In distress you called, and I delivered you; answered you in the secret place of thunder; I tested you at the waters of Meribah. Selah Psalm 81:7 ESV
The Bible makes it quite clear that God will never tempt us or even allow us to be tempted beyond our ability to deal with it. However the scriptures are equally as clear that God does test us. He is our Good Teacher as well as our Savior and our teacher often hands out pop quizzes. In the Old Testament the children of Israel had their first test at the Red Sea and when they cried out in fear God answered, parted the waters and destroyed the Egyptian army. On reaching the safety of the far shore they had a celebration of the great victory God gave them. But just a little over a month later God set up another test for them. He had Moses lead them out from the nice oasis of Elim which came complete with springs and palm trees to a desert place called Meribah, which in Hebrew means complaining or strife. Remember that only thirty days had passed since God had miraculously parted the Red Sea. And what did they do? Pretty much the same as we do when things aren’t going right – they complained. I do not know about you who are my readers in the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia or Europe but I can attest that we Americans (myself included) are professional complainers. We complain about politics, money, culture, our own family and sadly even our pastors. We invent so many excuses for our weeping and wailing that I often wonder how God puts up with us. Why would He be even interested in such spoiled brats as we sometimes are? The good news is that He not only tolerates us, but He willingly and gently tests us to help us grow. You see while the children of Israel were busy belly aching about God’s travel plans, He was busy preparing to show them a miracle. He told Moses to get the people together in front of a huge rock. Maybe the muttering of the crowd stilled a bit as the people craned their necks to see what Moses was doing. They couldn’t imagine why they were gathered in front of a big rock. “How is this going to make things any better?” they wondered. Then God instructed Moses to take his staff, the same one he had held over the Red Sea when it parted and use it to strike that rock. As Moses obeyed a loud crack was heard and it split wide open and amazingly fresh beautiful water flowed out!
What a wonderful picture of the cross. Maybe because of our tendency to complain and doubt, Jesus told us to remember His death each time we celebrate the Lord’s Supper. Jesus knows how easy it is for us to start complaining, and yet instead of giving us the punishment which we so richly deserve, He allows the blow of the staff of the law to fall across His own shoulders. He was pieced for our miserable complaining and unbelief and from His side flowed a healing stream of blood that quenches our thirst in a way that no water on earth could do. What a wonderful Savior we serve! What a blessed and gentle Teacher. He brings us through the times of testing at the rock so that we can learn and believe and walk closer than ever by His side!