Exodus 17:1–7 (NRSV)
Chapter 17From 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. Verse 2The people quarreled 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?" Verse 3But 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?" Verse 4So Moses cried out to the Lord, "What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me." Verse 5The 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. Verse 6I 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. Verse 7He called the place Massah and Meribah, because the Israelites quarreled and tested the Lord, saying, "Is the Lord among us or not?"
Today’s reading returns us to a familiar memory. Recently escaped from Egyptian oppression, the promises of freedom and abundance that motivated the wilderness wanderers now cloud their imagination. Fatigue and thirst will do that. There is that moment in every journey when your inner child exercises uncontrollable honesty to scream “Are we there yet!” Not really a question, it is an announcement of frustration with those yet-to-be-fulfilled promises. The competing expectations and emotions are legitimate.
The season of Lent eventually exposes everyone’s agony with delayed gratification. In these liminal moments, Scripture confirms God provides all our needs. Like a prepared parent revealing a secretly packed toy or downloaded video or queuing up a favorite song to occupy the next half hour, God knows where the water is along the dry side of a rocky mountain.
Oh, by the way, the last time this happened, at Marah, they were just one exit from a water oasis at Elim. (Exodus 15)
God who provides, today we acknowledge the volume of our quarrels. Yet, we choose to focus on the promise still to come, because in this liminal moment, your spirit again reminds us both of your loving presence and that you never tire of quenching our daily thirsts. Amen.