Read Exodus 17:1-16
The whole Israelite community set out from the Desert of Sin, traveling from place to place as the Lord commanded. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. 2 So they quarreled with Moses and said, “Give us water to drink.”
Moses replied, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you put the Lord to the test?”
3 But the people were thirsty for water there, and they grumbled against Moses. They said, “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to make us and our children and livestock die of thirst?”
4 Then Moses cried out to the Lord, “What am I to do with these people? They are almost ready to stone me.”
5 The Lord answered Moses, “Go out in front of the people. Take with you some of the elders of Israel and take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. 6 I will stand there before you by the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it for the people to drink.” So Moses did this in the sight of the elders of Israel. 7 And he called the place Massah and Meribah because the Israelites quarreled and because they tested the Lord saying, “Is the Lord among us or not?”
8 The Amalekites came and attacked the Israelites at Rephidim. 9 Moses said to Joshua, “Choose some of our men and go out to fight the Amalekites. Tomorrow I will stand on top of the hill with the staff of God in my hands.”
10 So Joshua fought the Amalekites as Moses had ordered, and Moses, Aaron and Hur went to the top of the hill. 11 As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning. 12 When Moses’ hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up—one on one side, one on the other—so that his hands remained steady till sunset. 13 So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army with the sword.
14 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Write this on a scroll as something to be remembered and make sure that Joshua hears it, because I will completely blot out the name of Amalek from under heaven.”
15 Moses built an altar and called it The Lord is my Banner. 16 He said, “Because hands were lifted up against the throne of the Lord, the Lord will be at war against the Amalekites from generation to generation.”
It is such a frustrating and bewildering thing about God that He leads His people into situations that don’t work.
There’s no water. Again.
And the people grumble, again.
But this time Moses gets mad at them.
Like he thinks they could do better.
They’ve already experienced so much of God’s power to do impossible things. Couldn’t they ask Him to do another?
Apparently there’s a difference between complaining and asking.
Consider the battle against the Amalekites. The Israelites win as long as Moses holds up the staff. It’s a kind of physical, visible prayer.
This is the very first battle the Israelites have fought. Just weeks ago they were still in Egypt making bricks. Even their grown men have never in their lives fought like this, and the Amalekites are fierce (my study bible tells me). They’re experts at fighting.
But Moses prays, and God gives victory to His people.
Then He tells Moses to write it down “as a permanent reminder”.
He did a similar thing after the manna. He had Moses collect some and keep it “for your descendants” (16:32). God is very careful to make sure that nothing He does is forgotten. In fact, that’s a big part of what the Sabbath is all about – remembering His deeds and His promises.
He seems to think people can forget.
He’s right. The Israelites have ‘forgotten’ the quail and the manna – even though they come every single day. Somehow it’s become so normal, so expected, that they’ve stopped viewing it as a miracle. It’s just what happens.
So now, in this place with no water, they act as though God won’t help – as though He never has. They need to remember. They need to ask.
This isn’t a mistake. God is doing something – He’s training his nation to trust Him, and sometimes trust means asking. Even asking for impossible things.
As though we think He can do them.
As though we think He will.
The Israelites failed. They grumbled instead, but God gave them water anyway. He’s the best trainer – wonderfully patient, and amazingly generous. The water gushes out of the rock (17:6 NLT).
Is there anything you need to ask Him for?