Exodus 17:2 (HCSB)
2 So the people complained to Moses, “Give us water to drink.”
“Why are you complaining to me?” Moses replied to them. “Why are you testing the Lord?”
We do not know how much time passes between the events in the Wilderness of Sin (God’s first provision of quail and manna), and the events described here in Massah and Meribah. But, we do get a sense of the serious lack of faith on the part of the Israelites due to these being back to back to back descriptions of their complaining.
This is the second complaint the Israelites have for water. And yet again, they suggest they would have rather remained in slavery, and blame Moses for their situation (Exodus 17:3). And again, Moses, rightfully, points out that their complaint is not with him, but with God, and that through their fussing and quarrelling, they are actually “testing” God. And I think what Moses means here, is that the Israelites, by questioning God, His motives, and possibly His existence, they are demanding that God prove Himself, as if somehow they were higher than God and had the authority to do so.
And although we can read this account now and wonder how the Israelites could have so quickly forgotten the great miracles of God, and continue to demand His proof of Himself, and take the role of God for themselves, we are not too far removed. We may not express it audibly, but we often express our attitude in how we manage our finances, our relationships, our family, and our entertainment choices. Rather than trust God, and have faith in His timing, we complain, we demand action on our timeline, and then we simply take the reins ourselves.
But the great thing about this story is that God, yet again, has mercy. He has mercy on Moses, on the elders, and on all of the Israelites. He yet again provides water, and does so in a way that is attributable only to Him: water from a rock. The Israelites don’t die of thirst, Moses is not stoned, and nobody returns to slavery: God shows up at the right time.
Lord, thank You for always showing up at the right time, whether we think it is or not. I pray for our faith in You, not to question You when You are quiet, but to bolster our faith and wait on You even more. Help us to follow You in action, and in silence, never doubting You. Amen.