Then Moses cried out to the Lord, “What should I do with these people? They are ready to stone me!”
The Lord said to Moses, “Walk out in front of the people. Take your staff, the one you used when you struck the water of the Nile, and call some of the elders of Israel to join you. I will stand before you on the rock at Mount Sinai.[a] Strike the rock, and water will come gushing out. Then the people will be able to drink.” So Moses struck the rock as he was told, and water gushed out as the elders looked on.
Moses named the place Massah (which means “test”) and Meribah (which means “arguing”) because the people of Israel argued with Moses and tested the Lord by saying, “Is the Lord here with us or not?” Exodus 17:4-7 NLT
Moses wasn’t immune from the abuse of slavery that affected his people. Though the Scriptures don’t tell us much about his early life,, there are some hints that it wasn’t a bed of roses. We know he had a speech impediment, possibly a stutter, which may have been a result of traumatic events in his childhood.
Though he grew up in Pharaoh’s palace, he witnessed the harsh treatment of his people. He was taught to look the other way, which in itself is a form of abuse. Children who are forced to watch one parent abuse another parent often have as much healing to do as a child who is beaten themselves.
One day Moses saw this mistreatment up close and personal, causing something in him to snap. He lashed out in anger, killing an Egyptian taskmaster who tormented an Israelite slave. In fear he fled to the wilderness, where God directed him to Jethro who took him in.
Though we don’t hear much about his healing process, we know it took God 40 years to work with Moses in the wilderness before he was ready to return to Egypt. God used the process of shepherding to teach Moses the lessons of trust and then of leadership as he kept the sheep for his father-in-law Jethro.
But Moses still had issues, even after seeing the burning bush and going back to Egypt to lead his people out of slavery. His issues weren’t so much with God or his power. He had trouble with patience. The attitude of his people mirrored his own impatient spirit.
It would appear that at Rephidim, God was trying to teach the entire nation not only to trust him, but to trust the healing process. He instructed Moses to take his staff and go to the Rock where God’s presence was waiting. We are reminded that this was the same staff that God used to demonstrate his power to the elders of Israel and them to Pharaoh to prove God had sent Moses to deliver the people. First it turned into a writhing snake when he cast it down. Later he struck the Nile, signaling the beginning of the plagues against Egypt, turning the water into blood. Moses held it aloft at the Red Sea and the waters parted. It bolstered Moses’ confidence to hold that staff in his hand because it was a tangible reminder to him of God’s power.
The Lord told Moses to take that staff and gather the people. He was to call the elders out so they would witness God’s power and Moses’s authority up close, reinforcing the idea of trust once again – not only trust in God, but in their leader. It also reinforced Moses’ trust in the God who led him as he led the people to wholeness.
God’s presence rested on that rock at Rephidim, yet Moses was told to strike it with his staff. It was a strong visual to Moses and the Israelites of how his impatience in the process and their continuing inability to trust hurt the Lord, but his presence still provided what they needed because he cared for them.
The Lord often uses wounded healers to guide those who are suffering from similar issues. You see, the healing process isn’t always about us as individuals, but about healing a “nation” of people. God continues to work in the life of the healer or leader, just as he is working in the lives of those who follow so that one day they can become the leaders, mentors or healers who trust him.
This is the trademark of our God and his power! He has the ability to work ALL things together for good and for wholeness – at the same time. We often are hurting so badly, we only see what he’s doing in us.
Take a look around you. Where do you see yourself in this process? And what is God doing in the lives of others as well as your own as you heal?