The Israelites, journeying by stages from the wilderness, seem to have lost sight of the promise of a future with hope. Their most pressing need and cry is for water to sustain them in the present moment.
I imagine if Paul could have offered them his wisdom about suffering producing endurance, which produces character, which results in hope, it may have fallen on deaf ears. Amid suffering we find it difficult to imagine any future beyond the suffering. Weariness, thirst, and fear can take all of our effort. We struggle to remember the hope that prompted us to leave the wilderness in the first place, and we are tempted to focus on mere survival rather than endurance.
The Israelites hope that they can escape slavery, that their children will live as free people in a land flowing with milk and honey, and that they can worship their God openly. But when they step out on that hope, their suffering causes them to doubt that they can endure. They lose sight of the character of God that could have been formed in them.
The process of transformation that Paul describes requires us to choose hope again and again on each stage of the journey. Through faith in Jesus Christ, with the peace of God, and in accessing the grace available to us, we can choose to hold on to hope tenaciously, to rely on God continually, and to trust that God is being formed in our character until that hope is realized.
That’s no small feat. As Paul tells us, salvation comes while we are still weak. In the wilderness and sufferings of our lives, hope and salvation can feel as unlikely as water from a rock. Thank God, we have seen and we have heard that water can come from a rock, living water, a spring of eternal life.
God of endurance, may we be a people who walk together and bear witness to the times and places when endurance leads to fulfillment of hope. Amen.
Three of the passages this week connect water and faith. In Exodus and the psalm, we read about the Israelites grumbling in the desert. Although they have seen God’s mighty deeds in Egypt, they have begun to question God’s provision for them. God provides water through Moses, but the place is remembered (and named) as a site where the faith of the people fails. In John, however, a place to draw water becomes a site of salvation for the Samaritan woman and eventually for the people in her village through her faith. The reading in Romans goes a different direction. Paul emphasizes the importance of faith in the face of trials and the fact that God brings salvation through Christ when fallen humanity has no other hope.
Read Exodus 17:1-7. How do your memories of God’s provision sustain you through tough stages of your spiritual journey?
Read Psalm 95. What object, image, or memory serves for you as a symbol of God’s faithfulness?
Read Romans 5:1-11. How have you found hope in stages of life when God is forming your character through suffering and endurance?
Read John 4:5-42. When has letting go of your expectations or rules allowed God to work freely in your life or in the lives of others around you?
Respond by posting a prayer.
I join many of those who will pray for you as you seek to discern what you are called to be at this moment. May God grant you the courage to fulfill that calling. May we all open our eyes and see the misery, open our ears and hear the cries of God’s people, and, like God through the Lord Jesus Christ, be incarnate amongst them.”
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