Doubting God (Exodus 17:1-7)
Charles Simeon once said, “The whole of a man’s pilgrimage on earth is but a succession of trials and deliverances.” In fact, God ordains it to be this way because it is for our greatest good (Romans 5:3ff). This was certainly the case with the Israelites in the book of Exodus. As soon as one trouble passes in the wilderness (i.e. bitter water at Marah made sweet), it resurfaces, and this time even darker still (i.e. not just bitter water, but no water at all!).
No worries, though, right? They have seen God work in these circumstances before, and they will certainly turn their hearts to Him in faith, trusting in His faithfulness to provide what they need for sustenance, won’t they? Unfortunately, that is not the case. Just like so many times before, they grumble (v. 3; c.f. Ex 14:11-12; 15:24; 16:2-3, 28). In their minds, the people were aiming their disgust at Moses, but Moses makes certain to them that their real argument was with God.
Demanding Provision (verses 1-2)
First, the Israelites demanded of God through Moses, “Give us water that we may drink” (v. 2). They did not ask God to provide and they were not content to wait on Him to provide. Instead, they insisted on Him providing. When God did not give them what they thought He ought to give them, they essentially told God He must give them what they want “or else.”
Denying Protection (verses 3-6)
Second, they denied His protection by questioning, “Why, now, have you brought us up…to kill us?” (v. 3). They were assuming the worst about God. They went so far as to conclude that God had completely abandoned them, leaving them for dead. When we complain about what God is doing in our lives—the hardships and the sufferings—we are denying His protection. In fact, complaining is actually accusing God of lying. It is accusing Him of breaking His covenant with us.
Doubting Presence (verse 7)
Third, they doubted God’s presence by asking, “Is the Lord among us, or not?” (v. 7). If things didn’t happen in the manner they desired, they assumed that God was not among them. It almost seems impossible that the Israelites could respond in this kind of manner given their recent history. God had heard their cries and come to their rescue in Egypt, and yet, they now wondered, “Is God really with us?” It was their forgetfulness of God’s past provision that led them to now doubt His presence. The remedy for discontentment and dissatisfaction is remembering what God has done.
The Israelites were putting God to the test. Of course, that is a ridiculous notion, but God went along with their despicable plan and gave them the hearing they longed for. And by doing so, He taught them about His salvation. He submits Himself to judgment—not the judgment of the people, but His own judgment: “I will stand before you there on the rock… [S]trike the rock” (v. 6). By that strike, His people are satisfied. Christ is the Rock that was struck with the judgment of God, so that “By His stripes, we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5; 1 Corinthians 10:4). The water from the rock in Exodus alleviated their thirst that day, but the spiritual supply of grace that flows from the true Rock satisfies thirst in such a way that those who drink will never thirst again!
- The behavior of the Israelites exposes that they are not satisfied in God. When we grumble and complain, it reveals this same dissatisfaction in us. Our dissatisfaction and discontentment in life reveal that we are ultimately disappointed in God and what He has given us. It is good and right for us to take our troubles to God in prayer, but it is wrong for us to revolt against His authority and His will by refusing to trust Him. How does this truth affect the way you view grumbling or complaining? When hardships come, do you take your requests to God in trust, or do you tend to resort to complaining and grumbling in distrust?
- When we are in need of provision, protection, and His presence, we should remember and recount all the ways that He has provided, protected, and been with us up to this point. He has been our provider, protector and our ever-present help! In what ways have you seen God provide, protect, and show His kind presence toward you? How does that affect the way you approach your current trials or hardships?
- Christ, the true Rock, was struck so that we might drink of Him and be forever satisfied. What are some of the spiritual blessings that flow to us through Him? Are you drinking of Him today through faith and repentance?