Exodus 17: 1-7
1 From the wilderness of Sin 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. 2 The people quarrelled 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?’ 3 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?’ 4 So Moses cried out to the Lord, ‘What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me.’ 5 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. 6 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. 7 He called the place Massah and Meribah, because the Israelites quarrelled and tested the Lord, saying, ‘Is the Lord among us or not?’
Reflect: “Why did you bring us out of Egypt?”
Leaders have to field awkward questions. A soft answer might turn away anger, but Moses is unsure what to do; playing for time might be as faithless as the community, but praying for time is a faithful response. God advises Moses to make use of his colleague leaders, and to give the people a sign which will not only quench their thirst but remind them who alone can lead them safely.
In everyone’s life, “Why did you do this?” has to be changed to “Who was it who did this?”, thinking of God more than human leaders and human circumstances. Great in theory, but in practice a sign is invaluable for people who have still to learn how to think theologically.
Later, Moses would get into trouble for striking a situation instead of speaking into it (Numbers 20: 10-12). What wisdom we need to know which route to follow! And are the disgruntled hurting adults, needing listened to, or truculent children needing dealt with firmly?
Pray: Lord, guide those who lead our country and our churches, and guide those who advise them. Give us all discernment when others are complaining. And help us like Moses to take our complaints to the One who is the source of all wisdom, even our Lord Jesus Christ, Amen.