First Reading: Exodus 17:3-7

"Testing" and "Contention"

When is "enough" not enough?

3 The people were thirsty for water there; and the people murmured against Moses, and said, "Why have you brought us up out of Egypt, to kill us, our children, and our livestock with thirst?"

4 Moses cried to YHWH, saying, "What shall I do with these people? They are almost ready to stone me."

5 YHWH said to Moses, "Walk on before the people, and take the elders of Israel with you, and take the rod in your hand with which you struck the Nile, and go. 6 Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock in Horeb. You shall strike the rock, and water will come out of it, that the people may drink." Moses did so in the sight of the elders of Israel. 17 He called the name of the place Massah and Meribah, because the children of Israel quarreled, and because they tested Yahweh, saying, "Is YHWH among us, or not?"

World English Bible

The grumbling of the people in Exodus 17:3-7 reflected their general attitude. Even though they were freed from oppression and led by God through the wilderness, they still complained. Blessings were not enough. They wanted their needs and desires fulfilled immediately!

The story of the people's complaints and Moses' action were paralleled in Numbers 20:1-13. The later account (when Moses' struck the rock twice) explained the forty years of wandering. In either account, the needy attitude of the people stood in stark contrast to the immanent and constant presence of the Lord. No wonder the place of the test was named Massah ("Testing") and Meribah ("Contention")!

In the midst of Lent practice, we, too, might be tempted to complain and give up. But we would ignore the Lord close to us. For times of discomfort are times of challenge. If we can see beyond our own pettiness, we will see the Lord. In the same way the Israelites were challenged to see God's power.

How hard have Lenten practices become at this half-way point in the season? How does God encourage you and keep you going?