What’s the Story – Water from the Rock

Massah and Meribah, two names that will live in infamy!

Or maybe not.

While it seems that the portion of Exodus 17 became very important to the ancient Jews, Jesus and even later New Testament authors, these sights of infamous doubt and strife have largely faded from our collective religious memory. Could it be that we have somehow transcended the position of faith reflected in the tale? Or, is it more likely that the story hits too close to home.

The basic narrative is on in whihc the recently freed Hebrews “put God to the test” by complaining to Moses that they do not have enough water to drink. Moses conveys the complaint to God and God provides water from a rock. At its core, its a pretty simple story with a largely predictable result. This is basically a story of the Hebrew’s un-belief and God’s miraculous response.

What sticks out to me, though, that seems like it could be of great significance even in these late and dangerous days, is the specific typ of “un-belief” that the Hebrews are expressing. Note that they direct their criticism through Moses to God. This is not the unbelief of the atheist or even the agnostic. This is not the un-belief of the secular culture against which the contemporary church seems to be so often fighting. the un-belief of the Hebrews is one that says “we don’t believe God is on our side,” not simply, “we don’t believe in God.”

As I look around contemporary culture, I think this un-belief in the goodness of God is far more common than any simple secular atheism. It seems that lots of folks these days are willing to believe that there is something like God in our reality and this god-like being may have the kind of power and agency that’s the church claims. But the question remains, “what is the nature of this God?” Is it good for us? Is it good to us? Does God even care?

If I had a dollar for every time I’ve gotten this question over the years . . . I’d at least be able to pay my wordpress.com tab for a season or two.

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