Pushing it with God

One cannot help but get the feeling that with this next test in the desert, that of no water, the people’s fear, anger, and impatience are escalating. In the first two episodes, the people murmur against Moses; now they are contentious with Moses to the point that he felt that his life was threatened (v.4). Moses is at his wit’s end. God, as before, shows no reaction other than responding to the issue at hand. He commands Moses to take some of the elders on ahead of the people, and strike “the rock at Horeb” so that water will miraculously spring forth (v. 6). The definite article with the word “rock” suggests that this rock was acknowledged to be unique. The mention of Horeb (i.e. Mount Sinai) before the congregation reaches this sacred destination is difficult to understand sequentially. The association, however, draws our attention to the whole idea of the sacred mountain as we have already seen in Exodus 3 (See Gazing into Divine Fire, Oct. 8, 2014). The imagery of “the rock” in connection with the “mountain” is a spiritually loaded biblical motif combination (cf. Dan. 2:34-35, Matt. 21:42-44). We clearly see that God creates in the wilderness a river of life, a virtual Eden in the wilderness.

There is another similarity here with lost origins. The people accused Moses of taking them out into the desert for the express purpose of killing them (v. 3, cf. 16:3). This accusation against Moses is here interpreted by Moses as “putting the Lord to the test” (v. 2). The fact of the situation is that God was testing them to pull to the surface of their consciousness what lies deep inside. What was inside was a heart of disbelief in YHWH. They were committing the same primal sin in the desert that Eve committed in the Garden. She came to disbelieve that God had her best in mind, that He had good intentions for her (See Snaky Words, Sept. 3, 2013). Unlike Abraham their father, who trusted God in the face of the inexplicable (See The Sublime Climax: Gen. 22, Jan. 7, 2014), they were reverting to the primal sin of disbelief. In this darkened spiritual state, the soul deflects the test God applies for spiritual healing, and strikes out against God. This is what it means to put God to the test. Testing God is the reversal of His testing of us. He tests us to ultimately bring healing; we test Him when we push back, accusing Him of bad intentions. We cannot grow and be healed when we are fighting God, and we run the risk of “pushing it too far.” Israel is well on the way of doing this very thing when she asks, “Is the lord among us or not?” in the face of God’s constant provision (v. 7).

Picking up on our allegory, Moses represents the spirit of the person who desires to be reunited with God. The people represent the body with its senses (See The Young Moses, Sept. 29, 2014). This narrative visualizes the strife between the interior spirit driven by God and the exterior driven by the appetite and senses. The exterior appetite is so strong that it would want to kill off the spirit, and would but for the intervention of God. Moses, representing the spirit, is committed to the body but strives to put it under the subjection of God. This is the great battle of everyman, every woman. We all have fight! To fight the good fight is to subject our senses and appetites to our spirit before God. To fight against God is to put him to the test. When we do this, God is extremely patient over a long period of time, but there is a point where we can push it too far. Israel in fact reaches this point a couple of times on their desert journey. The question remains, what about us?

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