Yes, there is God.
I’ve said this before, I’m sure, because it’s what I believe. You are welcome to your own belief and if I can help to encourage you, reassure you, engage you and help you grow in your belief or understanding of God, I would. And if you think you don’t believe in God, I’d be happy to discuss it, because I think we’d probably still find some common ground.
That’s not to say that I don’t have questions – a lot of questions – and moments of doubt. I’m human. Don’t you doubt, sometimes?
It’s easy to say God is with us when things are going well, when we feel like we’re on the winning side or life is generally good. But when they’re not, doubt creeps in. And when things continue that way, when there seems to be no discernible response to our needs, the doubt can become full on angry denial.
Why did God let that happen? Why didn’t God do something?
And some of those things are huge and life changing, even life ending. Sometimes they’re just unmet wants and desires. But each time, we want to cry out to the God somewhere out there who just isn’t here right now meeting our need. We want to rail against the God who seems to stand back and let things happen when God could easily step in and change it, and make it better. For us. Why isn’t God here doing what needs to be done? Is God among us or not?
That was the Israelites’ question. The book of Exodus records God sending Moses to free the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. The Pharaoh won’t let them go, so there are nine plagues, culminating in the death of all the first born Egyptian children. That was the price God paid to free them. After they leave, the Egyptians chase after them, catching up to them at the Reed Sea. The Israelites complain that they were freed only to be killed in the wilderness, but, through Moses, God parts the sea so they can pass through to the other side and then closes the waters back on the Egyptian army. Now they are hungry, but God feeds them. Now they are thirsty and God gives them water. And now, angry and frustrated, the Israelites fighting with Moses and God, cry out, “is God among us or not?” (Ex. 17:7)
Thank goodness they weren’t angry with you or me. We would probably have replied with something like, “What?!?! After all I’ve done for you?” and stomped off, never willing to help them again.
But it’s God. God’s reply to the their angry doubt isn’t anger or hurt in return, it’s water. Generous, life-giving water. From a rock. That’s what happens in this moment in the story, but wonder for a minute about what’s happening in the big picture. Hardened by years of slavery and bitterness, the people will find new life within, and between, themselves in the freedom they will learn to know in the wilderness. This, to me, is God teaching the people that God isn’t some power “out there” that controls things, but something that’s within each of us, something we share with each other. Like water.
God isn’t some external force that dominates or controls things. God is in each of us, in all living things, that we share with each other. Or we don’t – we have free will. Much later Jesus will call us to love like this, to be life-giving and nourishing. Like water. The stone that needs to be cracked open isn’t God, it’s us.