Posted by: mikebackup | March 23, 2014

Is God with us or not?

Exodus 17:1-7

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

Water from the Rock

17 From the wilderness of Sin the whole congregation of the Israelites journeyed by stages, as the Lord commanded. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. The people quarreled with Moses, and said, “Give us water to drink.” Moses said to them, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the Lord?” But the people thirsted there for water; and the people complained against Moses and said, “Why did you bring us out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and livestock with thirst?” So Moses cried out to the Lord, “What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me.” The Lordsaid to Moses, “Go on ahead of the people, and take some of the elders of Israel with you; take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. I will be standing there in front of you on the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it, so that the people may drink.” Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel. He called the place Massah[a] and Meribah,[b] because the Israelites quarreled and tested the Lord, saying, “Is the Lord among us or not?”

You’d be easily mistaken to think this happened somewhere in Britain and not the middle east because moaning is a national pastime for us as well. Despite being brought out of slavery, having God physically present and miracles all around – the people just couldn’t stop moaning. We have to use these verses to reflect on our tendency to moan.

A good moan is one of the defining characteristics of the British, according to research by the global research company OnePoll.  Another survey revealed the average person grumbles up to 25 minutes a day, which equates to a staggering 6.3 days a year! Monday’s are apparently the worst culprits, but indulging in a good old groan is as ingrained in our daily routine as brushing our teeth or putting the kettle on[1].

We enjoy watching moaning!

Remember Victor Meldrew?

And these days – Karl Pilkington. Watch this clip from 4mins40.

Moaning does actually have a place – Cary Cooper, professor of organisational psychology and health at Lancaster University, says “Moaning serves a number of psychological purposes such as sharing perceptions about people or situations, getting something off the proverbial chest, as a means of developing a relationship with someone and a safe way of venting anger.”

People bond over shared grievances and on a practical level, acknowledging dissatisfaction has its plus points – providing you are proactive rather than dwelling on the negative. Recognising an issue (together with a moan) is an important self-preservation mechanism and an important part of the resolution process. It helps us to deal with sticky situations before they develop into something more serious.

The problem is in reality, we are a nation of persistent nit-pickers. Not only do we find it difficult to address the things that irritate us, we whinge far too much about unavoidable circumstances. And it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that all this doom and gloom isn’t good for our health. Experts have linked negative thought patterns to both physical and mental illness. And in addition to the impact it has on our own wellbeing; consider the effects of our constant complaining on those around us who often bear the brunt of our bad moods.

Break the moaning cycle with these simple steps:

1)  Begin every day with a positive thought (I start it in prayer)

2) Put yourself in the shoes of those around you. You’ll soon grow weary of grumbling.

3) Tackle whatever it is that’s bothering you. Putting off problems tends to amplify them. There’s no time like the present.

4) Treat yourself. Allow yourself time to indulge in activities that improve your mood e.g. exercise, holidays, social events.

5) Practice makes perfect. Like any new skill, a positive mental attitude will take time to perfect. Stay positive – you can do it!

So we’ve looked at the moaning, but we can’t leave these verses without looking at the challenging last line – “Is the Lord among us or not?”

You can read this several ways – ‘Is there a God or not?’ or ‘Is God on our side?’ or ‘Why is God letting this happen?’. They are questions you can only carefully reflect on and I always look for ways in which we can still keep God not only there but on our side despite what happens in the world. I saw this video in the week and I think it offers something helpful and moving and ties in very well with these verses as a whole.

Bringing this together, sometimes we may need a good moan, but we must not dwell there. If we do it becomes a Godless place. We need to move with God and together take positive steps. It may not end our pain but we will see God and ultimately that is the hope we need.


Spend a moment thinking about the things you moan about the most. Imagine God listening to those grumbles. How do you feel? Ask God to help you change the situations or to change your heart.

Ever-generous God,
when my heart is hard and unyielding,
strike it gently with your staff of challenging love;
that compassion, honesty, humility and wisdom
may flow from it,
refreshing me and those I meet,
and those I am called to serve.

We pray for all those who cry out for water to drink today.
For those in places of violence,
we pray for the outpouring of peace.
For those in places of poverty,
we pray for the outpouring of abundance.
For those in places of wealth,
we pray for the outpouring of generosity.
For those in places of despair,
we pray for the outpouring of hope.
For those in places of sickness,
we pray for the outpouring of healing.
In all places, Lord, we pray for the outpouring of life,
in all its fullness.

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