The story of the people’s complaints and Moses’ action were paralleled in Numbers 20:1-13. The later account (when Moses’ struck the rock twice) explained the forty years of wandering. In either account, the needy attitude of the people stood in stark contrast to the immanent and constant presence of the Lord. No wonder the place of the test was named Massah (“Testing”) and Meribah (“Contention”)!
The episode at Massah and Meribah (Testing and Contention) was occassioned by thirst. But while the Lord intervened here through Moses, this event in the life of Israel in the desert has become something like a still image that is recalled in the history of salvation as an episode that should not happen again. Psalm 94 explicitly states:
“O that today you would listen to his voice!
Harden not your hearts as at Meribah
as on the day of Massah in the desert
when your fathers put me to the test
when they tried me, though they saw my work” (94:6-9)”
In the letter to the Hebrews 3:9-17, the apostle, quoting the above mentioned psalm, warns Christians not forsake the Lord and remain obedient to his word:
“Take care brothers that none of you may have an evil and unfaithful heart, so as to forsake the living God. Encourage yourselves daily while it is still “today” so that none of you may grow hardened by the deceit of sin.” (Heb 3:12-13)
The waters that the Lord gives to the Israelites is a symbol of his continuing presence among them (see. v. 7). But the lack of water — within the context of the episode –was also an invitation to the Israelites to remember not Egypt, but the God who has drawn them from the waters of the Red Sea into freedom.
See also: A Wellspring Gurgling Into Eternal Life
Update: February 18, 2005
From “Schede Bibliche Pastorali, I, p. 28, col. 2:
In the desert where there is no bread nor water (Nm. 21:5, 33:14) only the hope of the promised land, dreamt of as an oasis, sustains the Hebrew tribes in the course of the long march.
In addition, the itinerary in the desert was a testimony to God’s providential care since the Israelites were led to places where there was water from the Red Sea where they were saved (Ex. 14) to Mara where Moses made the waters drinkable (Ex. 15:22-26) and Elim, where they encamped (Ex. 15:27). And where there was no water, God was there to give them water from the Rock (Ex. 17:1-7)
Originally posted 2005-02-18 20:48:20. Republished by Blog Post Promoter
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