And Moses cried to the LORD, saying, What shall I do to this people? they be almost ready to stone me.…
I. THAT MEN ARE SOMETIMES BROUGHT INTO GREAT STRAITS THROUGH LACK OF THE ORDINARY THINGS OF LIFE. "And there was no water for the people to drink." Thus the Israelites lacked water. They had lacked bread only a few days previously.
1. It is not the lot of man to be long free from trial of some kind. Trials come successively. Job, Joseph, David. They are diversified according to the station in which our tent is fixed. Every sphere of life has something of perplexity connected with it, which tests our moral nature and brings the mercy of God near to us. We must learn both how to want and how to abound, to be sorrowful and yet always rejoicing.
2. Thus by the varied trials of life man is made to feel that earth cannot give him abiding satisfaction, and he is led to anticipate the rest of heaven. There the wilderness is unknown, and hunger and thirst are not experienced. The Lamb feeds them. They drink of the River of the Water of Life.
3. But we see from this narrative that each occasion of want on the part of Israel was signalized by a rich manifestation of the mercy of God. Their hunger was met by the manna. Their thirst was met by the streams of Horeb. The hour of man's need is often the hour of God's richest gift and blessing.
II. THAT WHEN MEN ARE BROUGHT INTO GREAT STRAITS THROUGH LACK OF THE ORDINARY THINGS OF LIFE, THEY OFTEN APPEAL TO HUMAN AGENCIES RATHER THAN TO DIVINE. "Wherefore the people did chide with Moses, and said, Give us water that we may drink." How foolish, for did not he suffer from the same calamity? nor was it in his power to create fountains. How cruel, for was not he seeking their freedom? How fickle the approbation of men, it varies with the circumstances of life. People often go to the human in trouble when they ought to go to the Divine.
III. THAT WHEN MEN ARE BROUGHT INTO STRAITS THROUGH THE LACK OF THINGS THEY VERY MUCH NEED, THEY OFTEN GET THEM IN THE PROVIDENCE OF GOD FROM THE MOST UNLIKELY SOURCES. "Behold, I will stand before thee there upon the rock in Horeb; and thou shalt smite the rock, and there shall come water out of it, that the people may drink." Thus we see that God did not flash immediate judgment upon these rebellious people. He is long-suffering toward the race. We must learn to be patient with those who injure us. God has regard to human need, and evil in men will not turn Him away from His promise, None need despair of His mercy. When the people chide, the minister should pray. Our heavenly Father is never absent from the good; goodness and mercy follow them all their days.
IV. THAT WHEN MEN ARE BROUGHT INTO STRAITS, THE WAY IN WHICH THEY ACT THEREIN WILL LEAVE IRREPARABLE MEMORIALS OF SIN OR VICTORY. "And he called the name of the place Massah, and Meribah, because of the chiding of the children of Israel," etc. Let us not leave behind in our life memorials of strife and unbelief, but of faith and good works. Such memorials are abiding; once erected, they cannot be removed; hence the need that they should be worthy. Lessons:
1. That man is frequently called upon in this life to endure great physical need.
2. That the physical needs of life often reveal our real and inner character.
3. That the physical needs of life are no indication that God has failed us.
4. That the physical needs of life give us a great insight into the wealth and method of the Divine mercy.
(J. S. Exell, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And Moses cried unto the LORD, saying, What shall I do unto this people? they be almost ready to stone me.