Summary: March 3, 2002 -- THIRD SUNDAY IN LENT Exodus 17:1-7 Psalm 95 Let us shout for joy to the rock of our salvation. (Ps. 95:1) Romans 5:1-11 John 4:5-42 Title: “God provides.”
March 3, 2002 -- THIRD SUNDAY IN LENT
Let us shout for joy to the rock of our salvation. (Ps. 95:1)
Title: “God provides.”
This story of the miraculous provision of water in the midst of the desert follows on a similar story of the miraculous provision of food quail and manna. Both of them seem like the stuff of fairy tales. Whether these events occurred exactly as they are said to have occurred or whether these are metaphors for a deeper message or both, one thing is certain: the Israelites survived the desert journey and entered into the Promised Land. They reached their goal. Clearly, they needed to eat and drink during that forty-year period and clearly in a desert there is scant water and vegetation. However it happened, it was nothing short of “miraculous,” requiring divine providence to effect. Thus the story of the water from the rock may or may not be accurate in its details, but it tells a truth, regardless of how that truth factually played out. Because it is not merely a reporting of historical fact, it has an application for all time and circumstances. It says that “God will provide,” for those who trust in him, pray to him, and turn to him and that he will provide even for those who do not. Moses turned to God and trusted. The people did not. Yet, God answered Moses’ prayer and the people benefited, their complaining and putting God to the test notwithstanding. No one “deserves,” God’s grace, but these people went out of their way to irritate God. Yet, he graced them anyway.
In verse three, in their thirst for water the people grumbled against Moses: The pattern of verses one and two, that is, the notice of thirst followed by complaint, is repeated here. When we read essentially the same thing, which has just been said we can be pretty sure that we are reading two or more traditions, which have been juxtaposed or sewn together by an editor. A “tradition,” and there are at least four of them in the Pentateuch- “J” for Yahwistic; called such because God is called Yahweh consistently throughout the material, “E” for Elohistic; called such because God is called “Elohim” throughout, “D” for Deuteronomic, and “P” for Priestly- a “tradition” is similar to what we find in the Synoptics. The same material is cast in a slightly different light, reflecting a particular viewpoint or theology. In this case, the story existed and was circulated among the Israelites in different, albeit slightly different, forms. Out of respect for the traditions, passed on orally long before they were written down, and in order to lose nothing of value, the two or three versions are simply sewn together. Much of the repetition found in stories in the Pentateuch can be accounted for by this practice. In verse two, for instance, Moses first asks the question, as a response to their complaint, “Why do you quarrel with me?” This reflects the emphasis in the E tradition. It was seen there as a complaint against Moses, not God . See verse seven, where “Meribah,” meaning “quarrel,” comes from E. But there follows a second question, “Why do you put the Lord to the test?” where it is interpreted as a complaint against God. This is the emphasis in the J tradition. The two are combined into one because they really amount to the same thing. The people were more comfortable in slavery than they previously realized, do not want to pay the price for freedom, and want to go back to their former status. They prefer the physical comforts of slavery to the rigors and discipline of freedom. They are turning their temptation to do so into a test for God to prove himself and a condemnation of Moses who is in the middle of it all.
In verse four, So Moses cried out to the Lord: Moses fears for his life and gives the problem to God. The people’s faith in God is under challenge and Moses recognizes he needs God’s help.
In verse five, the Lord answered Moses: God’s solution is a most unlikely one, one which would challenge and test human logic. He sends Moses to a rock, hardly the human solution to a problem with water!
Holding in your hand…the staff with which you struck the water: In the E tradition Moses uses the staff. In the P tradition miracles occur with Aaron, as priest, holding the staff. The same staff that was the visible means by which God parted the sea to protect the Israelites from the water now becomes the visible means by which God provides them with water. It is not to be seen as a magic wand, but as a sacramental sign.