Week of January 28

My “Waze” or God’s Way?

Read: Exodus 17-20; Acts 3
“All the congregation of the people of Israel moved on from the wilderness of Sin by stages, according to the commandment of the Lord, and camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. Therefore the people quarreled with Moses and said, ‘Give us water to drink.’ And Moses said to them, ‘Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the Lord?’”
Exodus 17:1-2, ESV


The eyes of the heart are an essential travel tool when walking by faith in the Lord. So many of the great saints listed in the roll call of faith, Hebrews 11, walked by faith and not sight (see Hebrews 11:8-10, 11, 13-16, 26-27, & 39-40). Most will know the oft-quoted scripture verse, “We walk by faith not by sight,” but the Israelites in our passage today are being taught how to embody this principle (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:7). Their encounter with the Lord at Rephidim will open our eyes to ways that we put the Lord’s care and provision to the test.

The Meaning of the Text

The lesson to be learned
God guides us in His “ways” as we discover His creation principles in the universe and in His word, the Bible. Israel had already encountered thirsty lips in 15:22-26, so the trial was to see whether they had learned to trust the goodness and beneficence of God. “All creation sings, and round me rings the music of the spheres,” as the hymn goes. Evidence of God’s creation care is all around us, even in the desert! They failed the test and demonstrated their shriveled hearts (17:1-2). They refused to let God take care of them. Of course, it is easy for me (perhaps you) to point the finger at their faithlessness, as we are seated in climate-controlled houses and sipping bottled water!
The second lesson to be learned was not to doubt God’s goodness and presence among them as the pillar of fire and cloud demonstrated (13:21-22; 17:7). God is always faithful, even when we, His people, are “outrageously unfaithful” (cf. EBC)! It would be ridiculously offensive for me to walk into our home, open the refrigerator, see nothing that I can easily cook, and claim “Shawna, you are starving me!” It is infinitely offensive to God, who breathes life into us and cares for us, to doubt His goodness. So, where does this passage challenge us?
An early case study in grace
Israel put God to the test by protesting the lack of water. Everyone knew that you camped in places where there was water, not in locations without such a supply. God has them make an encampment at Rephidim, where there is no obvious source of water (17:1-2, “Why do you test the Lord?”). The people expected God to do something special for them when they had not done anything to deserve it (EBC). If you regularly doubt whether God knows what He is doing in your circumstance, then you need to check the address on your front door and see if you live at “Rephidim.” There is one further detail. God provides water from a place that could not be expected to produce it! For by grace, we have been saved and the living water comes by way of God’s Spirit!

The Message for Your Heart

It was a dark, dreary morning when I left home this morning to travel north to an appointment I had in Fort Worth, Texas. A cold and steady rain, combined with heavy fog, made the roadway uncertain. I have come to rely upon my “Waze” traffic app in good and bad weather, because it offers me an extra set of “eyes on the road ahead,” and I appreciate it. I regularly receive advanced warning of road debris, stalled vehicles, traffic slowdowns, and even where law enforcement personnel are using radar to control the traffic. It has become a dependable travel tool.
You may think that I am simply associating our walk with the Lord with the Waze app. There are similarities, but I believe an additional deeper application is what this passage calls for today. The point today is to make sure that we position ourselves where God stands between us and the need! Sometimes we allow the drive to satisfy our thirst (insert a desire that you have) to eclipse the God who is there to quench it (see Matthew 7:7-11).
Moses was instructed to “get ahead” of the people and to take some of the elders with him, and the staff he had used to strike the Nile (17:5). God was making sure that His provision would be witnessed by the elders and the use of the staff would indicate His presence among them. In Ashlock speak, God leads and supplies the needs, so trust Him.

For Thought and Action

1. Reflect upon ways that you have put God’s goodness and care to the test in your own life. Have you pursued your desires for possessions or relationships and caused hardship in your life and at home? And then expected God to make everything right? Open your eyes to ways that God leads, instead, and choose to follow Him.
2. For Families: This passage and its application may be for more mature believers. Our children most likely have not tried to “test the Lord” by intentionally manipulating circumstances to force God to act in certain ways. However, two lessons we learn from this passage may readily be learned and reinforced with our children. They will need small elastic cord and buttons or beads for this project.

Lesson #1: We learn that God takes care of us, and loves to do so, even sometimes in unexpected ways. Invite your children to make a necklace or bracelet with buttons or beads, each one representing a way that God takes care of us. Let your kids name everything they can think of.

Lesson #2: We also learn to trust God’s goodness and presence among us. He is always faithful to be with us. He never leaves us.
Encourage your children to make a bracelet for a shut-in or elderly person your family knows. Let the bracelet remind your older friend that God is always with them. They are not alone. Let your child deliver the bracelet to your home-bound friend, and be a herald of God’s unfailing faithfulness.

May your paths be straight,
Larry C. Ashlock