If you want to put the Lord to the test, just ask one simple question, “Is the Lord among us or not?”
The people of God in Exodus, chapter 17, were thirsting in the wilderness. They took it as a sign that God had abandoned them. They cried out to Moses for help. God told Moses to take his staff and strike a rock. Moses struck the rock and water flowed out. The story concludes in verse seven:
“And Moses called the name of the place Massah and Meribah, because of the quarreling of the people of Israel, and because they tested the LORD by saying, ‘Is the LORD among us or not?’”
Although this is not the only time the people of God put the Lord to the test, this particular event is referred to many, many times in the Bible. Deuteronomy 8, Psalms 78, 81, 96, 105, 114, Isaiah 43 and 48, I Corinthians 10 and Hebrews 3 all make reference to this story.
One scholar says this story almost becomes a prototype for all the times the people of God doubt God and put him to the test.
But God had not abandoned his people, he was testing them. God never abandons us but he does test us. Sometimes it’s hard not to confuse the two. He tests us so that he can draw us even closer to himself. But so often, during times of testing, we think that God has abandoned us. We ask, “Is the Lord among us or not?”
Jesus anticipated that his disciples would wonder if he was with them. Forty days after he rose from the dead Jesus ascended into heaven and was no longer visibly present with his disciples. So he instituted the Sacrament of the Altar to assure us that he is always with us. To partake of the sacrament and then to doubt if God is with us is a real shame. God is always with us.
Verse one of the great hymn, Rock of Ages, speaks of Jesus as the Rock that was cleft for us:
“Rock of Ages, cleft for me, let me hide myself in Thee.
Let the water and the blood, from thy riven side which flowed,
Be of sin the double cure, cleanse me from its guilt and power.”
“And you shall strike the rock, and water shall come out of it, and the people will drink.” The rock was struck and life-giving water flowed out. Jesus was struck down on the cross and life-giving blood and water flowed out. The blood of Jesus, God’s Son cleanses us from all sin.
The rock that Moses was instructed to strike to bring forth the water was called Horeb. Professor David Adams from Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, points out that the term “Horeb” refers to a dry, wilderness rock. That makes this miracle even more remarkable.
Jesus, the Rock of Ages, completely died for our sins. Because he did so we have peace with God and know that he is always with us. In Matthew 18:20 Jesus says, “Where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”
Notice it says, “Where two or three are gathered in my name.” In the text the people said, “Is the Lord among us or not?” The Lord is always with us individually but even more so when we are gathered together in his name. If you as an individual believer start to feel that God has abandoned you, the best thing you can do is gather with other believers in Christ.
According to Matthew, the very last words of Jesus to his disciples were, “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.
If you really want to put the Lord to the test, just ask, “Is the Lord among us or not?” God is always with us and one of the signs that he is with us that he tests us. He tests us to bring us even closer to him.