As we enter into another period of our Covid journey we are faced again with the prospect of further restrictions. This is not what we would have wanted yet, I think we understand that it is what is needed at this time. How difficult it must be for our political leaders to make these calls. They know that they are going to disappoint thousands and thousands, yet they must make these difficult decisions for the good of the people of this country.
That, of course, does not stop people complaining and the noise of the low level grumbling is getting louder and louder. That reminds me very much of our Scripture reading for this week (Exodus Ch 17 vs 1-7) Here we again encounter the Israelites as the wandered through the wilderness on their way to the Promised Land.
Even though they had experienced God’s wonderful provision of quails and manna, they were still doubting his presence with them and complaining that they were being abandoned to die in the desert. They were thirsty. However, they did not put their trust in God to supply them, despite their previous experience of His wonderful provision.
Just like today’s situation, they turned their anger against their leaders. Moses and Aaron were vilified and were threatened by the crowd. Today we turn our anger upon the political leaders and although we don’t threaten to stone them (as with Moses and Aaron) we threaten removal from office.
That kind of behaviour – both that of the Israelites and the general public in modern times – shows little trust in God. Perhaps both sets of people would be better employed in praying to God to bring salvation instead of raging against the human leaders.
Moses was once again thrown into despair. I can only imagine how our leaders are at present but I would not be surprised to find that despair is never far away from their mental state at present. Moses, however knew what to do; he turned to the Lord and asked Him for guidance. Will our leaders do the same? I don’t know but I do fear that we put far too much faith in the ability of humans to solve the world’s problems.
Moses turned to God and God told him what to do. By striking a rock at Horeb he released water for the people. He named the place Test and Quarrel because the people had tested the Lord and quarrelled with their leaders. This name is quite significant because it tells us two things. One is that the Israelites were hard of heart and the second is that God is gracious because, in spite of being tested, he provided for the Israelites.
Hard of heart means that no matter what was done for them, they still grumbled. That had resonance all through their history. You can read what Paul had to say about it in 1 Cor Ch10 vs 1-13 and what the writer of the Hebrews added in Ch’s 3 and 4 of that book. It can be applied to people in the modern day too: no matter how hard leaders try, there are always people who will demand more.
We could easily call this passage from Exodus “The Grumbles of Humankind and the Grace of God”. God, despite the lack of faithfulness shown by His people, still reached out to provide for them. It is a passage that should resonate with us today. For many, there may be doubts as to where God is as we travel through this our wilderness experience.
It is a very human approach to doubt God’s presence when the going gets tough. However, if we do that, we are forgetting something very important. When God’s Son came to earth as a baby it was for a purpose and we read in Matthew Ch1 vs 22-23
“All this took place to fulfil what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet
Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son
And they shall name him Emmanuel”
Emmanuel – meaning God is with us.
God is with us in the person of Christ. We are never alone, never abandoned.
It is really important that we become familiar with and understand the words of Scripture that we might learn from them and take comfort in them.
So in this Covid wilderness time I would urge you to have faith in God and look to him for answers. Our God is gracious and loving so He will not abandon us but provide for us on our journey.
Let us try our best to turn from being a grumbling people to being a people of grace. Our world really needs the positivity of grace- filled people to help others bear the load of the challenges that Coronavirus brings.
With God’s help we can do it!
The Knot Prayer
Please undo the knots that are in my mind, my heart, and my life
Remove the have nots, cannots and the do nots
Erase the will nots, may nots, might nots that may find a home in my heart
Release me from the could nots, would nots, and should nots that obstruct my life
And most of all, dear God, I ask that you should remove from my mind, my heart, and my life all of the ‘am nots’ that I have allowed to hold me back. Especially the thought that I am not good enough
Rev Nik Wooller
4th October 2020