Our friend Laura preached tonight. She talked about how the Israelites had a legitimate need. It wasn't wrong for them to worry about getting water to drink while traveling with a couple million other people through the desert. But they forgot about what God had done. They didn't turn to Him and ask for water; they just start complaining. God wanted them to turn to Him. He wanted to have a relationship with them.
Flash forward just over 1500 years. Jesus is walking through Samaria (which a good Jew shouldn't do). He is thirsty; He sits at a well. A woman comes to draw some water. Jesus asks her if He could have some. She doesn't understand why a Jew would be asking her for water. Jesus begins an object lesson (one wonders if that wasn't His plan all along--that He didn't really need water). He tells her that He has living water so that she will never go thirsty. He is inviting her into a relationship with Him. That is the reason He came.
So the question is not "Where is God?" but "Where am I with God?" I admit that for me there are times (many times) when it is hard to have a relationship with God. I'm not always good with relationships in the first place; I don't know how to deal with one with a spiritual being. I'm great with knowledge of God. I don't always do well in living that out. I don't do well at living out my other relationships in life at times.
One of the six affirmations that the Evangelical Covenant Church is built on (we're non-credal) is "Freedom in Christ." Sometimes we take that to mean that we can do infant or adult baptism and not be divided over it. And that freedom is good. But sometimes Freedom in Christ is more about being released from the bondage of slavery to sin. We don't always understand that freedom, however; we don't always know what to do with it. Sometimes, like the Israelites longing for the "comfort" of life in Egypt, we long for the familiarity of our sinful life. At least I have. We forget what God has done for us. We forget what slavery was really like. Bondage provides knowns that freedom doesn't. There is comfort in it--even while it is miserable. Freedom produces unknowns. It means we have responsibilities. There are dangers.
The key is not "Freedom" but "in Christ." We can't do this on our own. We need support. We need encouragement. We need a guide. God led the Israelites through the wilderness as a cloud and pillar of fire. He was with them. Through history He keeps getting back to how it was in Eden when He walked in the cool of the day through the garden with Adam and Eve. First the cloud. Then the Tabernacle where His presence would descend. Then the Temple where He would fill the Holy of Holies. Then His Son walked amongst us. Now we have the indwelling Holy Spirit. Someday we'll be back to walking in the garden with Him. Because He loves us. Because He wants to know us. Because He wants us to know Him.
I wander through the wilderness not alone. God is with me. And while I fail miserably in my relationship with Him, He is patient. And loving. And gracious. He doesn't give up on me. He puts up with my grumbling and complaining. May we learn that better than the Israelites did.