Lenten Season Meditation Based on Exodus 17:1-7
Lenten Season Meditation Exodus 17:1-7
In the story in Exodus 17 we get to see how God’s people sometimes act. The Israelites had been set free from their slavery. For 430 years, they had labored and suffered under the cruel rule of the Egyptians. Their cry for compassion and justice is heard by God alone who acts in their behalf. It is only through the merciful intervention of God that they experience freedom.
The adventure of freedom comes with extraordinary signs of the power of God. The Red Sea is parted for their safe escape when after being released from slavery, Pharaoh changes his mind and comes after them with a vengeance. God leads them to the place that God had prepared for them providing for their needs along the way: bitter water becomes sweet at God’s instruction, manna and quail fall from the sky in such abundance that their stomachs are filled, a resort is provided for them as they are led by God to a place of 12 water springs and 70 palm trees! It’s all there in those first few chapters of Exodus. What a great God we serve!
And are the Israelites happy about the privilege of being saved, led and served by God? No! They complain all the way. The lack of water is one of their major complaints. In chapter 17 they are in the Desert of Sin thirsty, grumbling against Moses their leader, and complaining about the travel plan. Was it to die in the desert, they and their children and their cattle, that they had been brought out of slavery in Egypt?
I do understand what it means to be thirsty and what it feels like. I remember being thirsty in the cotton fields of Texas. I have seen the impact of lack of water on immigrants as they traverse the desert lands of our southern border, many of them dying because of dehydration. I also remember how thirst overwhelmed me when I first came to the California-Nevada Conference in 1979.
I was on my way to San Jose. Ready to serve as the pastor of La Trinidad UMC. I felt that God had saved me from certain suffering and was leading me. I was traveling in my cool turquoise colored stick-shift Camaro. I loved that car. It had everything; style, bucket seats, power! The only thing it lacked was air conditioning.
I had never traveled so far on my own. I had looked at the map and traced the road, but had given little attention to the topography. It was high noon on the third day of my trip when I hit one of the great deserts of California. I was so excited to be in California that the heat didn’t even phase me until about an hour later when I came upon a sign that told me that I was far from the next town. Suddenly I realized how thirsty I was. I looked through the windows of my cool now very hot Camaro and all I could see was desert. I had absolutely no water with me and there were no other vehicles to be seen on the road.
It was hours before I came upon the next town. My mouth and tongue and even my throat were completely dry, my face was red as a beet, my heart pacing at the thought that I might faint and die of dehydration in the California desert, my beautiful Camaro turning into my coffin.
I stopped at the first place I saw. It was a bar. First time I had been in a bar. “Forgive me Lord,” I whispered as I entered that bar. Coming out from the blinding desert sun I was frightened by the darkness of the bar, but a kind waitress seeing my distress led me to a table in the corner and brought me pitcher after pitcher of wonderful ice cold water! I sat there until the sun went down and my fear of dying of thirst subsided.
I understand a bit of the fear and despair of the Israelites as they suffered thirst in the Desert of Sin. As I have thought about my own experience with thirst in the desert I always land in the same place – how could I have been so thoughtless! A life lesson learned.
What I don’t understand about the Israelites is their thoughtlessness. Had God not provided for them all along the way? What of the privilege of seeing God’s mercy in their lives and the incredible blessing of knowing that God was with them? Were they but spoiled children who had no responsibility for the precious life God had given them? Wasn’t freedom under God’s care better than slavery in Egypt even if it were but for a day?
We serve a great God who hears our cry when we are in despair. Who leads us if we will but follow. And who will be with us in our living and in our dying. Is this not enough?
I continue to pray for you in this Season of Lent and feel your prayers for me.
Bishop Minerva G. Carcaño