Greeting Psalm 32:11
“Be glad in the Lord and rejoice, you righteous ones;
And shout for joy, all you who are upright in heart.”
Creator God, you are righteous and merciful; your works are mighty. As we gather for worship, clear our minds of distractions. May our thoughts be centered on you. May your word be etched on our hearts; so that our lives may testify to our Savior Jesus Christ. In His name. Amen.
Call to Worship Psalm 78:1-4, 12-16
Give ear, O my people, to my teaching;
incline your ears to the words of my mouth.
I will open my mouth in a parable;
I will utter dark sayings from of old,
things that we have heard and known,
that our ancestors have told us.
We will not hide them from their children;
we will tell to the coming generation
the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might,
and the wonders that he has done.
In the sight of their ancestors he worked marvels
in the land of Egypt, in the fields of Zoan.
He divided the sea and let them pass through it,
and made the waters stand like a heap.
In the daytime he led them with a cloud,
and all night long with a fiery light.
He split rocks open in the wilderness,
and gave them drink abundantly as from the deep.
He made streams come out of the rock,
and caused waters to flow down like rivers.
Scripture Exodus 17:1-7 .
Morning Message A Lasting Legacy
Key Point: Where God leads, God will provide.
Questions: How does the world see us, and what will we be remembered for?
Is the Lord among us, or not? (Verse 7)
In Exodus 17:1-7, the issue is water: “The whole Israelite community set out from the Desert of Sin, traveling from place to place as the LORD commanded. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink” (verse 1).
The first thing to note is that they began this journey under God’s leadership (“as the Lord commanded”). We can assume this refers to the pillar of cloud and fire which guided the Israelites on the various legs of their journey thus far. God’s very presence was with them, leading them, not only in the form of verbal promises, but visually and tangibly.
In addition to God’s visual presence, the Israelites also had the daily reminder of God’s caring provision in the form of manna, which arrived wherever they were, six days a week. Signs of divine activity were everywhere.
And yet, with dry, thirsty mouths, the Israelites lash out against Moses: “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to make us and our children and livestock die of thirst?” (verse 3).
The decision to blame Moses points to the central problem in this story. Israel had still not learned a crucial lesson: where God leads, God provides.
God had secured victory over the Egyptians. He had enriched Israel with the wealth of their former captors. He made a dry path through the Red Sea And God provided regular supplies on their journey through the desert. (Manna, quail, water, protection, his presence 24/7)
If the wilderness stories teach us anything, it is that God provides in every situation.
And still, the Israelites quarrel, complain, and accuse Moses, their divinely appointed leader, for their current situation.
Not once does anyone offer a solution or idea. No one suggests they pray for mercy from the God who had been with them all along. In fact, in accusing Moses, they were, in a sense, acting like God wasn’t even there. Instead of crying out for mercy to God, they questioned his existence, “Is the Lord among us, or not?’
How quickly we, as humans, forget what God has already done. How sad, that although God did miraculously provide water that day, the Israelites are remembered NOT for their celebration of the miracle, but for their complaining and quarreling.
That would become their legacy. The naming of this place as Massah (testing) and Meribah (quarreling) would be forever reminders of their lack of faith.
So, the Lord answers by giving them a sign (Moses’ staff), saying, “Yes, I am with
you in this place, too.”
Since the Israelites seemed to be suffering from selective memory, God gave them a visible sign of his power and might, of what he had already done on their behalf.
Verse 5 & 6, “The Lord said 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.”
In response to Israel’s arguing and complaining, God doesn’t just send rain, He stages a dramatic miracle using Moses’ staff.
The inclusion of Moses’ staff is a significant detail.
The story begins in Exodus 4, when God turns this ordinary shepherd’s staff into a sign of his divine power by transforming it into a snake. The staff was designed to convince the Israelites that the God of their ancestors had heard their cries and had sent a deliverer. But it also did something for Moses, who had expressed concern that nobody would believe his story. God’s promise was attached to this concrete thing—this “sacrament”, this reminder of God’s grace—that gave confidence in God to both Moses and the Israelites.
Even more significantly, however, is the fact that Moses’ staff was used in Exodus 7 to turn the life-giving Nile into a deadly river of blood. According to Ex. 7:21, the bloodied Nile produced such a horrendous odor that “the Egyptians could not drink its water”.
In Exodus 17, the Israelites needed a similar miracle, but in reverse. Under pressure to satisfy Israel’s thirst, Moses is told to “strike the rock” at Horeb in the same way that he struck the Nile. Water came forth and the people were able to drink.
The crisis is averted by divine generosity. God’s love prevails despite the people’s lack of faith. Because where God leads, he will provide.
Today, this story is a timely reminder, especially for congregations experiencing disruption, transition, or adversity. Which is all churches to some degree, thanks to COVID-19. Because this story has the ability to make us look at ourselves as a church, and reveal how we, too, often struggle to believe that where God leads, God provides.
Like the Israelites, the Church, too, often forgets that God has been there all along.
That God has always provided a way through difficult times, that He most certainly is among, and ahead of, and behind, His children. God’s people too often fail to remember all that God has already done and begin to quarrel and accuse, instead of seeking God’s face. We forget the “shepherd staffs” in our own lives and church history.
And unfortunately, many local churches throughout history are remembered for their infighting and divisions. Sadly, these become their lasting legacy. These are the things they are most remembered for. Sadly, every community has its own churches that are modern-day Massahs and Meribahs.
What will we be remembered for?
Bethel Church, let’s be remembered as people who loved God with all our hearts, minds, and strength. Let’s be remembered as people who loved our neighbors as we love ourselves. Let’s be remembered as people who rejoiced in all things, people who found the good in difficult situations.
Let’s be thought of as people who refused to quarrel and make accusations against leadership and each other; and instead sought solutions and new ways of doing things. People who chose to trust God and did not dwell on what has been taken away, who did not forever mourn what can no longer be done.
Let’s be a church who rejoices in what we have been given and embrace these things, using what we’ve been given for God’s glory.
Bethel United Methodist Church: In the Bible the place called Bethel is mentioned 70 times, all in the Old Testament. Bethel was a place where God could be encountered. A place where people worshipped and offered sacrifice to the Lord. A place of promise and hope and transformation.
Let’s move forward into the future not only as people who attend a church named Bethel, but as true Bethel people.
Church, may we be people who seek God every day, and because we seek him, encounter Him daily. May we be people who worship him in every area of our lives, in our very living and breathing and doing. May we be generous people who give of ourselves fully and sacrificially, to God, to each other, to our neighbors and community. May we be seen as God’s people who always trust Him to provide our every need.
In the original Hebrew, Bethel means “house of God.” A house of God is an earthly, physical place that is seen as the dwelling place of God. As earth-bound humans, we often need something solid and physical to remind us of God’s presence.
Let’s also remember that in Scripture, Bethel was a place of new beginnings, a starting point really.
So as true Bethel people, may our legacy also be that we are a church who knows that God cannot really be contained in a physical building or location. That God truly is among us wherever we are. That He is with us whatever way we gather to worship. And that where God leads, he most certainly will provide. Amen.
Merciful God, like the Israelites in the wilderness,
we too have known Your love, and experienced Your care and provision.
You invite us to extend that love to the world around us--
to care for others as deeply as we care for ourselves.
And so we bring the needs of our world before You now.
We pray for the many who do not have enough: enough food to eat, or shelter to keep warm; enough employment, or money to pay their bills; enough medicine or medical care.
We also pray for those who have more than enough, but who still struggle to find meaning and purpose in life; who indulge in dangerous, addictive things to dull their pain or loneliness.
We pray for your blessing and healing on those mentioned here today. And in these next few silent moments we pray for those on our hearts. (Silent prayer)
God, your grace reaches out to all of us.
You call us to live as citizens of heaven, working together with one heart and mind.
Strengthen us to live in a manner worthy of the Good News we have received,
offering our lives in service of Your kingdom, where the last are first, and the first are last, and there is grace enough for all.
Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.
In the name of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, Amen.
~ Christine Longhurst, re:Worship
The Lord’s Prayer
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive
us our trespasses, as we forgive those that trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.
Benediction based on Numbers 6:24-26
The Lord bless you and keep you;
The Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;
The Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.
Go in peace!