We certainly need this water by now!” And in jest he added, “especially you Gersam!”
After everyone had their fill of water, and then their baths, they sat patiently by the lake waiting for the last one to be done. No one noticed that the Lord their God kept enemy tribes away so they could walk in peace. They simply did not know how protected they were in this land surrounded by violent people, the likes of which they had never encountered in their slavish isolation.
While Israel squeezed every last ounce of relief and satisfaction and cleanliness from the lake, every molecule of life, they set up camp for the last night by the sweet waters of Marah .
That night Moses lay next to Zepporah in their tent, with their boys snoring loudly and prayed. “Lord, when may I see Your face?” In the silence of the Lord’s reply, Moses slowly and smoothly slipped into a sound, yet soundless, sleep.