I was fortunate as a child to spend my summers in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado where our family owned a beautiful piece of property. One summer, my dad bought a building, which he intended to move onto the property where he would convert it into a guesthouse.
There was a problem. There was no water. The intended solution was to find a mountain spring that could be tapped but none was evident. Finally, my mother said to my uncle, who was there with us, “Do you remember when you found water with a dowsing rod on the farm where we grew up? Why don’t you try that here?”
My uncle admitted that he remembered not only that occasion but also a couple of other ones when he lived in the Texas Panhandle during the Dust Bowl days of the Great Depression. As a ranch hand, he found water for livestock that were dying of thirst. They dug wells, put in windmills, and saved the herd. He’d been reluctant to suggest this method of finding water because he didn’t want to provoke laughter about what was to him a very special gift.
He went into the aspen grove, found an appropriate tree branch, and fashioned it into a “Y” shaped dowsing rod. He then went to a damp area near the site where they wanted to position the building and proceeded to do what dowsers do. I tagged along because I had to see this!
The place where he stopped seemed as unlikely as anywhere else and was, in fact, a large boulder. He said, “There’s a spring under this rock. Dig here.”
In a few hours, the hole we were digging began to fill up with water and after a bit more digging the spring was opened up and water flowed. All the necessary paraphernalia was put in place and water was pumped to the house where a pump and tank were installed to provide pressure.
My uncle believed he could find water; so did we; and our problem was solved.
In the wilderness, God’s people found themselves in a similar situation – in a place where there was no water in sight (Exodus 17:1-7). They became thirsty and started complaining to Moses. They demanded water as proof that God was in fact with them. Remember, this is the same God who parted the sea, gave them quails and manna to eat, and provided smoke by day and fire by night to guide them. Yet they still weren’t sure their God was with them.
Moses took their case to God. God told Moses to take some of the leaders of the people and go on ahead of them. He was to take his staff with him and when he came to a certain rock he was to strike it with his rod and water would flow out for the people to drink. He did as he was instructed and God came through once again for his people. Water gushed from a rock to quench their thirst!
Moses renamed the place “proof” and “contention.” The way in which the experience has been remembered among God’s people is primarily through the name Moses gave it. It has always been associated with fault-finding and harness of heart. But it should also be remembered, perhaps even more, as an illustration of God’s abundance and grace. For God did not berate the people. He gave life-sustaining water. And, it is a lesson to remember when we are faced with problems of our own. It illustrates in a wonderful way how God wants his children to solve their problems. In every area of life, we are indeed saved by grace through faith.