What do you choose — religion or life? God or God’s calling? Scarcity or abundant life?
Exodus 17:1-7 1 The whole Israelite community broke camp and set out from the Sin desert to continue their journey, as the Lord commanded. They set up their camp at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. 2 The people argued with Moses and said, “Give us water to drink.” Moses said to them, “Why are you arguing with me? Why are you testing the Lord?” 3 But the people were very thirsty for water there, and they complained to Moses, “Why did you bring us out of Egypt to kill us, our children, and our livestock with thirst?” 4 So Moses cried out to the Lord, “What should I do with this people? They are getting ready to stone me.” 5 The Lord said to Moses, “Go on ahead of the people, and take some of Israel’s elders with you. Take in your hand the shepherd’s rod that you used to strike the Nile River, and go. 6 I’ll be standing there in front of you on the rock at Horeb. Hit the rock. Water will come out of it, and the people will be able to drink.” Moses did so while Israel’s elders watched. 7 He called the place Massah and Meribah, because the Israelites argued with and tested the Lord, asking, “Is the Lord really with us or not?” (CEB)
[Scripture taken from the Common English Bible®, CEB® Copyright © 2010, 2011 by Common English Bible.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.]
[Image: “Creative Commons ‘Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.’ -Henry David Thoreau” by QuotesEverlasting is licensed under CC BY 2.0]
Lessons Learned Reflecting Upon Exodus 17:1-7
There are legends and myths that are passed down in every culture and every religion. This is one of them. Trying to re-write it makes no sense. The story is an extension of the manna saga. Everyone knows that you can’t cross wilderness territory on foot without water. So, finding water becomes mythologized as being the result of God’s miraculous action. The deeper meaning of the story, however, is found in the last line. Being faced with the miracle of life as journey into the unknown, the Israelites chose to quarrel and disrupt one another’s life. Raising a theological question (“Is the Lord among us or not?”) was more important than embracing life (abundant life) in the midst of their journey through the wilderness — choosing religion over life. Sounds like the church today! When we focus on the Caller instead of the calling, on Heaven instead of heaven-on-earth, on scarcity rather than abundant life in the midst of scarcity, then we are prey to the addiction of religion.
On the other hand, when we live without depending on God to rescue us, when we are the locus of love, when we move ahead confidently even in the midst of uncertainty and lack of knowledge, when we are co-creators locating the eternal in the midst of life, when we live in the freedom that comes from accepting responsibility, when we live with no plan B, then we will understand that
God comes as a calling, an insistence, an unheard inner voice challenging us. Every prior experience, every prior relationship, every prior understanding, helps shape the moment “in which I must resolutely decide the next step without any cosmic support.” There is no predetermined divine script that I am to follow. There is only the echo of experiences of the ages — namely, the divine mystery becomes real only in the act of befriending and loving the world and its inhabitants, when my life is expressed as embracing the world. If I can’t embrace the wilderness of my journey, as well as the rich times of celebration, then God has no reality and life is simply the theater of the absurd without hope or joy.