BEFORE they reached Marah the delivered Israelites had marched from the Red Sea for three days into the wilderness "and found no water." As soon as they had pitched their camp at Marah murmurings arose, for the water there had so bitter a taste that they could not drink of it. Moses sought for divine guidance and was given both direction and revelation. The waters were made sweet when he had cast into them a tree which the Lord showed him, and it was revealed to him how men's lives might likewise be healed. This was the revelation: "If thou wilt diligently hearken to the voice of the Lord thy God, and wilt do that which is right in his sight, and wilt give ear to his commandments, and keep all his statutes, I will put none of these diseases upon thee, which I have brought upon the Egyptians: for I am the Lord that healeth thee."
How had the leader been prepared for this demonstration, and for receiving "a statute and an ordinance" from God; that is, how had he been healed himself of inward bitterness? That he was healed appears from the record in the words, "Now the man Moses was very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth." This was written after he had for a long time borne injustice, contempt, contumely, and had faced the selfish arrogance of the very people he was, under divine guidance, leading out of slavery. No doubt his forty years in the Midian pasture lands, where he who had been a prince humbled himself to be a shepherd, explained much. Prior to that he had for forty years the privileges and training of a prince in the house of Pharaoh. He was, as Stephen later affirmed, "learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and in deeds;" hence no doubt he had to be healed of the arrogance of high station.
It would be not easy to avoid the sense of human power where the multitude was forced to exhibit lowly deference to those of high rank. Indeed, a flash of the temper of a prince showed how hard Moses took it to be resisted. He rebuked an unjust taskmaster, but when his right to interfere was contested, before he knew what he had done he had actually slain the government officer. It was love for his own people which had made him their champion, however, and when at a later time he rebuked in love two Israelites who were quarreling, he no doubt thought that they would discern his motive. He found in them, however, not gratitude but hostile arrogance expressed in the scornful reply, "Who made thee a prince and a judge over us? intendest thou to kill me, as thou killedst the Egyptian?" Where he expected appreciation he found sneering and scorn. He saw then that his love for his people had induced him to imperil his position in the palace without earning a place in their affections so that he might really help them. So he gave up everything and fled despairingly. But this was really well, because although he had the sum of human wisdom he needed to be taught of God. It was necessary that he should be emptied of self so as to be ready for the inspiration of Spirit and be in the world not a humanly great man,—what is frequently a disturbing influence,—but a man obedient to God, a true leader.