A reading from the Book of Exodus
(These readings from Cycle A may be used on this Sunday)
When the Israelites escaped from Egypt, they entered a desert land that was hardly habitable. There was little food, so God provided manna and quail for the people to eat. In this passage, they are angry because there is no water, a complaint that seems reasonable in a climate that is 100 degrees with the sun beating down. Would you complain? I would.
So, the people test God (that is what Massah means) and quarrel with God (that is what Meriba means) and God comes through. Moses strikes a rock and water pours forth. Remember, this is a story filled with symbolism, so the staff with which Moses strikes the rock is the same staff that he used to part the water so the Israelites could cross the sea dry-shod and escape Pharoah’s army and slavery in Egypt. The question that the people were asking—“Is the Lord in our midst?”—was answered with a powerful “Yes!”
Sometimes, in our darkest, most challenging moments we may ask the same question. Where are you, God, to help me out in this tragedy, depression, betrayal, loss, illness, or worse? The answer is always the same. It is the promise that appears most often in the Hebrew scriptures and in the words and actions of Jesus, “I am with you.”
“If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.” This is not about hearing voices in your head. How do we really hear God’s voice? It is in prayer, listening to and reading the scriptures, and in our relationships with the people in our lives. We never know when God will speak to us through events and people. The key is listening with the heart as well as the ears.