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The False Waters of Meribah

March 19, 2022

What sin turns your heart away from worshipping God?

The False Waters of Meribah

By Sally Lombardo

“Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker! For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah, as on the day at Massah in the wilderness, when your fathers put me to the test and put me to the proof, though they had seen my work.” – Psalm 95:6–9

It seems like such a simple invitation. God calls us to worship, bow down, and kneel in our hearts before him. Many of us do this every Sunday in corporate worship and every morning in our private devotions. But sometimes—in our laziness, weariness, sinfulness, or stubbornness—we forget God. What causes us to turn away from this divine invitation?

Over and over again, the Psalms address what happens when we stray from our devotion to God. In the days of the Israelites’ testing under Moses, Meribah was translated as “rebellion.” It was the place in the wilderness of Sinai where Israel complained about the lack of water and rebelled against the leaders who had led them there. Similarly, Massah meant “testing.” It was known as the place where Moses struck the rock and brought water forth for the angry Israelites to drink. Psalm 95 applies the same principles here—that when we doubt the Lord and go back to our former ways, we rebel, and then we are tested.

Destructive thoughts and our sinful patterns continue to tempt us. You may have a tendency to complain, a nagging need to be right, a persistent craving to have the last word, or a pattern of anger when you don’t get what you want. How easily we all fall into these behaviors, even when we don’t mean to (Romans 7:21–23). They are part of our fallen nature, and we resort to them even though they don’t do us much good. In the Israelite’s case, as in ours, old sin patterns and rebellion can steer us way off course. They take us far away from God and His loving hand. Thankfully, he longs to restore us and teach us what we cannot always see.

The season of Lent is a time to examine your own places of Meribah and Massah. Lent offers us a window into what life would be like without the Jesus of the Resurrection, when you are left with your own sinful and fallen tendencies. The Hebrew people discovered that pride, boasting, and complaining did not help them in the wilderness of Sinai. The same is true in my own life, when I fall into old patterns of despondency or when I become deceived by false waters. There is something about looking back to our former “Egypt” that causes rebellion and hardness of heart. Together, as we journey into and through our time of Holy Lent, let us embark on a journey of seeking God where he may be found. “Let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation! Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!” (Psalm 95:1b–2).


What sinful thoughts turn your heart away from worshipping God? How can you shift your thinking today to journey past bitterness and into forgiveness in Christ? We would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Related Resource

Draw Near

Let's face it, the Christian life is hard. Relationships take work. Christians forget. Sometimes it is tempting to go back to the days when God was not the center of our lives - to backslide. We are all faced with tremendous pressures to drift away from intimacy with Jesus and the community of the Church. However, the Lord invites us to pay attention, to move forward, to draw near, and to live lives of worship. Draw Near: Hebrews on Christian Worship is a small group Bible study on the Book of Hebrews intended to lead participants into a deeper intimacy with the living God in the context of New Testament worship. Draw nearer to God in authentic worship today!

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