They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.

More on the Third Test

Water from the Rock

Water from the Rock

The whole Israelite community set out from the Desert of Sin, traveling from place to place as the LORD commanded. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. So they quarreled with Moses and said, “Give us water to drink.”
Moses replied, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you put the LORD to the test?”

But the people were thirsty for water there, and they grumbled against Moses. They said, “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to make us and our children and livestock die of thirst?”

Then Moses cried out to the LORD, “What am I to do with these people? They are almost ready to stone me.”

The LORD answered Moses, “Walk on ahead of the people. Take with you some of the elders of Israel and take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. I will stand there before you by the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it for the people to drink.” So Moses did this in the sight of the elders of Israel. And he called the place Massah and Meribah because the Israelites quarreled and because they tested the LORD saying, “Is the LORD among us or not?”

— Exodus 17:1-7

I have previously written two lessons on the test at Rephidim so I will try not to duplicate the thoughts here. But, we learned more and more about this third test, so I wanted to write it down.

The Israelites, led by the cloud and pillar, set out from the wilderness of Sin and traveled from place to place. They camped at Rephidim; means “place of rest,” where I’m sure they expected to find water, but there was none. So, they got mad and grumbled (Kaveched) against Moses and said “Give us water to drink”! They had some pretty strong words against Moses and God, here. They stepped over the line into a much more delicate situation because now they are testing God! Unless you give us water, we want out! We don’t believe you, anymore. Vs. 7 says they said “Is the Lord among us or not?” We saw the cloud, we saw what you did in Egypt and the Red Sea and you said you’d go with us,” but now they are saying, we don’t believe you unless you show us! They are telling God, we won’t do our part unless you do yours and they raised their arm against God.

This obviously doesn’t sit well with God, but surprisingly, He doesn’t hit them with a lightning bolt! He has surprising patience with them, and does an amazing thing for them. He sends Moses on ahead to Mt. Sinai, which was probably at least a day’s walk and tells him to hit the mountain of God with his stick. He did not hit just some ordinary rock, he hit the mountain of God, as if God was saying, I’ll take the blow, I’ll take the hit for this one.” I’ll go ahead and send them water. The water ran down the ravine, a day or day and 1/2; back to the Israelite camp.

Some metaphors to apply to this story are:

  1. Life is moving from test to test
  2. Not every painful situation is a test
  3. In ea. test, seize the opportunity to show God how committed you are to Him. How deep is your commitment? Will you only commit, if he does His part first?
  4. Three times, He put Israel to the Test. Each time, some didn’t match up but for the most part they learned and grew.
  5. Testing has a purpose – like the birth of a child , or like an athlete training for a race or match-no pain, no gain.
  6. God seemed to punish the Hebrews for saying is God among us or not? , because the next story he lets the Amalekites attack them at Rephidim.

Test at Marah

Then Moses led Israel from the Red Sea and they went into the Desert of Shur. For three days they traveled in the desert without finding water. When they came to Marah, they could not drink its water because it was bitter. (That is why the place is called Marah. [a] ) So the people grumbled against Moses, saying, “What are we to drink?”

Then Moses cried out to the LORD, and the LORD showed him a piece of wood. He threw it into the water, and the water became sweet.

There the LORD made a decree and a law for them, and there he tested them. He said, “If you listen carefully to the voice of the LORD your God and do what is right in his eyes, if you pay attention to his commands and keep all his decrees, I will not bring on you any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians, for I am the LORD, who heals you.”

Then they came to Elim, where there were twelve springs and seventy palm trees, and they camped there near the water.
–Exodus 15:22-27

Oasis Well

Oasis Well

From the mountain top experience at the Red Sea, Moses and the pillar of cloud led the Israelites into the desert of Shur. For three days they traveled in the desert without finding water. Then they came to Marah, but could not drink the water because it was bitter. This was the first test the Israelites faced after putting their trust in God completely at the Red Sea, Ch 14:31. Here are a few things we learned while studying this wilderness test. First of all, this was a test that God deliberately brought them to. It’s not that they went there by mistake or deliberately went to the wrong place. God brought them to a well that wasn’t fit to drink after giving them no water for three days. In the desert, about two days worth of water is the most a person can carry. So, they were at the end of their rope when they got to this place. God was testing them, so they could have the experiential knowing of what was in their heart .How were they going to do on the test? He wanted them to see in action, what was in their heart; did they have the right attitude or not?

The Shepherd

The Shepherd

Also, it’s important to talk about the shepherd – sheep relationship here. “Like a flock”, He leads us. Sheep don’t have fanny packs on where they can be self-sufficient. They are counting on the shepherd to take them to the right spot, until He says, this is where you can graze; this is what you should eat. At times, God may want you to get hungrier and hungrier and not complain. The were counting on God to lead them and he did, just not in the way that they thought or wanted.

Another point to make was that the Israelites expected the water at Marah to be good water. They had walked for three days without water and finally found one well. There were hundreds of thousands of people wanting a drink, badly, and then the first person gets a drink and you can’t drink it. How many times in life are we in the same situation? We’re in a tough spot and we finally think something good is going to happen and then we are thrown back down again and we are forced to continue waiting. This is another opportunity to show God what’s in our heart.

The word “mara” is much more than what we have been taught. It is not just grumbling. It is a defiant, disobedient, deliberate, shout to God , shaking your fist at him- “No way! How can you do this to me??” The same word “mara” is used in Deut 21:18-20 – If you have a son who is “mara” (stubborn rebellious), take him to the city gate and stone him. In Ruth Ch. 1, Naomi changes her name to “Mara” and it’s more than just, “I’m sad”. She is defiant against God, she’s mad at him. So when the Israelites were “mara” they were defiant against God. They can’t believe God has put them in this situation.

When we are tested do we get defiant and mad at God or do we show God what’s in our heart? This test was their first learning experience and in a way they didn’t pass- they failed, miserably. But they also must have learned from their experience, because in the next story God leads them to Elim where there are twelve springs and 70 palms. 12 and 70 are numbers of completeness and community. This time they must have handled it the right way.

A p.s. to the Marah story is that in vs. 25-27, it says” He made a law and a decree with them there” and then they went to Elim. It doesn’t say what the law and decree was, so we are left to guess. Perhaps it had to do with community because of the 12 and 70 that they received at Elim.