Scripture: Exodus 15:22-25
You may remember (or you may not, because let’s face it, everything is a bit of a blur these days) – but you may remember that back in the fall, we journeyed with the Israelite people through the book of Exodus, including both their escape from Egypt and their many years spent wandering in the wilderness as they learned what it meant to be God’s people. If I had known that in the spring we’d be going through this current wilderness period of COVID-19 and social distancing and worship via Zoom, I honestly might have held off until now. But I do think this is the perfect time to join the Israelites back in the wilderness, anyway, because I suspect that some of the spiritual lessons they learned during that time might be relevant for us now.
We’ve done Exodus, so for this Easter season, we’re going to be mostly joining back up with the wandering Israelites in the book of Numbers – except for today, when we’re throwing it back to Exodus. That’s because Exodus and Numbers have very different takes on what happened in the wilderness. Exodus mostly tells the story of what happens leading up to Moses’ encounter with God at Mount Sinai, and Numbers starts on the other side of Sinai. Numbers has a bunch of stories that mirror stories we already read in Exodus – like the Israelites receiving manna and quail to eat – except these are the post-Sinai versions of these stories, and they tend to sound a little different. In Numbers, God is often exasperated with the people for how little they’ve learned and how much they always complain. But in Exodus, while there’s some of that, the wilderness is depicted overall mainly as a time of grace and provision. The people were in this place of having to put their full trust in God for the things they needed, and God took care of them.
So I wanted to start there.
The story we just read comes from Exodus 15, just after the Israelites have made it safely across the Red Sea. This is their first wilderness experience. They make it across to freedom and suddenly realize: there’s no water to drink. And when there finally is some water, they still can’t drink it. This is understandably alarming. So the people complain to Moses, Moses cries out to God, God shows Moses a stick to put in the water, and the water becomes sweet, or good to drink. And God will continue to provide in other ways as the people journey on.
So today I want to open up this sermon to you. I know sometimes spiritual lessons are best learned in retrospect, but that doesn’t mean we can’t find things to be grateful for along the way, right? In this wilderness period of the past month or so, as we’ve been facing disease and isolation and fear and just kind of have to keep going: How is God sustaining you? How have you experienced God’s grace and provision in all of it?
Thanks be to God for all the ways God has shown up and continues to show up to and with and for us now. Amen.