You came down on Mount Sinai; you spoke to them from heaven. You gave them regulations and laws that are just and right, and decrees and commands that are good. You made known to them your holy Sabbath and gave them commands, decrees and laws through your servant Moses. In their hunger you gave them bread from heaven and in their thirst you brought them water from the rock; you told them to go in and take possession of the land you had sworn with uplifted hand to give them. “But they, our ancestors, became arrogant and stiff-necked, and they did not obey your commands. They refused to listen and failed to remember the miracles you performed among them. They became stiff-necked and in their rebellion appointed a leader in order to return to their slavery. But you are a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love. Therefore you did not desert them, even when they cast for themselves an image of a calf and said, ‘This is your god, who brought you up out of Egypt,’ or when they committed awful blasphemies. “Because of your great compassion you did not abandon them in the wilderness. By day the pillar of cloud did not fail to guide them on their path, nor the pillar of fire by night to shine on the way they were to take. You gave your good Spirit to instruct them. You did not withhold your manna from their mouths, and you gave them water for their thirst. For forty years you sustained them in the wilderness; they lacked nothing, their clothes did not wear out nor did their feet become swollen. – Nehemiah 9:13-21
Water for their thirst…what powerful imagery here. The israelites were in the desert or wilderness to learn how to trust God. He provided for them in miraculous ways with Manna from heaven and water from rocks. They are remembering His provision in this passage.
I am not a big fan of drinking plain water. I much prefer juice or green tea if I have to drink liquid. I drink it because I know my body needs it. There are times when I wish I could have some sort of intravenous fluid so I didn’t have to think about drinking water.
There was a time a couple years ago when I was doing research in Haiti with a student when water became a big issue. Toward the end of our trip we decided it would be really interesting to do a long hike up into the high mountains — far away from roads and people and buildings. We donned our backpacks early in the morning to beat the heat. We each were carrying about 2 liters of water.
We climbed about 1500 feet vertically through beautiful rock formations and fields of corn and beans. Our intended destination was a French fort near the top of the mountains. As we neared our destination we discovered that two liters of water was not enough for the climate of Haiti and the exertion of climbing the mountains. I was a little worried and we were close to trying to find a water source when we happened upon a garden with mature sugar cane. We negotiated with the farmer to purchase a couple of canes for about 10 gourds (about 25 cents) to satisfy our thirst and also give us a much needed boost of energy. I do not think I have ever gotten anything more satisfying for 25 cents in my life.
We made it down the mountain safe and sound after making our way through a Dr. Seuss-esque landscape of limestone outcrops (see photo above) called Pinnacle Karren. There are few times in my life when I have felt more thirsty than when we arrived at the vehicle that picked us up. We drank and drank and drank. My sense is that this is the type of thirst we are to have for God — an urgent need that is not like any other need in our lives. God has promised to provide living water for those that ask for it.
I think spiritually many of us have become satisfied with intravenous fluids rather than the living water that God provides. We dislike being thirsty so we connect ourselves to an “IV drip” from our local church or some other God surrogate. The pre-packaged liquid provided by surrogates like our church, pastor, and fellow Christians is comfortably regular and predictable and does not require the scary reliance on God for satisfying our thirst — but God wants us to rely on Him.
Prayer: God thank You for providing living water to satisfy our thirst. May we seek it out rather than more predictable surrogates.