This Sunday we are going to take a look at Exodus 17:1-7. The passage is the “water from the rock” passage when Moses is dealing the complaining people – people who doubt his leadership – people who are tired and tired of wandering – people who are ready to stone him and get a new leader. They have forgotten why they are wandering to begin with. They openly question where God is in the midst of their angst. They are not alone. There are times when we find life hard when we wonder where God is. We, like the wandering Jews, find ourselves in the deserts of life where it our hearts are broken and our souls are thirsty. We, like the wandering Jews, break into criticism of others that we think might be responsible for our misery. We, like the wandering Jews, look to heaven and ask "where are you when I need you most?" The temptation is to give a trite answer and quote the "Footsteps" poem. The problem is that while this approach satisfies the one giving the answer, it brings little relief to the one in the desert. The answer we will discover is not a quick word and a poem, but an honest look at our lives and at God. We have to ask ourselves how we found ourselves in the desert. Is there something or someone we are running away from or running toward? Have we forgotten what caused our wandering. The Jews, it seems, have forgotten that it was their act of disobedience that caused their wandering. They want to blame Moses rather than themselves. The blame game is always good. It frees us of any guilt or shame or responsiblitity. The reality is that there is a price to be paid for our bad decisions. The good news is that God can and will provide the water we need to keep going.
There is another matter we need to consider. It is the cry of the wanderers to return to where they had come from. Is the reason for our cry because we are ready to give up and return to a place in our lives that we know is broken, but is familiar? We have all witnessed people returned to abusive relationships or to environments that enable addiction or failure. People return because it is sometimes easier than going through the difficult desert to a place of promise. The familiar beckons us back from the hard journey. But, in our choice to look back we cheat ourselves out of the future of promise and hope. God's provision of water from the rock met their short term needs, but more importantly, it was a way to offer hope for them to take one more step toward the future that God intended for them.
The difficult news of this passage is that we will experience times in the desert....that there will be times when life is hard. The good news is that we have not be forgotten or abandoned. God is with us. Ready to offer the water we need to go on. Ready to remind us of the promise of the kind of life that God intends for us. Jesus tells us in John 4: "whosoever drinks of the water that I give will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring to water welling us to eternal life." So, I offer you water in the desert. The promise that God is with us and ready to redeem even the difficult moments in life.
Drink well! Tom