And he called the name of the place Massah and Meribah, because of the quarreling of the people of Israel and because they tested the Lord by saying, “Is the Lord among us or not?”
So this is the last verse in this section of Exodus chapter 17. It tells the story of God’s people, who he just provided right before this story bread from heaven. When they were in need of food, God provided bread from heaven, manna to feed them on a daily basis.
Well, now they get to a place where they are in need of water and immediately they begin quarreling with Moses, that’s the word we see a couple different times in Exodus chapter 17, quarreling, complaining to Moses. And Moses said to them, this is back in verse two, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the Lord?”
And then verse three says, “But the people thirsted there for water, and the people grumbled against Moses and said, “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?” So here are God’s people. Again, remember the context. They’ve been delivered out of slavery in Egypt. They’ve been brought through the Red Sea on dry ground. When they were hungry, God has given them food from heaven. And now, as soon as they face a need for water, they’re grumbling and complaining, not trusting that God will provide for them.
It’s almost easy for us to look back at this story and think, “What were they thinking? Why didn’t they trust God?” But this is where we need to see a mirror of our own hearts and the tendency we all have to forget the faithfulness of God. And this is why, just like Exodus chapter 16 is quoted and referred to at different points in the Bible. The same thing happens within Exodus chapter 17. God intends for us to look back and learn from this story. I think about Hebrews chapter three, Psalm 95.
Let me read from Psalm chapter 95, verse seven. The Bible says later, “For he is our God and we are the people of his pasture and the sheep of his hand. Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as at Meribah, as on the day of Massah in the wilderness, when your fathers put me to the test and put me to the proof, though they had seen my work.” This is many years after Exodus, chapter 17. God is saying, “Remember those who went before you and didn’t trust me. They put me to the test. They hardened their hearts against me.” He said, “Don’t do that.” And the whole picture here in Psalm 95, verse seven, “For God is our shepherd and he is faithful to provide for his people, his sheep.”
So God, help us to learn today. I pray this over my life. I pray this over every single person listening right now. God, help us not to harden our hearts towards you. Help us not to ever put you to the test, to think that you will not provide, as you have promised to provide. God, we have seen over and over and over again in our lives, we see over and over again in your word your faithfulness to always provide for your people. So we say today with soft, humble hearts, before you, “We trust in you and we pray that you would help us to trust in you more. God, we pray that you would help our unbelief, help our faith in you to grow, that we might know you in deeper and deeper ways as the God who shepherds us faithfully. We are your sheep. We are the people of your pasture and you are such a good shepherd. We praise you for how you have faithfully shepherded your people for generation after generation after generation. And we praise you that you will be faithful to shepherd us today.
God, we pray through the details of our day, the details of tomorrow for each of us, we pray that you would shepherd us, lead us, guide us. As we need wisdom, we pray that you would grant wisdom. As we need comfort, we pray that you would grant comfort. As we need help, we pray that you would grant us help. As we need strength, we pray that you would grant us strength. And as we pray these things, we trust that you will be faithful to provide all the wisdom we need, all the comfort we need, all the help we need, all the strength we need, every single thing we need to do all that you have called us to do.
We praise you, oh God, as our faithful provider. Jesus, we praise you as the good shepherd, who has laid down your life for us, your sheep, that we might know you as our shepherd. We love you as our shepherd. And we pray all of this in Jesus’ name. Amen.