Excerpt from "First Things" Vol. LXV No. 38, September 20, 2015
Meribah and Massah. These are not particularly well-known Biblical sites. It’s David who mentions them years after they first appear in the Biblical narrative. Are they mentioned as places to visit? Sites worthy of a pilgrimage? No. His particular remembrance of these places is not positive. David does not want God’s people to return to Meribah and Massah. He is not speaking of a physical return - but in an experiential return. In Psalm 95 David writes –
“Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as at Meribah, as on the day of Massah, in the wilderness, when your fathers put me to the test and put me to the proof, though they had seen my work.” (Psalm 95:7b-9)
Meribah and Massah first appear in Exodus 17 as part of the account of the Exodus. The people are thirsty. They grumble against God. They grumble against Moses. Moses cries out to God, “What shall I do with these people? They are almost ready to stone me?” So God has Moses strike a rock from which water comes to satisfy the people.
One might expect David to remember and highlight the provision of God at Meribah and Massah; but for David the lesson is found elsewhere. It is found with the Israelites. It is a lesson of what not to do. They had grumbled. They had hardened their hearts. What’s so distressing about this hardening of their hearts? Isn’t this something we all do from time to time? It is the particular context of their grumbling that captures David’s attention. They had hardened their hearts even “though they had seen my (God’s) work.” This group of God’s people had really seen God’s work! They had seen God’s mighty plagues fall upon the Egyptians. They had seen God part the Red Sea as a way of escape for the Egyptian army. By this point they had seen God literally provide manna from heaven to satisfy their hunger.
But, when faced with another challenge, how do they respond? They harden their hearts in unbelief. There really is a lesson here. We, too, have been the recipients of unfathomable grace as the power of the gospel has opened our eyes and hearts to the amazing love of God found in Jesus. He has made us his and part of his family. We have known his faithful provision time after time. This has been our experience if we have saving faith in him. Yet when a new challenge comes, how often do we grumble and harden our hearts? How often do we respond as though we had forgotten his provision?
And as a church? As a congregation, we have known and experienced God’s faithfulness and blessings. That is part of the legacy of our congregation. As new challenges and opportunities appear before us, how do we respond? Do we harden our hearts and grumble? Do we wonder what God can do? Or, do we put our faith in a God who over and over again shows his might and power and provision for his people?
May this be a season in our lives as individuals and as a church – not of hardening our hearts – but of trusting God to provide. A season of trusting him.
This page last updated September 29, 2016.