Ascension Lutheran Church

Calgary, AB

Third Sunday in Lent

Exodus 17:1-7

[1] From the wilderness of Sin the whole congregation of the Israelites journeyed by stages, as the Lord commanded. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. [2] The people quarreled with Moses, and said, “Give us water to drink.” Moses said to them, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the Lord?” [3] But the people thirsted there for water; and the people complained against Moses and said, “Why did you bring us out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and livestock with thirst?” [4] So Moses cried out to the Lord, “What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me.” [5] The Lord said to Moses, “Go on ahead of the people, and take some of the elders of Israel with you; take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. [6] I will be standing there in front of you on the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it, so that the people may drink.” Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel. [7] He called the place Massah and Meribah, because the Israelites quarreled and tested the Lord, saying, “Is the Lord among us or not?”

One of the gifts of Lent is that it can serve as a mini-laboratory for our life of faith. Through 40 days we struggle with our Lenten disciplines, learn how to face and deal with our shortcomings, hopefully learning lessons and growing in faith which will serve us when confronted with bigger challenges. Learning how to handle little temptations gives us skills to overcome larger ones. Failing at small disciplines, getting up and trying again, is good practice for how to handle larger failures.

So too, experiencing the gracious provision of God in little things over Lent, should give us confidence to expect and trust God to provide for us in bigger circumstances. But this requires memory and trust. Remembering and recounting God’s acts of faith, trusting that as He provided in the past He will do so in the future.

The Israelites had trouble with this. To be fair, people generally tend to focus on the negative rather than the positive. We can have nine good things happen to us, but will catch ourselves focusing on the one thing that went wrong.

The Israelites had seen the power of God in delivering them from slavery in Egypt, parting the Red Sea and destroying the Egyptian army and crossing the wilderness God daily provided manna (bread from heaven) and quail for them to eat (Exodus 16). Yet when they reach a place with seemingly no water, rather than remember how God had provided all they needed in the past, they fixate on the lack of water now and quarrel with Moses—as if God had done all of this, simply to let them die of thirst.

How often do we do exactly the same thing? Ignore the many and various examples of God’s provision for us in our past, and instead focus on the challenge in front of us and assume the very worst will happen rather than trust God to provide as He has in the past?

Just because we are unable see how God will work, doesn’t mean He can’t or won’t. Lent provides us with the opportunity to practice remembering God’s faithfulness in the face of challenges and resting in His promises rather than our anxieties.