The Wild Places Bible Guide – 5
March 15, 2019
Friday, March 15
17 The whole Israelite community broke camp and set out from the Sin desert to continue their journey, as the Lord commanded. They set up their camp at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink.2 The people argued with Moses and said, “Give us water to drink.”
Moses said to them, “Why are you arguing with me? Why are you testing the Lord?”
3 But the people were very thirsty for water there, and they complained to Moses, “Why did you bring us out of Egypt to kill us, our children, and our livestock with thirst?”
4 So Moses cried out to the Lord, “What should I do with this people? They are getting ready to stone me.”
5 The Lord said to Moses, “Go on ahead of the people, and take some of Israel’s elders with you. Take in your hand the shepherd’s rod that you used to strike the Nile River, and go. 6 I’ll be standing there in front of you on the rock at Horeb. Hit the rock. Water will come out of it, and the people will be able to drink.” Moses did so while Israel’s elders watched.7 He called the place Massahand Meribah, because the Israelites argued with and tested the Lord, asking, “Is the Lord really with us or not?”
Points of Interest
- The trials of the wilderness continue, and again everybody but God is angry and stressed and up in arms. We’re not meant to stand apart, but see ourselves in this. The trouble and chaos of our wild places are not signs that our life has gone astray or is failing; they are signs that we are alive. Every life includes the chaos and hunger and need of the wilds.
- God works through Moses and his leadership team to provide water, water reminiscent of the abundance of the Nile. Just as we long for refreshment in our wild places, God longs to refresh. The New Testament (I Corinthians 10 3:4) creatively, mystically represents God’s regular refreshment in this rock, imagining the water-flowing rock following the people of God, and naming that rock to be Christ. Whatever the nature of our faith in or connection to Jesus, it’s meant to feel like steady water in the desert.
- Moses calls the place Testing and Quarreling (“Massah and Meribah”) because he remembers the stress of the arguments and the testing of his leadership. God calls this place The Mountain of the Sun (“Horeb” relates to the word for sun). A beautiful, mighty thing has happened here. Again, the power of perspective. What would it take for our very places of testing and quarreling be transfigured into seasons of beauty and light?
- As we continue in the wilderness narratives, we’ll note that we skipped a verse that foretold it would be like this for forty years. (Exodus 16:35 – “The Israelites ate manna for forty years, until they came to a livable land.”) The journey from Egypt to Canaan is not that far – it’s a multi-day trip, not the voyage of a lifetime. There’s a great deal of meaning to this forty-year span, just as there can be a myriad of ways of seeing the symbolism of our forty days of Lent. The scholar Wes Howard-Brook notes, “This length of time is a round number symbolizing both a lifetime and a pregnancy…. Manna, in this sense, is akin to amniotic fluid and mother’s milk. It comes directly from YHWH’s (the Hebrew name for God, translated “The Lord”) ‘body’, i.e. creation itself, to feed Israel in utero and while nursing.” (Come Out, My People, 150).
Could the troubles and opportunity of your own wild place be a microcosm for your while life? What is the gift God wants you to know in your life? What is the lesson God wants to teach you for you to pass on?
Could your current wild place, with all its troubles, also be a season of preparation for new birth? What life is God growing and nurturing in you, currently unseen, that in time may be yours to share with the world?
A Direction for Prayer
Pray that by any of your friends and family that are mired in long, joyless quarrels. Pray that God shines into this dynamic by shining light and providing help in whatever not-enough feeling or experience is behind the quarrel in the first place.
Spiritual Exercise of the Week
Honest Prayer and Requests for Encounter, Discovery, and Rescue – This week, you are invited to name a place in your life where you are out of your element, beyond your resources, or out of control. Tell God about this. How is it that you want to experience God’s faithful love with you? What do you hope to learn in this season? How is it that you would like God to rescue you?