I was reading this morning the account of the Israelites finding themselves thirsty and miserable in the desert of Zin (hmm… could have been the Wilderness of Sin?)…wishing they were dead, blaming Moses for their plight, looking back to Egypt as if it had been Eden. “Why have you made us come up out of Egypt to bring us to this evil place?” No grain, no figs, no vines, no pomegranates, AND no water to drink.
Did they think to ask for water?
“Ye have not, because ye ask not.” James 4:2
It seems so obvious when I read their story. All they had to do was ask. God had brought them here. He would take care of them. He was orchestrating the paths of their lives to give them opportunity to see His power at work on their behalf. Avoiding the desert wasn’t the point. Knowing God in the desert was. He wanted them to know Him, to trust Him, to see His goodness and to love Him.
Instead they complained about their ‘misfortunes’, they blamed Moses’ leadership, and they entertained thoughts of returning to bondage! All these reactions were characteristic of their underlying problem: They failed to trust God. Their hearts were hard toward the One who had promised to be all they would ever need—the Great I AM. He was the only One who could bring them safely through this wilderness into the land of plenty and of rest. Instead of hanging onto Him for dear life, they clung to their own notions of what life should be and complained and resisted and dreamed of relief from this awful desert God had led them into!
Their refusal to believe that God was with them and for them and committed to doing them good all their days, cost them dearly. Their generation would never reach the Promised Land; (only their children would live to see it). They would never rest in plenty and in peace. They would never know lasting joy.
Their hard hearts kept them wandering for a lifetime in the wilderness as one by one they died there. Pre-occupied with their discomfort and consumed with discontent, they failed to understand that God was training their hearts to trust Him, always, in everything. They thought much of themselves and very little of God; trusting their own thoughts, they ignored His. A people ‘who go astray in their heart, and [who] have not known my ways.’ was God’s evaluation of them. (Ps.95)
But God did not abandon them to die of thirst. Nor did He wait for them to ask for water (or they may have died of thirst!) He instructed Moses: Get everybody together to watch. Take your staff with you, and your brother, Aaron. And “Tell the rock to yield its water”. (Numbers 20:8)
Simple. Talk to the rock. Again the people would see God act on their behalf. Again they would have opportunity to know their God and to trust Him.
Unfortunately, Moses strikes the rock instead of talking to it and foregoes living to enter the Promised Land himself. But God does provide for His people. There is water for everyone.
The significance of this incident at the ‘waters of Meribah’ becomes clearer in the New Testament. For that rock symbolized God himself in the person of His Son. He invites, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” Jn.7:37,38
God’s answer for all we need is in Jesus, the ‘spiritual Rock’ from which we are to drink all our lives. (I Cor.10:4) In Him our roots are to sink down deep and draw up the water of salvation. (Col.2:6) We were never meant to out grow our need of Him, only to grow up in Him as our roots grow down to abide in His love. From Him will come our life as His Spirit produces in us what we are helpless to produce ourselves.
We aren’t destined to thrash about complaining in a wilderness of unbelief—following wherever our thoughts may lead us. We can talk to the Rock, yielding our thoughts to His and trusting Him to meet us in our need, whatever it may be.
And right here, right now, in the process of writing this post, I too see doubts and fears and raw unbelief in my own heart. I may not be in a wilderness parched with thirst and thinking I’m about to die, but I know thoughts that rise laced with panic… “What’s going to happen to_______.” And I thrash about in my mind considering options…what to do. what to say. how to solve this problem. how to answer that query for counsel… ‘What is the Lord doing? Why has it come to this? What now?’ I too doubt. I too give more credence to my own thoughts sometimes than to His! And I too need to come to the Rock and trust that here is all I need for life and godliness…right now, in the Rock.
Hear my cry, O God, listen to my prayer; from the end of the earth I call to you when my heart is faint. Lead me to the rock that is higher than I, for you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the enemy. Ps.61:1-3
“His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us to his own glory and excellence…” II Pet.1:3
You are complete (fulfilled, filled up) in Him. Col.2:10
"Who led thee through that great and terrible wilderness, wherein were fiery serpents, and scorpions, and drought, where there was no water; who brought thee forth water out of the rock of flint; Who fed thee in the wilderness with manna, which thy fathers knew not, that he might humble thee, and that he might prove thee, to do thee good at thy latter end;” Deut.8:15,16
Oh come, let us sing to the LORD; let us make a joyful noise to the ROCK of our salvation!…For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand.” Ps.95:1,7
This God--his way is perfect; the word of the LORD proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him. For who is God, but the LORD? And who is a rock, except our God? Ps.18:30-31
“Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full.” Jn.16:24
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