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  1. Why do we grumble? What is the difference between a genuine complaint (or ‘lament’) to God, and a grumble?

  2. Exodus 17

    Water From the Rock
     1 The whole Israelite community set out from the Desert of Sin, traveling from place to place as the LORD commanded. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. 2 So they quarreled with Moses and said, "Give us water to drink."
          Moses replied, "Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you put the LORD to the test?"

     3 But the people were thirsty for water there, and they grumbled against Moses. They said, "Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to make us and our children and livestock die of thirst?"

     4 Then Moses cried out to the LORD, "What am I to do with these people? They are almost ready to stone me."

     5 The LORD answered Moses, "Walk on ahead of the people. Take with you some of the elders of Israel and take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. 6 I will stand there before you by the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it for the people to drink." So Moses did this in the sight of the elders of Israel. 7 And he called the place Massah and Meribah because the Israelites quarreled and because they tested the LORD saying, "Is the LORD among us or not?"

    The Amalekites Defeated
     8 The Amalekites came and attacked the Israelites at Rephidim. 9 Moses said to Joshua, "Choose some of our men and go out to fight the Amalekites. Tomorrow I will stand on top of the hill with the staff of God in my hands."

     10 So Joshua fought the Amalekites as Moses had ordered, and Moses, Aaron and Hur went to the top of the hill. 11 As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning. 12 When Moses' hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up—one on one side, one on the other—so that his hands remained steady till sunset. 13 So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army with the sword.

     14 Then the LORD said to Moses, "Write this on a scroll as something to be remembered and make sure that Joshua hears it, because I will completely blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven."

     15 Moses built an altar and called it The LORD is my Banner. 16 He said, "For hands were lifted up to the throne of the LORD. The LORD will be at war against the Amalekites from generation to generation."

  3. Happy yet?
    We are just out of Egypt, just across the Red Sea, and we have just had a daily order of manna confirmed, with free delivery, right to the door of our tent. Are we all set, or what?

    When Moses comes to collect in the customer satisfaction surveys at the end of the first day’s trekking across the Desert of Sin (which is perhaps unfortunately named for English readers), he discovers that the Israelites are not happy. There is no water. Rather than raise this as a matter for concern, or even prayer, they have chosen instead to quarrel and to complain.

    Thankless provision
    Daily manna has not persuaded the people that God has their needs in hand. So they argue, and Moses strikes a rock, and out comes water. Result. For the time being. In the long run, it is noted that ‘they tested the Lord, saying “Is the Lord among us or not?”’ (v 7). In due course, this marks them out as grumblers who never cross over into trusting God.

    In other news: the Amalekites attack, Moses lifts up his hands, and God delivers the Israelites. And they still never called to say ‘thank you’.

  4. Past, present and future – manna, water, attack: remember any provision of ‘manna’, and give thanks; notice if you are drifting into grumbling, and address it; anticipate God’s future deliverance, and lift your hands to heaven in praise.

    Richard Briggs

  5. The next two weeks’ readings from Exodus 17–24 are centred around the covenant that God made with his people, Israel, at Mount Sinai after he had brought them out of Egypt. As a covenant, both parties had a role to play. God would guide, protect, provide for and bless his people, while the people would follow God’s laws and statutes. The laws covered all facets of Israelite society, including the spiritual and ritual aspects, social policy, employment law, sexual mores and general neighbourliness. It should be noted, however, that the Israelites didn’t differentiate between the spiritual and the secular as we do; the covenant affected the whole of their lives. Nevertheless, in terms of the spiritual side, there were rules for offerings, sacrifices and festivals. Social policy guidelines stipulated justice and righteousness towards others, particularly the marginalised. Employment law stipulated fair business practices. Sexual ethics and neighbourliness promoted mercy towards others. The command that is reiterated, perhaps more than any other, is that the people of Israel should have one God and no other; they were not to be tempted by the gods of other nations and were to make no idols.

    Another theme to emerge is the insistence on the importance of the preparation of the people’s ‘hearts’ (as we would put it). They were to be a holy people and needed to consecrate themselves before they approached the smoking Sinai and to obey the angel of the Lord when they entered the land of Canaan.

    The Exodus was the most crucial event in Israelite history and was constantly remembered, as Psalm 114 demonstrates. Despite having experienced God’s salvation, the Israelites repeatedly broke their part of the covenant so that, centuries later, God eventually disciplined them by sending them into exile. Even in exile, however, the covenant was the basis of the people’s trust that God would remember and bless them, as Psalm 115 (thought to be written when Judah was in exile) shows. God who first appeared to them in fire would love and cherish them for ever.