SCRIPTURE Exodus 17:1-7
From the wilderness of Sin the whole congregation of the Israelites journeyed by stages, as the Lord commanded. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. 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?"
Over the past couple of weeks we have talked about covenants and journeying with God and the people of Israel.
Noah - I want to love you; I value a re-start
Abraham - I will journey with you through all the ups and downs
Here, the people (the Israelites) are complaining again. And we see God’s response.
Moses - we see God not abandoning the people; we see God journeying with them
While last week I joked that in our journeys we sometimes want to yell at God “are we there yet?!”, this week the question from the Israelites is “Is God even still in the front seat driving?!” They are in the wilderness, after leaving the rule of the Pharaoh and surviving 10 plagues in Egypt. They are exhausted and weary and have little hope. Sometimes in reading the stories of the Israelites and their wanderings and their griping it is easy to shake our heads and roll our eyes and talk about having faith and we shame the Israelites for being grumpy.
Yet, so much of this Scripture hits a little too close to home. Throughout history, humans have created situations which make us cry out “is the Lord among us?” Think of the Holocaust - or slavery - or modern-day slavery in prisons. Is the Lord among us?
Particularly right now, we could easily replace the Israelites’ cry “give us water to drink” with “give us a cure for this virus” and “give us an answer to lost income” and “give us assurance of what will be.”
Even if we weren’t in this national and global crisis, I believe we could all replace “give us water to drink” with our own individual or collective cries. “Give us a cure to cancer.” “Give me direction on how to provide for myself and my family.” “Give us assurance of what will be.”
Hearing that the Israelites cried out to Moses - misdirecting their anger of uncertainty with God onto Moses - shows how we all have a tendency to cry out in times of uncertainty. They didn’t have the provisions they needed, which is a legitimate concern, and so that escalated quickly to “is God even here?” The escalation is a bit like a child not getting what they want and crying at their parents “do you even love me?!”
The answer to the final question of our Scripture “Is the Lord among us or not?” is yes. Yes, the Lord is among us. In later parts of Exodus, throughout the Bible, and in modern day that is proven. At times in life it may seem like we’ve been abandoned or forgotten, but yes the Lord is among us. We might be directed to do some wacky things like strike a rock with a staff and expect water to come out of it, but yes the Lord is among us.
I believe especially in upcoming days and weeks that we will see the Lord work through us in some wacky, strike a rock and expect water, type ways. We must remember that we are the hands and feet of God, we are the body of Christ.
As people are staying home more, individuals and communities are thinking of ways in which we can still reach out and help one another - providing the metaphorical or literal water from the rock.
- Do you have an elderly neighbor or loved one that needs to be checked on? (at a safe distance!)
- Can you have food delivered to a family with children who will be staying home? Can you Skype or FaceTime with a kid home from school?
- If you buy a to go meal from a restaurant, can you tip a little extra, knowing the service industry is taking a hard hit right now?
- Who do you need to call - not necessarily because they are at a high risk for infection, but because they may be overly anxious or lonely?
- Our church’s food pantry will stay open on Tues/Thurs during this time - can you drop off a bag of non-perishables to help restock it?
LCCC is an extremely fortunate community, filled with people who want to help. As this global event goes on, we will remember that God is certainly among us and we will reach out with ways we can support one another.