The whole Israelite community set out from the Desert of Sin and…they quarreled with Moses and said, “Give us water to drink.” The Lord [said to] Moses, “Go out in front of the people...Strike the rock, and water will come out of it for the people to drink.” Exodus 17:1-7 abbreviated
This is a very abbreviated version of what transpired in the Desert of Sin (a real place), and I encourage you to read the entire text for a complete account because it’s a great story!
Basically, the people are hot and tired, and their water is running low and there is no stream or pond in sight. The people are, well, afraid, and they turn on Moses because he is their leader, and they are now frustrated with themselves that they may have thrown in with the wrong guy. Their fear and frustration are legitimate, and their complaint is valid—or it would be if their focus and understanding were correct, which they are not.
The Exodus event is a people thing. The People of the Exodus are on the move, both physically and spiritually, and they are being challenged in both areas as well and tried in their emotional state. So much has, and is, happening that their heads are spinning, and their fears have taken over their better judgment. In response, God makes a very public show of power and provision providing for their fear (water) and their faith (miracle). God shows that, while they are being tried by the circumstances of their travel, they are also participants in the blessing of their journey. How is this not akin to our current situation?
The Psalmist writes in Psalm 121: “I lift my eyes unto the hills, from where is my help to come? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth” (vs. 1-2). To liken our last year of COVID- 19 vigilance to the physical Exodus journey may be a stretch; however, to understand our fears and trials as a likened experience with our ancient brothers and sisters is appropriate.
As we continue down untrodden paths encountering strangely familiar obstacles which frustrate and scare us, our eyes must turn to the hills! By many accounts, COVID-19 in some form or another will be with us forever and if not it, then some other virus or disease. So, what has really changed? We are always encountering health difficulties and hearing about new terrors that shake us to the core. There was a time, not remembered by many, when Tuberculosis and Measles were killing and permanently afflicting people in comparable numbers to our current COVID affliction. Where did people turn to for help back then? Doctors, science, and—if they were people of faith, God. I can still remember my mom praying for the children who had died of measles during my early 1960s childhood. I can still remember her praying in thanksgiving and hope for the vaccine that my siblings and I received.
The Lord will keep you from all harm—He will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore (Psalm 121:7-8).
It’s hard to hear these words when we are sick or in pain or thirsty, and not wonder if they are simply hyperbole. Our physical well-being is important to God, and our physical life is constantly in peril, but our spiritual well-being is also important, and God speaks to us about both.
Each day, we must force our eyes to gaze at the hills, to look for God present and coming. We must remind ourselves that God is constantly caring for us through the love of family and friends, the attention of our doctors and medical professionals, the brilliance of scientists, the comfort of familiar things, the witness of history, the beauty of creation, and the direct intervention of the Holy Spirit. Turning our eyes to the hills means seeking the presence of God in everything and everyone. Turning our eyes to the hills means living in the sure and certain hope of the Resurrection and the absolute assurance of the presence of the Holy Spirit always—even right now!
“My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.”
Peace in Christ,
Father Bill Burk†