A few days after the earthquake in Chile a woman who was standing in the midst of rubble said, “We need water, we need food!” The people in her small village lacked the very basic necessities of life; food and water. Chile’s president, Michelle Bachelet, has had to defend the Chilean government for its inability to respond to the crisis.
In a land of abundance it is hard for us to imagine being without the basic essentials of life. Unless we experience a power outage or we are paralyzed by a blizzard, we never have to experienced being without. Like the Chileans, our leaders are criticized for not fixing things fast enough. The city manager gets criticism for not getting the snow off the roads. People in positions of leadership really feel the pressure in a time of crisis.
The Israelites found themselves without water and they complained to Moses, their leader. This was not the first time they had complained. First, the water they had to drink was bitter. Then, they had no food to eat. God had provided for the Israelites in the past but that didn’t keep them from complaining. They were fine, as long as they had what they needed. But, when it appeared that they lacked the necessary resources to survive, they became anxious. They quarreled with Moses and said, “Why did you bring us out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and livestock with thirst?” They were angry at Moses and blamed him for taking them from Egypt where they had what they needed.
But, Moses responded, “Why blame me?” Arguing with Moses was the same as testing God since Moses was God’s appointed spiritual leader. But, he was in over his head. He needed God’s divine intervention. He recognized his vulnerability. So, to save himself, Moses turned to God and asked for help.
Do you ask God for help when you find yourself with some need? What is it you thirst for? Perhaps you thirst for happiness, good health, peace or a miracle. I believe that most of the time we ask God to solve our problems or fill our needs. However, by asking God to help us we have to yield to God’s solution, which may not be the one we want.
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Adelaide Pollard had a burden for the continent of Africa and was convinced that God wanted her to go there as a missionary. She had been on the very point of going there but she had to cancel everything since the necessary funds just couldn’t be raised. You can imagine her disappointment.
During a prayer group meeting she listened to the words of a prayer, often uttered by an old lady she knew. She prayed “It’s all right, Lord! It doesn’t matter what you bring into our lives; just have your own way with us!” In a moment her burden had been lifted as she bowed in submission to the will of God.
She went home that night and she meditated on the story of the potter, recorded by Jeremiah:18:34. “Then I went down to the potter’s house, and, behold, he wrought a work on the wheels. And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand oft he potter: so he made it again another vessel, as seemed good to the potter to make it.”
The words seemed to fit Miss Pollard’s own life and experiences exactly. She was questioning God’s will for her life. As she bowed in humble consecration before God, the words of a poem took shape in her mind, and she wrote:
Have Thine own way, Lord!
Have Thine own way!
Thou art the potter;
I am the clay.
Mould me and make me
after Thy will,
While I am waiting,
yielded and still.
Adelaide Pollard had learned that even people of faith can be self-centered, self-possessed and self-willed. To do God’s work, like her planned trip to Africa, she had to trust in God and yield to God’s intervening power. Later she did go to Africa as a missionary but not at that moment.
We are used to a certain standard of living. We have expectations about what is essential. Whenever we lack those things we normally enjoy we complain. The Israelites were not satisfied. They had no water to drink and so they complained to Moses. Out of their frustration came the words, “Is the Lord among us or not?” Their complaint to Moses was really a complaint toward God.
The Israelites suffered an identity problem. They were God’s chosen people. How could God let them go without water?
The country of Chile currently has an identity crisis. Just weeks ago they had sent aid to Haiti, 15 tons of food and medicine and 20 doctors to help in search and rescue. They are known for their sense of pride because of their orderliness and wealth but gangs are rioting and looting. An aid worker said they are experiencing a “collective hysteria.”
The Israelites were experiencing a collective hysteria too. They felt that God was letting them down. God told Moses to go ahead of the people to Mt. Horeb (Mt. Sinai). He told him to strike the rock with his staff and water would come out. Moses did as God instructed. God delivered, using Moses as His servant.
The story of the Israelites in the wilderness also reminds us that God is always listening. God may not always give us what we want, but God does respond. When the Israelites were hungry God gave them manna, a foreign and unfamiliar substance. And yet, the Israelites ate manna for forty years. And when Moses cried out to God for help, God led him to the water.
God is acutely aware of our needs but someone has to act. Moses’ act of faith demonstrated to the Israelites that God would provide. The plight of the Haitians and the Chileans will be solved by people who reach out, donate their time and talents, providing the “manna” and water they need to survive. God can provide our basic essentials but God needs His people to distribute them.
It would appear that this story is about the power of God who brought forth water from a rock. But, what the story is really about is the lack of faith of God’s own people. They complained about not having water, but they really lacked the faith in God to provide for them. They somehow believed that as God’s chosen they deserved better.
They had forgotten the fact that they were slaves before the Exodus. They were living in bondage and now they were liberated. Their freedom however did not guarantee they would always have everything they needed. Rather than be grateful for their freedom they complained when they encountered some hardship. What they really needed was some “Living water,” a fresh, stream of faith.
In the 4th chapter of John, Jesus told the woman at the well that he could supply her with “living water…a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.” Her life was dry. She had five failed marriages. Her self esteem had reached an all-time low. The woman was alienated from society and any thought of her thirst being quenched was hopeless. Her life was so bad she had to go to the well when no one else was around in order to escape her feelings of guilt and loneliness.
Her excursion to the well, however completely transformed her life. The woman, whose name is not given, was performing an every day task. She had no expectations except for filling her water jar with water. In the process she meets Jesus who was sitting beside the well. He had journeyed form Judea and was on his way to Galilee. He was tired and rumors were spreading that he was competing with John, his friend. This was not what Jesus intended. He too needed a bit of refreshment from the strain and pressures of his mission.
Jesus made the woman feel good about herself because Jesus believed in her and forgave her. She felt unworthy, but Jesus restored her sense of worth by asking her to help him. She thirsted no more as she became whole again. The living water of God flows through others when they feel needed and accepted. The living water of God rinses away our feelings of uncleanness. The living water of God is like a stream of forgiveness which gives hope and assurance. Having received the living water of God the woman became energized and began quenching the thirst of others.
Moses, dejected by the criticisms of his leadership and anxious about helping his people, followed God’s instructions and journeyed to the rock. When the water came gushing out his confidence was restored. He trusted God and consequently regained the trust of his people. May we too remember that the living water of God is constantly flowing for us as well. God wants us to ask for help. God wants us to yield to His timetable. Times of crisis inflict chaos and anxiety on us and yet God forgives for our complaints and ultimately gives refreshment to our weary souls.