Resurrection Lutheran Church, St Catharines
Water on the Rocks for Thirsty Throats
February 05, 2023; Rev. Kurt A. Lantz, Pastor
Water on the Rocks for Thirsty Throats
Rev. Kurt Lantz Septuagesima Exodus 17:1-7
February 05, 2023 Resurrection Lutheran Church St. Catharines, ON
Dear thirsty people,
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
It may not be until you wind things down at the end of the day that you realize how thirsty you are. Perhaps you attended a sporting game or concert where you were shouting cheers of support and encouragement. Or maybe it was just an evening with friends in a noisy restaurant where you had to converse loudly in order to be heard over the din. It could have been at work where your instructions have to be given over the sound of machinery. Or maybe, like in today’s Gospel reading (Matthew 20:1-16), it is at the end of the work day because of constant grumbling against the boss and your fellow workers whom you feel were not putting in equal effort.
The Israelites, having just crossed the Red Sea and on their way to Mount Sinai, even before they had received the Ten Commandments, found themselves to be very thirsty. But not so thirsty that could not muster their voices to murmur and complain against Moses.
They had been delivered from bondage to the Egyptians after 400 years of slavery. They had seen the plagues that the LORD had sent upon their taskmasters so that they would let them go, beginning with the waters of the great Nile River turning to blood when Moses struck them with his staff. They saw the death of the firstborn in every household except for those who put the blood of the Passover Lamb on the doorposts and lintel of their houses, and all of the other plagues in between (Exodus 7-12). After they had left and Pharaoh's army pursued them to the Red Sea, they saw the waters divided as a wall on their right and their left for them to cross through on dry ground (Exodus 14). And when they were safely across, the waters returned to their place and drowned the pursuing Egyptians, destroying their enemy completely.
But that was several days before our Old Testament reading for today, when they had camped at a place where there was no natural water source. So with thirsty throats they complained to Moses (rather violently), “Give us water that we may drink... Why did you bring us out of Egypt to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?” (Exodus 17:2, 3). And Moses was afraid they were about to pick up rocks to pelt at him in order to kill him.
Moses pointed out that this was more than a complaint against his leadership. This was a testing against the LORD Himself, as if He had not already proved Himself up to the task of delivering His people safely from all dangers. They rebelled and complained against the minister that the LORD had set over them. They accused Moses of negligence in his office. They did not trust in the care of the LORD to provide a competent leader for them or to provide for them directly as He had already miraculously demonstrated to them. Moses also pointed out that this testing of the LORD was based on their doubt that the LORD was present with them at all.
Isn’t that what murmuring and complaining is always centred on, particularly when it is done within the church, against those that the LORD has put into office? And even in the Christian home where the father is the head of the household, and there are roles of submission and leadership. But also in general whether your workplace or school is full of Christian people or not, and in the state where this nation of Canada is not at all inclined to follow the LORD’s direction. Yet we still confess that the LORD has given us our parents and set in place other authorities which we are not to despise, but to honour and obey, knowing that even when they sin and fail, the LORD is still near to help and to save.
Murmuring and complaining in sinful rebellion and angry frustration must be give way to faith and trust, where issues can be raised out of concern rather than complaint, and with a desire to help our pastors and parents, employers and governors, to fulfill their duties to the best of their abilities. And this can only be done when we are sure and confident that the LORD is near to rescue us from every danger and to fill our every need. For strife against our leaders is truly a testing of the LORD Himself, whom we have no right to test or to call into question.
Like the Israelites delivered from bondage in Egypt, the LORD has delivered us from our slavery to sin. He has offered free and full forgiveness for our every sin. He has opened the way to paradise and He is leading us to our promised eternal home each and every day. When at the end of the day we are hoarse and dry from worry and complaint, we need to confess our sins of testing the LORD and rebelling against those He has put in office to take care of us.
Such a confession must be motivated by the LORD’s own acts of deliverance. We need to be reminded from His holy Word of His great act of salvation for us, and the long-suffering of His grace toward us. The complaint of the labourers who worked all day in the vineyard was because the LORD was just as gracious to others as He was to them. They did not lose out on anything. They were recipients of the full and free grace of God. His rich grace was not costing them anything. It only cost the LORD Himself who paid the full wages of each and every one.
“The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23a) and Jesus’ death upon the cross paid the wages for every worker in the vineyard of the earth. He paid for them all in full so that no one need ever be anxious or worried that there is yet more to do to be saved, or that somehow in giving freely to others the LORD is taking some of our salvation away. No, it is all been covered completely and fully in the death and resurrection of Jesus.
“The free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (6:23b). If the lord of the vineyard was going to pay everyone what they deserved at the end of the day, he would have executed them all. That is what they all deserved for their murmuring and complaining and not honouring Him. But of His mercy and through His grace alone, He paid them all in full, completely and entirely. That is the salvation that we have in Christ Jesus. He has given it to us freely by His gracious love for sinners. Our sins would have us suffer an eternal death, but He has freely given us full eternal life by grace alone.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8). It is pure gift, by God’s grace alone that we are not struck down for our sins of murmuring and complaining, testing His limits and doubting His presence. It is by grace alone that He delivered the Israelites from Egypt before He even gave them the Ten Commandments to obey. He defeated their enemies entirely. He showed them His presence miraculously. He confirmed Moses as His appointed servant to lead them to life.
And when they came to Rephidim and struck camp. They had no water and their voices were hoarse as they murmured and complained. Their mouths were dry and their throats were thirsty and their souls fell deeper into the dust of sin and death as they tested the LORD, doubting that He was near to provide and to save, even though He had already demonstrated such a mighty deliverance for them. Moses prayed for the congregation and the LORD revealed His plan in more ways than one.
Moses was to take the elders of the congregation and the staff with which he had struck the Nile to turn its waters to blood, and go to the rock at Horeb. There the LORD would be standing before him on the rock. And Moses struck the rock and water came out of it and the people, they drank. It was another mighty act of salvation by the LORD’s grace alone.
He did not give the people what they deserved. He did not tell Moses to raise his staff and strike the murmurers and complainers. He was to strike the rock instead of the rebels. And the LORD did not bring forth blood from the rock like He did when Moses struck the Nile River to punish the Egyptians. This was not a punishing plague resulting in death, but a miracle bringing forth refreshment and life, quenching both thirst and sin. This is the grace of God by which we are saved, and it is amazing.
This is the grace of the LORD that reveals His plan for our salvation. St. Paul in 1 Corinthians (10:4) reveals to us that “they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ.” Moses struck the rock instead of the rebels. Christ, the Rock was struck, instead of the sinners. And in striking Christ, life flowed out for all. Moses’ staff brought blood from the Nile and water from the Rock, and the spearhead of a Roman soldier’s staff pierced the side of Christ on the cross and water and blood flowed out (John 19:34).
The blood of Christ and the water flowing from His gracious heart are the source of our eternal life. The waters of baptism unite us to the resurrected life of Christ (Romans 6:4), where we have new life and daily refreshment from the dry dusty sins of the day. The blood of Christ in the chalice washes down our thirsty throats to cleanse us from murmuring sins and to confess that the LORD is truly present in this Sacrament of His body and blood to deliver and to save.
This grace of God soothes the thirsty throats that murmur and complain over doubt and worry. The promises that Jesus has given in His holy Word assure us that He is always near. He will never abandon us to die in our sins. He is ever present to rescue and to save, refreshing us with the waters of our Baptism and giving us the very blood that He shed upon the cross for the life of the world, and certainly for you.
The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.