Sunday, March 23, 2014

Exodus 17:1-7 (ESV)

1 All the congregation of the people of Israel moved on from the wilderness of Sin by stages, according to the commandment of the Lord, and camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink.  Therefore the people quarreled with Moses and said, “Give us water to drink.” And Moses said to them, “Why do you quarrel with me?  Why do you test the Lord?”  But the people thirsted there for water, and the people grumbled against Moses and said, “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?”  So Moses cried to the Lord, “What shall I do with this people?  They are almost ready to stone me.”  And the Lord said to Moses, “Pass on before the people, taking with you some of the elders of Israel, and take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go.  Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb, and you shall strike the rock, and water shall come out of it, and the people will drink.”  And Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel.  And he called the name of the place Massah and Meribah, because of the quarreling of the people of Israel, and because they tested the Lord by saying, “Is the Lord among us or not?”

It seemed like a cruel bait and switch.  God’s promise was a land flowing with milk and honey.  But the wilderness in which the people of Israel were camped didn’t fit that description.  The people and their livestock were parched, thirsty, desperate.

They cried out, “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?”

Was God planning to let them die?  Of course not.  One way or another he would provide the water they needed.  But prior to that, he would test them regarding their faith.  Had they had grasped one the most important lessons any God follower can learn.  We walk by faith, not by sight.

Already God had rescued them from slavery in Egypt by his mighty power.  He had delivered them from Pharaoh’s army by leading them through the Red Sea on dry land.  He had provided nourishment through the daily provision of manna.  These actions accomplished certain specific goals.  But they also could have built faith in God’s care and provision.

Thus, if the people had learned to trust God rather than circumstances, the prayer would have been, “Thank you, God for your provision in the past.  We know you are able to provide water, even in this wilderness.  Please save us again.”

Instead, they complained bitterly and sarcastically.

It is an important lesson.  God will use difficult circumstances to test our faith.  It is easy to trust God when the sun is out and life is grand.  But when darkness closes in and the way is hard, will we still trust him?  Or will we grumble and complain?

Regardless of the situation, God can be trusted.

Dear God, in difficult times, let me remember your goodness so I may cry out to you in faith.  Amen.