When the Israelites leave Egypt, the dream of promise
shines brightly in their minds. They confuse potential
promise with pie-in-the-sky promise.
Moses, a reluctant leader, also serves at times as an exasperated
messenger. The Israelites in the desert push for and insist
that their physical needs be met. As the leader, Moses actively
engages in moving the people-mass and facilitates the meeting
of their needs. He positions himself to make daily decisions,
hear daily complaints, and receive pushback. Scripture does not
single out individuals as the source of complaint. These complaints
surface from “the people.”
“The people” voice their concerns and complaints to their
leader in soft-spoken words as well as shouts. They sidle up to
the leader and speak confidentially; they also elbow and butt
their way in, interrupting while the speaker converses with others.
While Moses doesn’t receive suggestions and complaints by
snail mail, e-mail, Twitter, and Facebook, we can assume that he
receives them continuously. A leader leads in every season and
under every circumstance.
The people’s voiced concerns imply that they judge God’s
presence or absence by the meeting of their demands: “Is the
Lord among us or not?” God, the leader behind the leader,
chooses to take action by providing water from an unlikely
source. This God who makes a way out of no way provides
water from a rock. Yahweh sustains life and once again commands
the trust of the Israelites. They will live to quarrel and
test the Lord and the Lord’s servant Moses another day.
Lord, we can only lead if you lead us all. Give your leaders strength to endure. Help every leader remember what it is like to follow. Amen.
All the readings af rm God’s benevolent care of those who place their well-being in God’s hands. While imperishable, God’s love can be frustrated by human pride and faithlessness. Water is an important symbol of God’s sustaining grace. In Exodus 17 the Israelites’ dependence on water becomes a statement about their dependence on God. The manner in which they obtain their water stands as commentary on human pride and arrogance. The psalm recounts this episode as a means of warning the people against the kind of obstinacy that impedes grace. John 4 focuses on the full actualization of God’s love in Jesus Christ through the “living water.” Paul speaks of God’s love being “poured into our hearts,” a grace that comes in the death and life of Jesus Christ.
• Read Exodus 17:1-7. When have you complained to God about a situation, only to discover God had already begun to forge a way through?
• Read Psalm 95. How does weekly worship allow you to hear God’s voice? How do you testify to God’s goodness?
• Read Romans 5:1-11. Reflect on a time when your suffering produced endurance and ultimately character.
• Read John 4:5-42. How do the words of Paul to Timothy about a worker “who correctly handles the word of truth” serve as a bridge between the “truth hurts” and the “truth will set you free”?
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