God is good, all the time; and all the time, God is good. But, I wonder if too often we don’t truly understand what “good” means. Could it be possible that our loving heavenly Father would lead us somewhere where our needs cannot be met? Would He truly bring us to a place where there is no water, no food, and no way to provide for them?
Then all the congregation of the sons of Israel journeyed by stages from the wilderness of Sin, according to the command of the LORD, and camped at Rephidim, and there was no water for the people to drink. Therefore the people quarreled with Moses and said, “Give us water that we may drink.” And Moses said to them, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the LORD?” But the people thirsted there for water; and they grumbled against Moses and said, “Why, now, have you brought us up from Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?”(Exodus 17:1-3 NASB)
Notice that the people moved along, from place to place, at the command of the LORD. Literally, they pulled up stakes and encamped as the mouth of Yahweh. Either way, clearly, Yahweh, their Deliverer, Redeemer, and Savior led them to a place without water. Sure, they were being fed with manna, and quail. Yet, without water all that food is pointless.
On the other hand, there is no natural explanation for the manna. They called it “manna” because that means, “what is it?” in Hebrew. There was nothing like it before, or since. Yahweh did something that enforced their dependence upon Him for their food. Why, then, would they assume that the powerful Yahweh could produce miracle food, but not water?
The answer lies in verse 3, “But the people thirsted there for water…” Yahweh, the provider of food, led them to a place without water, and let them go without until they were thirsty. He didn’t immediately meet their need. Think through that for a second. We assume we know what it means for God to be “good”, yet does your definition of “good” include Him leading you to where there is no way to meet your need, and letting you go without for a while?
That’s the problem with reading this passage so quickly. It sounds so familiar. Of course the sons of Israel would test Yahweh. They were obstinate and rebellious. But wouldn’t you be rebellious if you were led to a waterless wasteland, and were left thirsty? We are so quick to point fingers at the people of Israel, and criticize them for how they behaved with the miracle-working Yahweh. Yet, do we learn from them? Do we see ourselves in these people, so much a part of the world? How well do we do when we can’t see the provision of our Savior for our daily bread?
In order to learn the lesson of Exodus, we must be willing to see ourselves as the people of Israel. We have to stop criticizing them for their sin, and repent of our own. God has a point He was making back when this book was penned. He had a point He was making when the events actually happened. And He has a point for us today. We miss that point when we see these passages as ancient and having no value to us today.
The truth is, we also see our circumstances and question God. We test our God to see if He is truly with us. We quarrel, we murmur, we push back at those our King has placed over us, questioning whether they are valid, whether the message they carry is true, in effect, whether Yahweh is with us. As it was true then, so remains: Yahweh leads us to places without water, and allows us to thirst. We may test Him, or we may allow Him to test us. We can choose to believe that the Savior who allows us to thirst remains good, all the time.
Are you thirsty? Are you lacking a need? Is there something you expected your Savior to provide, but which He has allowed you to go without? How will you respond? How will you choose to either test your Savior, or permit Him to test you? What will it mean for you to allow your King to test you? And what will you do to “pass” His test?