By Brooke Holt
“All the congregation of the people of Israel moved on from the wilderness of Sin by stages, according to the commandment of the Lord, and camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. Therefore the people quarreled with Moses and said, ‘Give us water to drink.’ And Moses said to them, ‘Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the Lord?’ But the people thirsted there for water, and the people grumbled against Moses and said, ‘Why did you bring us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?’” Exodus 17:1-3
Does obedience to God always result in blessings and security? For many years, I believed if I was just faithful enough, believed enough, obeyed enough – God would come through for me. My life would be glorious. This belief led me to work harder at faith, pray more, seek to be perfect, and eventually led me to spiritual burnout. Obedience to the Lord has blessings, yet obedience does not guarantee life will work out perfectly. Even when you obey God, you will face challenges, disappointments, illness, death, anxiety, etc.
This chapter of Exodus begins on such a positive note: “All the congregation of the people of Israel moved on from the wilderness of Sin by stages, according to the commandment of the Lord” (Ex. 17:1). They obeyed God, followed his guidance through the wilderness and found themselves in Rephidim where they desperately hoped to find water. But they could not find a drop of water there.
Why would God let them down like this after their obedience? Why must they face such intense thirst? When I could not drink for 6 hours because of an upcoming medical procedure, I honestly felt like I was dying of thirst. I cannot imagine having walked through the desert all day only to stop and find nothing to quench the deep thirst. Focusing only on their thirst, the people cried out against Moses and demanded he provide water for them. Once again, they questioned Moses. Why had he led them out of Egypt to die in the wilderness?
Poor Moses! God had appointed him leader of a motley crew who seemed to think he was responsible for them. It is far too easy to blame others in difficult times, isn’t it? Was it Moses who worked the 10 plagues, split the Red Sea, washed away the Egyptian army, led the people by a cloud, or provided manna and quail each day?
Moses could not work any of those miracles. Only God could do these things. Once again, the Israelites have a lesson to learn. Moses may serve as their earthly leader, but God is their heavenly leader and the one with all the power, understanding, and perfect love.
Would these people continue to thirst for a fallen earthly leader, or would they eventually look beyond Moses to the One who called and equipped Moses?
What about you? Will you look to people to meet your needs, to understand you, and to provide for you, or will you recognize the limitations of people and the abundance of your heavenly Father? We would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
Face the Dawn: Advent is like celebrating a national holiday in a foreign land — like observing the 4th of July as an expatriate. Locals do not understand the fuss. Advent is equal parts cherishing and missing home. AND it’s a mix of loving this world while getting ready to leave it behind. This makes Advent the most human and most complex celebration we have. Isaiah the prophet, David the psalmist, Paul the apostle, John the Baptist, Mary, Joseph, and Jesus all lived in one world and longed for the next. They loved this world and loved the world to come even more. In these 28 devotions in Face the Dawn, join them in wearing the paradox of Christianity- this world may be our home, but that world is HOME.
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