I have always thought the Israelites in the desert to be a grumpy and grumbling lot – murmuring.
Complaining about everything. Reading Exodus 17 today I wondered what it would be like to be with my husband and three children camped in the desert and there is no water. This is not complaining about the colour of the Christmas cards; this is life or death. What does Moses expect?
Just as in Numbers 20, a similar story, it is not completely clear what Moses does wrong; so in this passage it is not clear why the people are not allowed to ask for water. Why does Moses interpret this desperate cry as testing the Lord. It must be to do with tone and attitude. I wonder how lament is different from complaint. Reading it in the context of John 4, as we do this Sunday, reminds us that the rock at Horeb could be in us waiting to let the living water of the Spirit flow. If only we can ask for it without quarrelling and complaining, without the doubt whether God is among us. It would be a pity if the mountain of God (as Horeb is also called – Exodus 3) would become again Massah (= testing) and Meribah (=quarrel).
19 March 2017