Lectionary Text: Exodus 17:1-7
Literary Unit: Exodus 17
Sub Literary Units: 17:1-7, 8-13 & 14-16
Central Message: Here we go again!
After reading the events of chapter 16 (of Exodus) one would think that the children of Israel would have learned an important lesson. On second thought, one would think the children of Israel would have learned several lessons. In chapter 17, it is clear this is not the case. There are three lessons one should take from reading Exodus 17:1-7. First, it is not productive to grumble against God. Second, denying God’s protection is reckless and ill advised, and finally, just because we doubt God’s presence among us does not mean that God’s ever-present spirit is not with us.
In chapter 16 the perceived problem was lack of food. In chapter 17, the perceived problem was lack of water. The perceived problems are not the real issues with the children of Israel, but rather the real problem was lack of faith and it continues to exist in Christians today. The general condition of the children of Israel has not changed at this point in the text. They are still free, still journeying through the dessert and still depending on the Most High God for their basic and critical needs (food and water). However, the reality that the Israelites do not comprehend is that God cannot be who God wants to be to his people if His people do not trust that God always provides. Providing is one of the greatest gifts God has to offer God’s people. Like a parent to a small child, God is to God’s nation (children). God provides not because God has to, but rather God provides because of God’s unfailing, never-ending love.
When the people arrived at Rephidim and found no water, they again complained against God and against Moses. On the surface, this text appears to be about the lack of water and people grumbling against God, as well as Moses. Beneath the surface, one discovers that this text is really about another missed opportunity by the people of God. Once more Moses prayed for them and once again God miraculously provided. After God is made aware of the people’s displeasure (again, see chapter 16 of Exodus), God immediately gives clear and concise directions to Moses and the elders. Today’s Christians should learn from this text that complaining and grumbling is destructive and unproductive. Instead, Christians should spend time praying and listening for God’s clear, concise directions.
From the time that Israel left the Red Sea, God proves that He would meet all His people’s needs. He had preserved them through all dangers and hardships, whether from thirst, disease, hunger, or war. God is a provider and those who truly trust him are provided for.
Concise Bible Commentary, Don Fleming, AMG Publishers,Chattanooga, TN.: 1988, p. 37.
Hymn: Solid Rock, There is a Fountain, O’ For Thousand Tongues, Leaning On the Ever Lasting Arms
Prayer: Dear God, open up our hearts to offer our best to you. Give to us this day the power and wisdom to know that you are always with us. Even when we hunger for food or thirst for water. Remind us that all our treasures are from you as we pray, “Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who have sinned against us. And lead us not in to temptation, but deliver from evil. For thou are the power and the glory forever. Amen.