From Exodus 16-18
This post is part of my bible in a year series.
Passage and Comments
The LORD has delivered Israel from slavery in Egypt. But Israel is ungrateful. They are grumbling against Moses and Aaron. They are hungry and think they were better off in Egypt. The LORD graciously responds to them and feeds them with bread from heaven (Ex 16).
In today’s passage Israel grumbles again. They want water.
17 All the congregation of the people of Israel moved on from the wilderness of Sin by stages, according to the commandment of the LORD, and camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. (Ex 17:1)
In the last few chapters Israel has moved from Marah to Elim to Sin and now they have come to Rephidim.
As Israel moves along they seek water wherever they go. However at Rephidim there is no water for them to drink. This of course is a problem.
2 Therefore the people quarreled with Moses and said, “Give us water to drink.” And Moses said to them, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the LORD?” 3 But the people thirsted there for water, and the people grumbled against Moses and said, “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?” (Ex 17:2-3)
They quarrel with Moses and demand water. We are not told much about what they quarreled about. Moses says they are testing the LORD when they quarrel with him like this.
What does it mean to test the LORD?
“The people should have known by then that God would provide their needs. He had done so consistently throughout the plagues and their aftermath and most recently in providing both food and water supernaturally for them.
The day of this current protest, after all, was one more day on which the people had been able to gather manna to feed themselves and their animals. What they were doing was refusing to wait for God to take care of them.
Instead, soon after finding no drinkable water and having learned that their prior protests got results, they were launching a protest parallel to those of the past, thus testing God.” (Stuart, D. K. (2006). Exodus (Vol. 2, p. 389). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.)
To ‘test the LORD’ is to try his patience by lack of faith and provoking his anger to punish. God’s long-suffering, notwithstanding all, is simply amazing.
5 And the LORD said to Moses, “Pass on before the people, taking with you some of the elders of Israel, and take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go.
6 Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb, and you shall strike the rock, and water shall come out of it, and the people will drink.”
And Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel. (Ex 17:4-6)
Moses goes to the LORD and shares his struggle with them. The people have almost reached breaking point and Moses fears they will kill him.
The LORD graciously provides for his people. The LORD says he will stand before Moses on the rock.
Moses is instructed to strike the rock and water will come out of it. Moses does so before the elders of Israel. They do and all the people have a drink.
7 And he called the name of the place Massah and Meribah, because of the quarreling of the people of Israel, and because they tested the LORD by saying, “Is the LORD among us or not?” (Ex 17:7)
Consistent with many other instances in Israel’s history, they name the place after what happened there as a memorial.
We have in this passage three stories of grumbling and complaining, which are lovingly and patiently answered by God. Israel’s rebellion against God is both sudden and sustained. The reader can only wonder why he puts up with it. But he does put up with it because he has the full picture in mind. His promises to the patriarchs will not be thwarted by anyone—neither by Pharaoh nor even by the Israelites themselves. He keeps his people on track. We must remember that their relationship with God is still in its infancy. Despite all they have seen, perhaps they still need a clearer picture of the holy God who has called them into being. That clearer picture is soon to come on Mount Sinai. (Enns, P., 2000. Exodus, Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.)
God allows his people to pass through certain experiences, so that He may see, and prove to them, that their faith in him is genuine. Believers sometimes doubt God and test him, to see if he is true to his word, but this is forbidden in Scripture.
In the gospel after feeding the five thousand, Jesus’ disciples tested God.
17 And Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why are you discussing the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? 18 Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear? And do you not remember? 19 When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” They said to him, “Twelve.” 20 “And the seven for the four thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” And they said to him, “Seven.” 21 And he said to them, “Do you not yet understand?” (Mk 8.17-21)
In light of what Jesus had already done for them the disciples still did not believe God would feed them if they waited on him. This is the same problem Israel had after the LORD freed them from slavery in Egypt.
These things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did
Copyright © Joshua Washington and thescripturesays, 2016. All Rights Reserved.