26 June 2013

Deuteronomy 6:16-25

“Do not put the Lord your God to the test, as you tested him at Massah.” (v. 16)


For over 400 years, the Israelites had been subjected to slavery. But then, the Lord brought them out of Egypt with a mighty hand, displaying before their very eyes great and awesome signs and wonders against Egypt, against Pharaoh and all his household (verses 21-22)!

God's people had been led by a pillar of cloud by day and fire by night, through the Red Sea and across the wilderness, towards Mount Sinai where they would worship God and receive instruction. Their last stop before Mount Sinai was Rephidim, but they were thirsty and there was no water. The people quarreled with their leader and deliverer, Moses, demanding "give us water to drink" (Exodus 17:1-7). Moses replied, "why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the Lord?" Then God told Moses to take his staff and strike the rock at Horeb and water would come out of it. Moses obeyed and water came out of the rock. He called the place Massah because the Israelites quarreled and tested the Lord, saying, "Is the Lord among us or not?" Their complaint was taken as a direct challenge to the leadership of both of God and Moses.

Today's passage begins by recalling that scene. There are two things to notice here, firstly, the Israelites had recently witnessed incredible acts of deliverance, yet they quickly forgot when they found themselves in need again. The expectation that God would act for them had quickly become their automatic right! The second thing to notice, is that the Scripture tells the Israelites that the best way to counter their tendency to complain and test God was to continue to tell stories of God's faithful intervention. Their testimony would cultivate trust and expectancy in a God who would go on meeting their needs in mercy. Giving testimony was the way God wanted Israel to stay thankful, positive and hopeful. To live by faith; trusting that when their need was great, God would act in love, without plea.

To Ponder

  • Do you think God would have provided water if the Israelites had not complained, but simply waited patiently? Why?
  • How do you test God?
  • What are you complaining about? Are you trying to get God to act? Is there a better way?

Bible notes author

Jonathan Green

Jonathan Green has a background in church planting, especially with 18-45s in an urban context. Formerly a pastor in the Vineyard movement of churches, he was on the ministerial team at Methodist Central Hall, Westminster for five years.