Anyone who has reached this age and stage of life has confronted exasperation and dealt with frustrating situations and issues of uncertainty; not least matters of personal health and wealth, wellbeing of loved ones, death and taxes. This rises to the surface this morning as in the wilderness with Moses the Israelites find that Moses and God have encamped them in a place where there is no water.
Moses, remember, grew up in the palace as a prince of Egypt. Adopted as an infant he was given an Egyptian name, accustomed to being served and waited on, he knows little or nothing about roughing it. He even speaks Yiddish with an Egyptian accent. Yes, he tended the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, but even that the Lord rescued him from by appearing in the Burning Bush and tasking him to the role of leadership because he probably looked like a movie star. Well, he did look like a movie star, didn't he.
Moses never sewed on a button, carried a bucket of water from the well, fried bacon over an open fire, or knew which knob to turn on the washing machine. Here in my pre-dotage I may be some fool priest mucking about spouting Bible verses, but at least I was a Boy Scout and can pick out a place to pitch my tent near water, where it’s safe to build a fire, and where I won’t be flooded and swept away if it rains tonight. Poor Moshe is so blinded by the shekinah and the glory of being senior pastor that he can hardly see the mundane world around him.
So here for tomorrow is the mess Moses has gotten himself into this time:
From the wilderness of Zin the whole congregation of the Israelites journeyed by stages, as the Lord commanded. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. The people quarreled with Moses, and said, “Give us water to drink.” 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 complained against Moses and said, “Why did you bring us out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and livestock with thirst?” So Moses cried out to the Lord, “What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me.” The Lord said to Moses, “Go on ahead of the people, and take some of the elders of Israel with you; take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. I will be standing there in front of you on the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it, so that the people may drink.” Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel. He called the place Massah [Test] and Meribah [Quarrel], because the Israelites quarreled and tested the Lord, saying, “Is the Lord among us or not?”
Believe it or not, even with divine help, Prince Moses even messed this up. Let’s tackle it in Sunday School tomorrow morning, eh?
Exodus 17:1-7 (NRSV) Water from the Rock