13 November 2014

Exodus 17:1-7

“What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me.” (v. 4)


If you have ever had to deal with adolescent children you may have an inkling of how Moses was feeling. If not, let me give you an example. I hear my son saying, "Dad, can we go out". Who am I to refuse? So I plan a trip to the museum.

"But Dad! It's boring."
"But you wanted to go out?"
"Yes, but not here, its naff." (or whatever else slang is currently being used)

And it goes on. Parents often feel they can't get anything right and children agree.

To return to the passage, the Hebrews had wanted to be released from slavery in Egypt. You will remember the story that gives its name to this book, that of the Exodus. They had crossed the Red Sea, or as some have it, 'The Sea of Reeds'. Surely this was what they wanted? But the reality of the wilderness in which they found themselves was harsh. They felt hungry. They argued and quarrelled, and wished themselves back in captivity. But there was an answer. They were offered a diet - rations of quails and manna. There was plenty to keep them from starving, sufficient for each succeeding day and double rations at the weekend to save them collecting on the Sabbath. But there was never too much. What more could they want?

It was not long before they were back complaining to Moses again: "Why did you bring us out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and livestock with thirst?" (v. 3)

And I guess that, like a harassed parent, even though he recognised their need, Moses was at the end of his tether and felt, perhaps literally, that if he couldn't respond he was likely to be stoned. He was not just dealing with disquiet, but a distinct lack of faith, "because the Israelites quarrelled and tested the Lord, saying, 'Is the Lord among us or not?'" (v. 7)

To Ponder

  • Have you ever had to deal with difficult people? How did you manage?
  • Have you ever felt your acts of faith have led you into situations where you doubted God? What was it like? And what did you do?

Bible notes author

The Revd Andrew Pratt

Andrew is a Methodist supernumerary presbyter, Honorary Research Fellow at Luther King House, Manchester, and author. He has written over 1,300 hymns.