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Moses and Peter say too much, get in trouble, and come right back for more

by davesandel on August 5th, 2021

Thursday, August 5, 2021                              (today’s lectionary)

 Moses and Peter say too much, get in trouble, and come right back for more

The people settled at Kadesh in the desert of Zin, and it was here that Miriam died and was buried.

A big rock in the desert, first seen in Exodus 17 a few days after the children of Israel left Egypt, reappears forty years later in Numbers 20. Miriam has died, Many others have died, as God told them they would. Once again they are trapped in the desert without water. Once again they complain, as they did before. Who could blame them? Surely some of the complainers were young, born to the ex-Egyptian slaves in the hot sands of Arabia. Where are the figs, Moses, and the pomegranates?

As the community had no water, they complained against Moses. Moses and Aaron went to the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord appeared to them. “From the rock you shall bring forth water for everyone to drink.

Moses was caught in the middle between these complainers and the tough Yahweh, who was sick of hearing his chosen people (why on earth did I pick these guys?) moan and groan in their weak defeatist voices. God told him to speak to the rock, but instead he shouted at the people. You rebels! Forty years earlier God told him to strike the rock, and so he struck it this time too.

Moses called out, “Listen to me, you rebels!” Then Moses struck the rock twice with his staff and water gushed out in abundance.

The people, cows and sheep were all content as water poured over them and down their throats. But Yahweh was not pleased with Moses. God told him to speak to the rock, and when he struck as he had so many years ago, God saw that as a lack of trust. You are not listening to me! You are afraid! And then Yahweh deprived Moses of something he had hoped for since leaving Egypt.

There was water, but the Lord was not pleased. “Because you were not faithful to me, you shall not lead this community into the land I will give them.” These are the waters of Meribah.

The journey of the Israelites is coming to an end. But Moses will not accompany them across the River of Jordan; he will die in the heights, looking across the river toward God’s promised land of milk and honey.

If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts. But instead, come into his presence with thanksgiving, acclaim the Rock of our salvation.

Rock my soul, in the bosom of Abraham.

This is Rock Day in the lectionary, I guess. In the gospel reading Peter stands up to berate and then be berated by Jesus, but not before Jesus renames him as the rock (Cepha, Petros, Petra, Petrus).

Simon Peter said to Jesus, “You are the Christ, Son of the Living God.” And Jesus said, “You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church. I will give you the keys to the Kingdom of heaven.”

Jokes, novels, movies and cartoons depict Saint Peter standing at heaven’s gate, binding and loosing, holding the keys of all things eternal. But it’s good to take Jesus at his word, and stand with Peter in the gap, rather than joining the abusers and complainers in the desert. Let Peter speak, let the waters of salvation gush forth, bathe in them to our heart’s content.

Jesus told his disciples that he must suffer and be killed, then rise up on the third day. Peter rebuked Jesus, “God forbid! No such thing shall ever happen to you.” But Jesus said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle, you are thinking not as God does, but as a human being.”

Of course it’s true; Peter was a human being, not a god. Sometimes I forget that heroes of the past put on underwear in the morning just like I do. Peter was famous for screwing up and saying things he shouldn’t have said. God doesn’t seem to care much if we screw up all the time, as long as we keep coming back for more of Him.

Do not fear the Canaanites.

The Kingdom of heaven is near.

Trust Me!

O woman, great is your faith!

Upon this rock I will build my church.

(Numbers 20, Psalm 95, Matthew 16)

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