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Exodus 17:1-7 - God's Presence in Doubt
by Gary Sims
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The Scriptures
Exodus 17:1-7 - God's Presence in Doubt

Key Verses:
  • 1-2a: "At the LORD's command, the people of Israel left the Sin Desert and moved from place to place. Eventually they came to Rephidim, but there was no water to be found there. 2So once more the people grumbled and complained to Moses. "Give us water to drink!" they demanded." - God had led the Israelites to safety through the miracle of the parting of the Red Sea and He had provided manna for nourishment. With all these miracles to dwell on, their focus was still inward at their own perceived needs.

  • 2b: "Quiet!" Moses replied. "Why are you arguing with me? And why are you testing the LORD?" - It wasn't wrong for the Israelites to be thirsty but Moses saw this more as an issue of trust. The words of the Israelites said "We are thirsty" but their hearts said "Is God really here?"

  • 4: "Then Moses pleaded with the LORD, "What should I do with these people? They are about to stone me!" - Moses turned to God asking for guidance not water, the obvious request for thirst.

  • 5-6: "The LORD said to Moses, "Take your shepherd's staff… 6I will meet you by the rock at Mount Sinai. Strike the rock, and water will come pouring out. Then the people will be able to drink." - God immediately responds to Moses' prayer without scorn or condemnation, revealing that His presence was never in doubt.

  • 7: "Moses named the place Massah--"the place of testing"--and Meribah--"the place of arguing"--because the people of Israel argued with Moses and tested the LORD by saying, "Is the LORD going to take care of us or not?" - Moses could have named the place "Waters of God from Stone" but, again, water was not the issue. Instead, it was an issue of doubting God's presence in their lives.
Points to Contemplate:
  • Do you thirst? As you walk through your life's wilderness experience, where is your focus? Are you simply worried about your needs? Are you anxious that your thirst will never be quenched? In this state of worry and anxiety, do you doubt the presence of God in your life? Have you forgotten all that He has done for you in the past? Do you think that He has led you into the 'Desert of Sin' only to have abandoned you? "Why are you testing the LORD?"

  • What should you do? When you turn to God in prayer, what do you ask Him to do? Do you give Him the answers to your problem? Do you outline His shortcomings and critique His purpose? Do you provide Him a "honey-do list" of things He should fix in your life? Or do you simply ask for guidance? Are you able to hand your worries and concerns into His caring hands? Can you sit back and listen for His answer?

  • "Is the LORD going to take care of (you) or not?" Are you going to continue testing and arguing with Him in all aspects of your life? Do you wrestle with the Lord? Do you test His love for you? Do you question His presence in your life? Or can you learn to rely that He is always with you and regardless of how dry your desert appears, that He will always provide you with the living waters of eternal life?
Promises of the Gospel:

It is easy to criticize the Israelites for their misguided efforts in following and trusting God. The evidence had been vividly clear that He was with them and would take care of them. Their story, however, is very much like our own. As we go through life we frequently become focused on a problem that seems to be without resolve. The problem fills our hearts with anxiety, worry, and dread. We wonder how this can be happening. We question God's presence and His promises to love and protect. We question God's purpose and intent. We argue and we test. Massah and Meribah become regularly visited outposts in our journey of faith. The faith of Moses shows that this is not simply another miracle story with God doing the impossible. It is a story of trust that God is always with us. His presence in our lives is not to be doubted. He will provide. Instead of focusing on our problems, we are to focus on God. Instead of worrying over the details of life, we are to trust in His love. Instead of looking at the wilderness as a deserted place filled with danger, we are to recognize that it is a wonderful opportunity to find God.

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