Published on March 16, 2014
Exodus 17:3-7 In their thirst, the Israelites grumbled. God produced water from a rock.
3 Here, then, in their thirst for water, the people grumbled against Moses, saying, “Why did you ever make us leave Egypt? Was it just to have us die of thirst with our children and our livestock?” 4 So Moses cried out to the LORD, “What shall I do with this people? A little more and they will stone me!” 5 The LORD answered Moses, “Go over there in front of the people, along with some of the elders of Israel, holding in your hand, as you go, the staff with which you struck the river. 6 I will be standing there in front of you on the rock in Horeb. Strike the rock, and the water will flow from it for the people to drink.” This Moses did, in the presence of the elders of Israel. 7 The place was called Massah and Meribah, because the Israelites quarreled there and tested the LORD, saying, “Is the LORD in our midst or not?” Catholic Lectionary. 2009. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.
The Israelites were taking a dangerous journey that would eventually lead them to the Promised Land. When we become hungry and thirsty we begin to look for food and drink, they were no different. When we can’t find what we need we tend to look for someone to blame. Again, the Israelites were no different. They blamed Moses and God. The desert experience was God’s way of testing them. Would they trust God or would they cling to their humanity and blame God and Moses for their problem? Why do you suppose that God wanted Moses to take the elders with him? Sometimes leaders of groups or nations have difficulty in believing, this would give them the opportunity to strengthen their trust and faith in God. Jn. 20:29 Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”
The word Massah means trial or temptation and the word Meribah means to speak out in anger or scolding. How much were they willing to trust in God? In Exodus 15:22-26 just three days after God had opened a path for them through the Red Sea the people found water but, “they could not drink the water of Marah because it was bitter; therefore the place was named Marah. Marah is another Hebrew word meaning bitter which when used here describes the water which they found but that’s not the end of the story. Ex. 15:24 And the people murmured against Moses, saying, “What shall we drink?” 25 And he cried to the Lord; and the Lord showed him a tree, and he threw it into the water, and the water became sweet.
Look at what happened, the people needed water, they found it but couldn’t drink it. God then instructs Moses to throw a tree into the water and the people have what they need, water to drink, but like ungrateful children they missed the fact that their needs were provided for by God. But now they had forgotten that God, not they had resolved the problem. In today’s reading they again complain that they don’t have water and again God comes to their rescue with water drawn from of all things, a rock. Despite all the signs and wonders worked by God, before and after leaving Egypt, the Israelite's stubbornness, and shortsightedness and their inability, or unwillingness to trust that God was and would remain with them was lost in their self- centeredness.
The God who had delivered them from their Egyptian bondage had provided them with both food and water when they needed it. In view of all the signs and wonders that they had personally witnessed did they now really believe that God would abandon them? Again, the Israelites were no different than the rest of us. When trouble comes into our life, do we look for others to blame, do we try to get God to fix the problem for us with a few prayers, or do we accept the will of God in allowing the trouble to enter our life as a way of testing our faith or giving us an opportunity to grow in trust and faith?