2017-10-01 – Rev. Dr. Ryan Sato – First Baptist Church Edmonton
“Quarreling with The Lord”
“ERRRRggggh! They’re driving me crazy!
Threatening to kill me with stones? Huh?
You’re already killing me with your gripes and groans.
The rocks you hurl at me are nothing compared to your hardened hearts.
Arrrgh! Of course I brought you out here to kill you…
LORD! Are you hearing this?
What shall I do with this people?
The Staff? Yes, I’ve still got it. It’s got some blood stains on in from that Nile River “incident” but no worse for wear.
Meet you at Horeb? Deity Mountain again? Yes, burning bush avenue…I know it well.
Strike a what? Oh, a rock!?!
YOU WILL BE WHAT YOU WILL BE….yes, I hear you.
And water will come out of the rock…so that this people may drink.
And so Moses did strike that rock at Horeb.
And the water did flow.
Moses called the place Massah and Meribah, because the Israelites quarreled and tested the LORD, saying,
“Is the LORD among us or not?”
And for 40 years in all their wilderness wanderings, Israel would continue to ask that question in various forms and with various problems and pitfalls…& every once in awhile in the story, as the Israelites would tell it 400 years later while in Babylon captivity,
God would get smokin’ mad!
In fact, when we read of another version of this story in the book of Numbers, chapter 16, 20, God gets so mad that the ground opens up near Horeb and swallows up 300 Israelites. And then God gets so mad at Moses for how hard he strikes the rock that he breaks his heart with the news that, in actuality, Moses will die before he sees this people make it to the promised land! Holy heartbreak! This is a crazy story!
But it’s a real story isn’t it?
And that’s what we should love(?) about and find comfort in as we tell and re-tell these stories of the origins of our faith…and the people of God…who pass the baton to us 3000 years later.
And the story we tell today, ends with one of the biggie questions of the whole First testament…and one that echoes through the 2nd testament…and lingers on with the new, post-Jesus-people of God centuries later…
“Is the LORD among us or not?
We pick on the Israelites don’t we? Sometimes we’ve told these stories as an opportunity to jab at Israel. A bunch of complainers and whiners.
But…really…how long could you and I last without water in the deserts east of Egypt?
8 hours? 10 hours?
And what would we be like as we looked to our leaders for help?
Would we quietly pray for them (Oh, I’m sure they’re doing their best…).
Or would some of us be rallying the masses, preparing to undermine or overtake them?
So let’s bring this a little closer to our time…and our lives.
What are the circumstances that have us anxious…or anguished…or angry?
Who are our “if only” people? If only ______ would get plucked out of power, my city,
my world, my life, my job, my family….would be a better place.
And in our own ways we live out the question…
“Is the Lord among us or not?”
And the lessons that we’ve learned and gleaned over the past weeks in Exodus is that
yes, the LORD is among us.
At the red sea, God provides an amazing way out when there seemed to be no way.
In the early wilderness journey, the LORD provides quails in the evening and manna in the morning…and this providence (2 quarts of Manna/day) would go on for 14,600 days.
And today, Moses strikes a rock…and water gushes forth.
“Is the LORD among us or not?”
These stories remind us of God’s faithfulness, fidelity and generosity.
These stories are other worldly…but they are the stories that are meant to shape our imaginations…our identity…and our destinies.
When these stories were cobbled together and collected by the Israelites 400 years later in the midst of Babylon captivity and suffering, these stories would give them life, hope and
And so we are called to live into the world of these stories today…
In the midst of our own struggles, suffering, oppressions, and overwhelming circumstances…
And we, too, might test the LORD.
“Are you among us or not?”
But we know the answer. And sometimes asking the testing question just helps us to get it out there…lament wasn’t bad for Israel…and it ain’t bad for us either…
And after the testing and quarreling…we humbly attempt to live out the answers that have been told to us in these ancient stories…
And since we’ve been carrying the Psalms hand-in-hand with the Exodus story these past weeks, let’s look at one more psalm for the road…Psalm 81.
Psalm 81 is sometimes titled “God’s Appeal to Stubborn Israel.”
Psalm 81 recalls the Exodus…and the mess of Exodus…but in the end, keeps on peddling the faithfulness and fidelity of God.
How will we know the LORD is among us or not?
We’ll keep on telling the story…and we’ll keep on praying the prayer book of Israel…
[I invite you to look at 2 versions of Psalm 81 included in your bulletin]
I hear a voice I had not known:
“I relieved your shoulder of the burden;
your hands were freed from the basket.
In distress you called, and I rescued you;
I answered you in the secret place of thunder;
I tested you at the waters of Meribah. Selah
Hear, O my people, while I admonish you;
O Israel, if you would but listen to me!
There shall be no strange god among you;
you shall not bow down to a foreign god.
I am the Lord your God,
who brought you up out of the land of Egypt.
Open your mouth wide and I will fill it.
Who among you will listen to the voice
of the Beloved?
How many will open their heart?
All you too stubborn to hear,
who follow your own counsel,
will know fear and loneliness.
“Oh that my people would listen,
that, as friends, you would
walk in my ways!
Your fears would soon flee and
your hearts would overflow.
You, who turn your backs on Love,
will know only momentary pleasure,
your reward will soon be spent.
I would satisfy your hunger,
and, with streams of Living Water,
you would live in the joy
of heaven on earth!”
Is the LORD among us… or not?
We gather in this place…we look ahead to our time at the Lord’s table…
We look to each other as sojourners/companions on the “way” of faith…
And we say…“Yes! God is here. Jesus, the bread of life is here!
Jesus, the one who pours out his life for us and the healing of the world is here!
Jesus, standing before us through miracle and mystery, saying:
“Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink.”
“…Those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty.”
And so together, we can proclaim…
“Yes! The LORD is among us!”
Thanks be to God…
Who is forever passing all the tests we lay before him,
who is forever patient with all the ways we complain and quarrel.