Why Did You Bring Me Here?
But the people thirsted there for water; and the people complained against Moses and said, "Why did you bring us out of Egypt…?"
Over the last few weeks, we’ve been talking about what it’s like to be wanderers in the wilderness during the season of Lent. We’ve all been in the wilderness at some point in our lives. Perhaps, you are wandering in the wilderness today. The Bible is full of stories of travelers, wanderers, and pilgrims doubting God, having faith in God, and doubting God again. A common feeling we experience in seasons of wilderness wandering is wanting to go back to the way things were before, even if that place was harsh, life-draining, or oppressive.
This is where the Israelites find themselves in today’s text. In Exodus 17, the Israelites are thirsty wanderers after being delivered by Moses from slavery in Egypt. In Egypt, they lived in terribly cruel conditions. They were forced to work to ruthless hours at their jobs. Exodus 3 mentions that the Israelites languished in misery under the oppression of the Egyptians and the writer in Exodus 6 says they lived with a “broken spirit.” However, even though they have now been rescued from this oppression, they find themselves wanting to go back. Why?
At least they had water to drink, right?
Water is a precious resource. Have you been out for a long run or walk in the summer without any water? It can be one of the best feelings in the world to finally find that first sip of cool water. Water has been in the news quite a bit lately. Flint Michigan is still struggling to receive the necessary aid to provide a clean water infrastructure for their citizens. Fracking and oil pipelines such the Dakota Access Pipeline threaten the water sources of millions of people. This week, the president proposed an unprecedented 31% cut to the Environmental Protection Agency, which many suggest will cripple the agency’s ability to regulate clean water.
So, the Israelites are thirsty. Wandering in the desert, they need clean water. Moses asks God what to do, and the LORD responds, “I will be standing there in front of you on the rock at Horeb.” God goes ahead of the Moses and the elders and answers the cry of the people in the wilderness for water. I love that the passage concludes with “Moses called the place Massah and Meribah, because the Israelites tested the LORD, saying, "Is the LORD among us or not?" Moses acknowledges and memorializes the Israelites' testing of God in the wilderness.
May we remember as wanderers in the wilderness to not be afraid to cry out to God-- to ask “Is the LORD among us or not?” May we remember that God brought us into the wilderness and is leading us out. May we not long for the past, but rather ask for life-giving water right now in the desert.