Tuesday of Lent III: Exodus 17:1-7

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?”

Have you ever been thirsty, not just a little thirsty but dangerously dehydrated? I had a friend once who went with some friends hiking in the desert part of Texas in a national park. Trusting a map and the advice of a ranger, they expected to find water a certain point in the hike. But when they arrived at the indicated point, they discovered no water. The ensuing couple of days were dangerous. They conserved and were blessed to encounter other hikers who shared, but my friend detailed just how painful and debilitating it can be to have no water in the desert. He nearly died.

The children of Israel see a present and clear danger to their lives, their families, and their whole community. They do not turn in trust to the God who has already rescued them from Pharaoh at the Red Sea or who is feeding them every morning at this point with Manna. They accuse Moses of being a bad leader and God of trying to kill them. But God does not react to their lack of faith with what they deserve. He sends Moses with a staff, not to punish them, but to strike a rock and bring forth the water they need.

We too are face clear and present dangers to our own lives and our families and the communities in which we live. We recently endured a pandemic, there is a major war taking place in Europe, and the economy seems to be teetering. Taking a step back from the situation could reveal that in fact there are many threats against our lives with which we live every day. Terrorists, cancer, heart disease, economic turmoil, and violence are just other tools of our foe to make us afraid and divert our trust from God.

The truth is better than the threat. The God who brought forth water from a rock to slake the thirst of Israel will bring you forth from a grave and dry every tear. COVID-19 cannot change that nor can anything else. In days of stress, when the world would threaten our lives, it is easy for us as it was for them to react in fear and to lash out at those around us. God’s people are called to trust and to love one another. That may mean we distort our lives and forego our pleasures for the sake of one another.

Pray today that God sustains the hearty faith which he gave you.