Submitted by Visitor (not verified) on Mon, 07/12/2009 – 12:35
Bible Book: Exodus / Eksodus
Chapter: 17
Verse: 1 – 17

After reading Exodus 17:1-17 (and Psalm 95 at the same time), the following question kept milling around in my head: Why does the author place so much emphasis on the negative reactions of Israel?

The essence of the story is supposed to be the miracle that God performs when He makes water flow from a rock (17:6). But the story has been recorded in the annals because of the events that took place at Massah and Meribah. There where Israel quarrelled with Moses and tried God’s patience to the limit.

In retrospect it may seem as if Israel’s rebelliousness overshadowed God’s gracious intervention!

In the light of all this, the serious warning of Psalm 95, not to be stubborn like Israel at Massah and Meribah (verse 8), is indeed necessary.

We may encounter “desert experiences” (hardship, illness, loss, etc.) in various ways. Whole communities may, in a manner of speaking, end up in the desert of suffering. For example: when the aids pandemic’s impact reaches alarming proportions.

When Paul writes in Romans 5:3-4, “… we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope”, he is not describing a natural process. The story of Massah and Meribah is the natural course of events. When suffering produces perseverance and leads to faith and hope, it is a process of mercy and grace. And this is something that only the Holy Spirit can produce in our lives (comp Rom 5:5).

When, during Lent, the congregation remembers the suffering of Israel in the desert at Massah and Meribah, it should bring us to a deeper understanding of and sensitivity towards the suffering of others.

Through the suffering (Jesus also encountered the desert “for us”), crucifixion and resurrection of Christ his followers are inspired – by the love that the Holy Spirit pours out – to become involved with people in their suffering. Only then the natural process leading to Massah and Meribah can be reversed into a process of mercy that leads to perseverance, faith and hope.

Author: N du Toit (Ds)
Language: English