Exodus, Chapter 17

Tuesday, June 23


Exodus, Chapter 17


Testing and Quarrelling

The Bible often reveals the God who is more real than our attempts at piety. Think of Jesus, shocking the most religious people of his day by associating with sinners and outcasts. Think of the LORD God, answering every complaint of the Israelites as they grumble through the wilderness.

This actually sounds something like Moses’ conversation with the LORD at a burning bush. With every word God speaks, Moses comes up with doubts, excuses, and hesitation. Each time, God answers Moses’ concerns and makes provision, so that he can fulfill his calling.

Here in the wilderness of Sin, it’s the turn of all the people to go at it with Moses, grumbling about their thirst, complaining about being brought out of Egypt. An exasperated Moses turns to the LORD, who answers their concerns and makes provision: “I will be standing there in front of you . . . water will come out, so that the people may drink.”

Apparently, God is not looking only for people who are perfectly composed, never complaining, always calm. Neither does God raise up as leaders only those who never get frustrated, never lose their cool. Rather, God reveals himself as faithful in provision and unyielding in love with people who lose their composure, start bickering, and want to quit.

In fact, this relationship between God and his people gets cemented exactly in such circumstances, in such places as the wilderness of Sin (ignore the name – it’s a coincidence). In Deuteronomy 8, Moses says that God led the Israelites in the wilderness “in order to humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commandments.” Only by such testing would they come to know that “one does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.”

Grumbling doesn’t mean the end. Frustration doesn’t mean it’s quitting time. No, it’s proving time. It’s the time when God shows that he is reliable, and we show our trust in his promises. Keep walking. Keep praying, even if your prayers include complaints. God isn’t offended; God is giving us growth in faith.


Faithful God, thank you for reminding us of our own humanity, and of your righteousness. Spare us from false piety, or politeness, or pretense. Deliver us into real life, real relationship, real calling. Empower us to stick together with you, one another, and the world you are redeeming through Christ. Amen.


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