Show me Your glory, I pray.
The people quarrelled with Moses, and said, “Give us water to drink.” 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 complained against Moses and said, “Why did you bring us out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and livestock with thirst?” So Moses cried out to the LORD, “What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me.” The LORD said to Moses, “Go on ahead of the people, and take some of the elders of Israel with you; take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. I will be standing there in front of you on the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it, so that the people may drink.” Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel. He called the place Massah and Meribah, because the Israelites quarrelled and tested the LORD, saying,“Is the LORD among us or not?”
“I thirst” is Jesus’ only expression of physical pain as He hung from the cross. Thirst can be excruciating and consuming. That is why people fasting for any length of time still drink water; severe thirst can be a health hazard. I have visited many patients in the emergency room with serious and frightening symptoms, and then told they were dehydrated.
The Israelites are thirsty as the Lord has led them to a place in the desert Wilderness where there is no water. Agonizing death awaits them and their children if they do not soon get water to drink. So they quarrel with Moses and test God, demanding, “Give us water to drink.” Even after recently experiencing God’s deliverance through the Red Sea (Exodus 14:21-31), bitter water made sweet at Marah (Exodus 15:22-25), and the daily supply of manna and quail (Exodus 16:13-21), they are now convinced God has brought them into the Wilderness to torture and kill them. They cry out, “Why did you bring us out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and livestock with thirst?”
Although God has repeatedly promised the Israelites to take them safely to a land flowing with milk and honey (Exodus 3:8, 17; 13:5, 11), God is not acting as they expected. Not infrequently people have told me that God was not acting as they expected. There are times when like the Israelites “God has led us into a place that involves a complete reversal of our prepackaged values, a complete undoing of our carefully laid plans, and a letting go of our preconceived ideas.” (Thomas Keating, Intimacy with God)
We must, as Luther pleaded, “Let God be God,” and not try to box Him in. For reasons known but to God, Jesus did not always heal people in the same way. In one case Jesus healed a blind man by spitting on the ground, making mud and putting it on the man’s eyes, sending him to the pool of Siloam to wash (John 9:6-7). Another time Jesus simply commanded a blind man to be healed (Mark 10:51-52), while another time Jesus put saliva on a blind man’s eyes healing him in stages (Mark 8:22-25). We do best to leave to God the ways He chooses to care for us and bless us.
In today’s scripture the Lord provides water from a rock for His people and “called the place Massah and Meribah, because the Israelites quarrelled and tested the Lord, saying, ‘Is the LORD among us or not?’” The word Massah is a Hebrew word meaning “test”, as the Israelites put God to the test asking, “Is the LORD among us or not?” Merribah means “quarrel” in Hebrew as the Israelites quarreled with God’s leading of them.
Centuries later the psalmist remembers the Exodus story and re-storys it for his day and for ours:
O that today you would listen to his voice!
Do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah,
as on the day at Massah in the wilderness,
when your ancestors tested me,
and put me to the proof, though they had seen my work.
Haven’t we, like the Israelites, seen God’s marvelous work? Let’s not harden our hearts. God will bring water from rock!
- Are you now, or have you ever been, in a place of Meribah and Massah?
- Do you sense God doing something in your life that stretches your understanding of Him? If so, what is it?