The book of Exodus recounts the story of how God acts in history to free God’s people from slavery in Egypt and bring them into the land once promised to their ancestor Abraham. But despite having seen and experienced God act in incredible ways, the Israelites struggle through their wilderness journey.
This Sunday’s text highlights one such moment, they begin to complain to Moses, and against God, saying “Why did you bring us out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and livestock with thirst?” (Exodus 17:3).
It’s at least the third time that the Israelites make clear they would rather be slaves in Egypt, than free people living in the wilderness. It’s safe to say they are scared and confused. Maybe even bored and uncertain. They would rather go back to a place that they know, no matter how bad it was, than remain in a place that is unknown, with a future that they cannot see.
And now, being physically thirsty is just one more reminder that they are in fact in the wilderness.
It’s easy for us to see the error in their logic because we know that just as God had provided in the past, so too will God continue to provide for them in the future. In fact, we know that they will eventually make it to the Promised Land, it might just take them forty years.
But I think the Israelite’s are really asking a different question. Yes, they are thirsty; they need water to survive. But behind their thirst is the real question, “Has God abandoned us?” Or maybe, “Can we really trust this God?”
They’ve been asking the same question over and over again, whether when staring down Pharaoh’s army at the Red Sea or when their bread ran out and they got hungry. Can we really trust this God?
It’s a far more vulnerable question, but perhaps it is a more honest question. It is a question that admits their deepest longings and maybe even their deepest hopes, to be cared for and loved by the God they have only heard about from their ancestors.
And the good news is, over and over God will answer their question with a resounding “Yes!”
Grace and peace,