Frightening Times

Chaplain Jim Corbett
Walker Baptist Medical Center

There is a story in Exodus 17 which tells of frightening times.  It is set in the wilderness among the people of Israel.  They have been freed from captivity in Egypt by miraculous acts of God.  In the wilderness, a cloud has guided them and Manna has fed them.  But now, they began to murmur.  As a matter of fact, these are what biblical scholars call this series of stories “Murmuring Stories.”

The people were thirsty, so they start to find fault with their leader Moses and demanded “Give us water to drink.”  The murmuring continued. “Should we have remained in Egypt?  Is God still here in this place?  Will I starve?  I’m scared.  What a miserable place this is.”  The setting is very different from our day, but the murmuring sounds very familiar. The story in Exodus 17 continues with Moses going to God with his fear that they might actually stone him:

"What shall I do with this people?  They are almost ready to stone me."  The Lord said to Moses, "Go on ahead of the people, and take some of the elders of Israel with you; take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go.  I will be standing there in front of you on the rock at Horeb.  Strike the rock, and water will come out of it, so that the people may drink."  Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel.  He called the place Massah and Meribah, because the Israelites quarreled and tested the Lord, saying, "Is the Lord among us or not?" (Exodus 17:4-7 NRSV) 

God cared for them in spite of their doubts and fears.  Moses did as God told him; the rod struck against the rock at Horeb brought forth water.  Deliverance from God saves them again.

The Rabbis like to compare the Israelites to a child riding on a parent’s shoulder. Meeting someone in the street, the child asks:

“Have you seen my parents?”  The parent responds: I’m right here, carrying you. Didn’t you know that it was I who carried you all this time?” Just so, it was God who had led, cared for, and provided for the Israelites all the time they were wandering. (Exodus Rabbah 26:2)

There are many things we are frightened about today.  Change and the unknown can make us fearful.  World events and financial insecurity frighten many.  God is in our wilderness just as surely as He was in the Israelites wilderness.  In fearful times remember whose shoulder you are perched upon.

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