Then all the congregation of the children of Israel set out on their journey from the Wilderness of Sin, according to the commandment of the Lord, and camped in Rephidim; but there was no water for the people to drink. Therefore the people contended with Moses, and said, “Give us water, that we may drink.” (Exodus 17:1-2)
Just as Israel journeyed to Mount Sinai in stages — in other words, different campsites — I would suggest that there were different stages in their behavior and varying responses to their particular situation and condition. As it is with most of us, these different stages revealed their truer nature and, most importantly, God’s ability and willingness to provide.
Nevertheless, their murmurings are what is emphasized here and the fact that they, once again, tested the LORD to see if He could and would provide for them. It is peculiar they would think that, after saving them from Egypt and giving them manna to eat, He did so just to kill them and their children in the wilderness. Their bitterness toward Moses magnified their situation and, apparently, blocked their memory of miracles in their not-so-distant past, including the parting of the Sea. Their complaint is the equivalent of saying, “What have you done for me lately?”
It is unfortunate but true that this is a fairly common human trait. It is not exclusive to that generation of God’s people because all of us have witnessed it among His followers in our time. In fact, it is likely that we have all, at one time or another, been guilty of it ourselves. The fact of the matter is that, when subjected to a trying circumstance, the worst of us flows to the top and, usually, appears as selfishness and self-centeredness. It should not be so among those who follow Messiah. His example was one of selflessness and sacrifice. He preferred others before Himself and demonstrated that in the most dramatic fashion when He willingly surrendered His life that we — when we were still His enemy — might be ransomed.
We’ve all heard it said that, if we look around, we can find someone who has it worst than we do. And though we will all nod in agreement to that, we oftentimes fail to act in a way that acknowledges that. So then, let us consider the suffering of the Messiah and His example to us — He took the worst the enemy could unleash so that we would not have to suffer the eternal consequences of our rebellion. If we stay focused on that fact, perhaps we will be less likely to complain when our conditions are putting us to the test.
Blessings and Shalom,