19 March 2017
Tormented by thirst, the people complained against Moses. ‘Why did you bring us out of Egypt?’ they said. ‘Was it so that I should die of thirst, my children too, and my cattle?’
Moses appealed to the Lord. ‘How am I to deal with this people?” he said. ‘A little more and they will stone me!’ the Lord said to Moses, ‘Take with you some of the elders of Israel and move on to the forefront of the people; take in your hand the staff with which you struck the river, and go. I shall be standing before you there on the rock, at Horeb. You must strike the rock, and water will flow from it for the people to drink.’ This is what Moses did, in the sight of the elders of Israel. The place was named Massah and Meribah because of the grumbling of the sons of Israel and because they put the Lord to the test by saying, ‘Is the Lord with us, or not?’
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, by faith we are judged righteous and at peace with God, since it is by faith and through Jesus that we have entered this state of grace in which we can boast about looking forward to God’s glory. And this hope is not deceptive, because the love of God has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit which has been given us. We were still helpless when at his appointed moment Christ died for sinful men. It is not easy to die even for a good man – though of course for someone really worthy, a man might be prepared to die – but what proves that God loves us is that Christ died for us while we were still sinners.
Jesus came to the Samaritan town called Sychar, near the land that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well is there and Jesus, tired by the journey, sat straight down by the well. It was about the sixth hour. When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, ‘Give me a drink.’ His disciples had gone into the town to buy food. The Samaritan woman said to him, ‘What? You are a Jew and you ask me, a Samaritan, for a drink?’ – Jews, in fact, do not associate with Samaritans. Jesus replied:
‘If you only knew what God is offering
and who it is that is saying to you:
Give me a drink, you would have been the one to ask,
and he would have given you living water.’
‘You have no bucket, sir,’ she answered ‘and the well is deep: how could you get this living water? Are you a greater man than our father Jacob who gave us this well and drank from it himself with his sons and his cattle?’ Jesus replied:
‘Whoever drinks this water
will get thirsty again;
but anyone who drinks the water that I shall give
will never be thirsty again:
the water that I shall give
will turn into a spring inside him,
welling up to eternal life.’
‘Sir,’ said the woman ‘give me some of that water, so that I may never get thirsty and never have to come here again to draw water.’ ‘Go and call your husband’ said Jesus to her ‘and come back here.’ The woman answered, ‘I have no husband.’ He said to her, ‘You are right to say, “I have no husband”; for although you have had five, the one you have now is not your husband. You spoke the truth there.’ ‘I see you are a prophet, sir’ said the woman. ‘Our fathers worshipped on this mountain, while you say that Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship.’ Jesus said:
‘Believe me, woman,
the hour is coming
when you will worship the Father
neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.
You worship what you do not know;
we worship what we do know:
for salvation comes from the Jews.
But the hour will come
– in fact it is here already –
when true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth:
that is the kind of worshipper the Father wants.
God is spirit,
and those who worship
must worship in spirit and truth.’
The woman said to him, ‘I know that Messiah – that is, Christ – is coming; and when he comes he will tell us everything.’ ‘I who am speaking to you,’ said Jesus ‘I am he.’
At this point his disciples returned, and were surprised to find him speaking to a woman, though none of them asked, ‘What do you want from her?’ or, ‘Why are you talking to her?’ The woman put down her water jar and hurried back to the town to tell the people. ‘Come and see a man who has told me everything I ever did; I wonder if he is the Christ?’ This brought people out of the town and they started walking towards him.
Meanwhile, the disciples were urging him, ‘Rabbi, do have something to eat; but he said, ‘I have food to eat that you do not know about.’ So the disciples asked one another, ‘Has someone been bringing him food?’ But Jesus said:
‘My food is to do the will of the one who sent me,
and to complete his work.
Have you not got a saying:
Four months and then the harvest?
Well, I tell you:
Look around you, look at the fields;
already they are white, ready for harvest!
Already the reaper is being paid his wages,
already he is bringing in the grain for eternal life,
and thus sower and reaper rejoice together.
For here the proverb holds good:
one sows, another reaps;
I sent you to reap a harvest you had not worked for.
Others worked for it;
and you have come into the rewards of their trouble.’
Many Samaritans of that town had believed in him on the strength of the woman’s testimony when she said, ‘He told me all I have ever done’, so, when the Samaritans came up to him, they begged him to stay with them. He stayed for two days, and when he spoke to them many more came to believe; and they said to the woman, ‘Now we no longer believe because of what you told us; we have heard him ourselves and we know that he really is the saviour of the world.’
… They put the Lord to the test by saying, ‘Is the Lord with us, or not?’
Isn’t the grumbling of the Israelites against Moses, and chiefly against God, something so familiar today? Grumbling is a rather universal response of having to grow up – being made to do things against your will, things of inconvenience or difficulty that may or may not actually really be good for you. The only way to know is to stick around and overcome the challenges in order to grow in maturity and humility.
In our daily lives, we grumble about many things – the trains repeatedly breaking down at rush hour, water price surges, a delayed bus, being waylaid by a boss’ last minute work request. These complaints might come across as ungrateful when compared to the tormenting thirst and desert wilderness of the wandering Israelites. Yet, the Exodus reading today tells us the Israelites had committed the sin of putting God to the test. I could not understand this until I read a few chapters back to where they had just come from – a narrow escape from generations of slavery in Egypt!
God had led them through the Red Sea. He provided them with twelve springs and seventy palm trees in the land of Elim (Exodus 15), and the abundant ‘rain’ of manna and quail in the Desert of Sin (Exodus 16). Every time the Israelites faced a season of drought or famine, they grumbled and whined that Moses should have left them in the land of Egypt, where at least they had their fill of food and water. Each time, Moses had turned to God and He had mercifully provided for more than the present needs of these pilgrim-wanderers. Yet, we witness another tirade of doubting the Lord!
The questions the Israelites posed, essentially taunting Moses with “Is the Lord with us, or not?” is probably rhetorical at that time of their impatience and arrogance. I cannot help but sense sarcasm too – “Why did you bring us out of Egypt? Was it so that I should die of thirst, my children too, and my cattle?”
Each chapter of their desert exile was a story of deliverance out of suffering and doubt. Yet, they habitually forgot to remember the immense goodness of God. I am not so different today, sitting at my desk and reflecting on these scriptures. It is so very easy to harden my heart to God’s voice. Though each season of my own faith challenges, a fork in life’s path or trials at work might look different from the past, God’s love and saving grace never changes. The problem I’ve realized here is that sometimes, my “Are you there, God? – It’s me, Margaret” question isn’t asked in humility; but in defiance, entitlement, even demand. In short — such flawed arrogance.
This is vastly different from the question and attitude in which the Samaritan woman asked Jesus: “Are you a greater man than our father Jacob who gave us this well and drank from it himself with his sons and cattle?” She asks in order to listen, to understand, and to wait upon Jesus’ answer. God has clearly continued to provide for and deliver the descendants of the Israelites and Samaritans alike, including taking care of what they need for food and drink (c.f. Matt 5:45; 6: 24-34).
In my Lenten journey this year, I feel challenged to grow up in humility and patience to discover the depth of purpose God has for me when I am made to wait, struggle, feel inadequate, experience loneliness, lose my motivation, endure hopeless circles of confusion in my work. If I am listening well – and I want to listen humbly – I can hear Him whisper: I am always with you. This desert can still be everything good for me because I have Jesus here.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)
Prayer: Lord, I pray for your grace to open my heart and spirit to the enduring truth and evidence of your goodness for me. Help me to listen and remember.
Thanksgiving: Thank you for never hardening your heart to me, even as I have often hardened mine to you.