Directed by God, the whole company of Israel moved on by stages from the Wilderness of Sin. They set camp at Rephidim. And there wasn’t a drop of water for the people to drink. The people took Moses to task: “Give us water to drink.” But Moses said, “Why pester me? Why are you testing God?” But the people were thirsty for water there. They complained to Moses, “Why did you take us from Egypt and drag us out here with our children and animals to die of thirst?” Moses cried out in prayer to God, “What can I do with these people? Any minute now they’ll kill me!” God said to Moses, “Go on out ahead of the people, taking with you some of the elders of Israel. Take the staff you used to strike the Nile. And go. I’m going to be present before you there on the rock at Horeb. You are to strike the rock. Water will gush out of it and the people will drink.” Moses did what he said, with the elders of Israel right there watching. He named the place Massah (Testing-Place) and Meribah (Quarreling) because of the quarreling of the Israelites and because of their testing of God when they said, “Is God here with us, or not?” -Exodus 17: 1-7
Any of us who have been in a car with children has heard the plaintive cry of “are we there yet?” If we are honest, we were those children years ago. There’s nothing wrong with asking if you have reached your destination or even whining a little bit about the length of time it is taking to get there.
Let’s be honest: we’ve all done it.
I love that the Bible is full of accounts of the people of God that are not so different from us. I love that human behavior really hasn’t changed much and that the writers and collectors of the biblical narrative didn’t whitewash history. What’s the point in that? Then we would have unrelatable stories about perfect people, perfect leaders and a perfect God who never accompanied us in all our annoying human traits.
But at the same time there is a huge difference between the kind of complaining most of us do today in our highly privileged lives and the sort of fear-filled words that Moses encountered from the Israelite people. They were quite literally starving, hunted and homeless. And God’s sign to them in this moment of God’s love and protection is a simple one: water.
Water is life goes the saying, which is very true. We cannot live without water, it is the foundational building block of all of life as we know it. And if the water is dirty, contaminated or diseased then it will affect not just humans but the whole ecosystem. The symbol God chooses of water is a reminder to the Israelite people that the most foundational need they have will be provided for. It is a reminder that God will be with them and God knows their deepest need to sustain life. Water in Exodus is quite simply deliverance, goodness, healing and promise. Water is life. And water is a sacred gift from God that takes many forms.
If water is one of God’s primary gifts to us, the foundation for all of life in God’s good Creation and is the symbol that claims us in baptism what are our responsibilities towards this sacred gift? What are the questions of faith that are present in our world today? How can we hear the fear-filled cries of people, animals and ecosystems today and respond faithfully? How can the phrase “water is life” convict, challenge and create in you a new heart in this Lenten season?
As we enter into this third week of Lent, what is the water you need? What is the water God’s Creation needs?
I invite you to reflect on God’s loving-kindness in Exodus and to be reminded that the same is invited for all of Creation and for us who have been charged to steward, tend and keep the Garden. Blessings….
Image: Common Dreams
Rev. Shannan Vance-Ocampo is the Transitional Presbyter for Albany Presbytery. She’s fascinated by the ever-changing landscape of culture and faith communities and how these changes are pointing us to new points of God’s ongoing gift of resurrection. She can be reached at [email protected].
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