At the Lord’s command, the whole community of Israel left the wilderness of Sin and moved from place to place. Eventually they camped at Rephidim, but there was no water there for the people to drink. So once more the people complained against Moses. “Give us water to drink!” they demanded.
“Quiet!” Moses replied. “Why are you complaining against me? And why are you testing the Lord?”
But tormented by thirst, they continued to argue with Moses. “Why did you bring us out of Egypt? Are you trying to kill us, our children, and our livestock with thirst?” Exodus 17:1-3 NLT
When you attended school as a youngster, did you wake up with an upset stomach on test days? Or did you stay up late cramming facts into your tired brain with the hope that you’d looked at the right information? As an adult, do tests make you feel like you’re standing outside in the pouring rain, alone and miserable?
The process of testing is a necessary part of education because it helps the teacher to assess how and what the student is learning. It also shows the student areas where he may need help of extra instruction (if he or she wants it LOL!) It may not be fun, but it is necessary.
God tests people too, especially during the healing process. And oh – how we resist his tests, kicking and screaming!
It was important that the Israelites learned to trust him because he knew the road ahead would be more difficult. There would be new and bigger challenges as they left the wilderness and approached lands where established nations lived.
The Israelites would ultimately have to fight to regain control of their lands since they’d been gone for 400 years. But because of slavery and abuse, they were nowhere near ready for that. They needed to relearn the most basic lessons – and God needed to assess their progress. No, not for his sake, of course, but to show them how far they still needed to go.
He led them to Rephidim – a test at the end of the unit on “Trust 101.” It might seem a little unfair that God would purposely put them in a place where there was no water, AGAIN. But remember, God’s presence was still close to them in a very real way through the cloud by day and the fire by night. They were still receiving quail each evening and manna each morning. All they had to do was ask and God would supply their need for water!
In spite of the daily miracles they saw, they reverted back to their old way of coping – they began to complain to Moses. In effect, they were saying, “Take away our pain! Why are you continuing to hurt us? Haven’t we suffered enough?”
Notice, however, they didn’t complain against God. Apparently they had learned a little about his power.
Healing from abuse, from the unfairness of life or from the effects of sin can be painful. We might even forget that his presence is very close to us through the process. The first thing we tend to say is Lord, take away the pain. Yet what if that very pain is the catalyst to help us understand who God is and his love for us – drawing us to a realization of how close he is?
Laura Story wrote a song called, “Blessings” which won her a Grammy for the best Christian song of 2012. Yet the words for that song came out of severe testings as her young husband battled with a brain tumor. Through the emotional pain, the couple learned to redefine their relationship with the Lord. They learned that blessings aren’t just feel-good gifts from the Lord. They may be lessons that leave us stronger and better equipped for our wilderness journey to the Promised Land so we may be whole again in body, soul and spirit.
What if the tests, the rain, the storms of life are God’s blessings in disguise?
Have you experienced this kind of testing? Perhaps you feel it’s unfair or unloving for God to test us so harshly when all we want is relief from the pain. What do you feel when you hear Laura’s song?