Moses must have been about ready to pull out his hair, don't you think? He was in the middle of the desert with a group of cranky, thirsty people who constantly complained.
It's not like they hadn't seen God in action already. They had. Several times. They had already witnessed the signs God gave to the Pharoah through Moses. They had seen the Nile turn to blood. They had listened to the howls of the Egyptians when they woke one morning to find all their firstborn dead. They had rejoiced to find their sons still alive. They had already crossed the Red Sea on dry land, with the water forming walls on either side. They had watched as, at Moses' command, the sea closed in on the Pharoah's army. They had followed the column of cloud and flame day and night as it led them through the desert. They had eaten the bread of angels, the manna, that God gave them in response to their hunger. They had even observed as Moses turned bitter water into fresh, clean water just by adding a piece of wood.
These Israelites were familiar with miracles. God had provided plenty of evidence of His loving care.
But what were they doing once again? They were whining. “Why did you ever make us leave Egypt?” they sniveled to Moses, “Was it just to have us die here of thirst with our children and our livestock?” They quarreled among themselves, asking, “Is the Lord in our midst or not?” Their hearts were hard. Their necks were stiff.
It would have been enough to try anyone's patience, and Moses turned to God for help, crying out, “What shall I do with this people? A little more and they will stone me!”
And, as always, God came to the rescue. He told Moses to take his staff, the same one he had used to strike the Nile, and strike the rock in Horeb. God promised to stand on the rock in front of Moses and make water flow out from it for the people to drink. That's exactly what happened. Moses, in the presence of the Israelite elders, struck the rock, which emitted a stream of water.
Problem solved...again! God fulfilled His people's needs despite their bad attitudes.
It's easy to be hard on the Israelites, isn't it? They were acting like a bunch of petulant two-year-olds.
Let's take a minute and examine our own consciences. How many wonderful things has God done in your life? Make a list. Write it down on paper if you have to. Be sure to include the opportunity to read God's Word and received the sacraments, especially the Eucharist.
Now think about all the times when you've whined because things weren't going right or you didn't get your way about something.
Yes, we Christians can act an awful lot like the Israelites in the desert sometimes. We, too, forget God's many miracles and blessings. We, too, whine and complain. We, too, wonder if God is with us. We, too, harden our hearts and stiffen our necks.
Let's end by making the response from today's Psalm our own: If today you hear His voice, harden not your hearts. Soften my heart, Lord, and lighten my mind that I may meet each challenge with confidence that You are right next to me with Your loving care.