The test of Massah and Meribah

SERMON TOPIC: The test of Massah and Meribah

Speaker: Ken Paynter

Language: ENGLISH

Date: 10 July 2016


Sermon synopsis: Grumbling is questioning and testing God. We put God to the test when we grumble and complain and try get God to do our will instead of His, by quoting Scripture out of context.

Ex 17:7 And he called the place Massah and Meribah because the Israelites quarrelled and because they tested the Lord saying, Is the Lord among us or not?

Wikipedia: The episode recounted by the Book of Exodus features the Israelites quarrelling with Moses about the lack of water, and Moses rebuking the Israelites for testing Yahweh; the text states that it was on this account that the place gained the name Massah, meaning testing, and the name Meribah, meaning quarrelling.
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The 7 tests of the “Wilderness Christian”.

The test of baptism. (The red sea)

The test of Bitterness. (The test of Marah and Elim)

The test of manna. (The bread of God)

The test of Massah and Meribah. (Quarreling)

The test of Amalek. (The flesh)

The test of Mt Sinai. (Hearing from God first-hand)

The Sabbath test.( The rest of God)

The test of Manna.

Matthew 4:1-4. Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.

The tempter came to him and said, If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.

Jesus answered, It is written: Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.

See NOTE 1

The test of Manna.

Deuteronomy 8:3.

He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD..............

The Bread of Life.

John 6:30-35.

What will you do? Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written: He gave them bread from heaven to eat. Jesus said to them,

Very truly I tell you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven.

For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world. Sir they said, always give us this bread. Then Jesus declared, I am the bread of life.

Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty..........

The test of Massah and Meribah.

Ex 17:1-7. The whole Israelite community set out from the Desert of Sin, travelling from place to place as the LORD commanded. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. So they quarrelled with Moses and said, Give us water to drink. Moses replied, Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you put the LORD to the test? But the people were thirsty for water there, and they grumbled against Moses. They said, Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to make us and our children and livestock die of thirst? Then Moses cried out to the LORD, What am I to do with these people? They are almost ready to stone me. The LORD answered Moses, Go out in front of the people. Take with you some of the elders of Israel and take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. I will stand there before you by the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it for the people to drink. So Moses did this in the sight of the elders of Israel. And he called the place Massah and Meribah because the Israelites quarrelled and because they tested the LORD saying, Is the LORD among us or not?

The test of Massah and Meribah.

Numbers 20:1-13 (Grumbling is questioning God) In the first month the whole Israelite community arrived at the Desert of Zin, and they stayed at Kadesh. There Miriam died and was buried. Now there was no water for the community, and the people gathered in opposition to Moses and Aaron. They quarrelled with Moses and said, If only we had died when our brothers fell dead before the LORD! Why did you bring the LORD’s community into this wilderness, that we and our livestock should die here?

Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to this terrible place? It has no grain or figs, grapevines or pomegranates.

And there is no water to drink!

The test of Massah and Meribah.

Numbers 20:1-13 (Grumbling is questioning God)

The LORD said to Moses, Take the staff, and you and your brother Aaron gather the assembly together. Speak to that rock before their eyes and it will pour out its water. You will bring water out of the rock for the community so they and their livestock can drink.

So Moses took the staff from the LORD’s presence, just as he commanded him. He and Aaron gathered the assembly together in front of the rock and Moses said to them, Listen, you rebels, must we bring you water out of this rock? Then Moses raised his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff. Water gushed out, and the community and their livestock drank. But the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, Because you did not trust in me enough to honour me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them. These were the waters of Meribah, where the Israelites quarrelled with the LORD and where he was proved holy among them.

The test of Massah and Meribah.

Grumbling is questioning and testing God.

This is not about testing God by complaining that your car broke down or that the TV doesn’t work but that you don’t have bread and water, the necessities of daily living that are needed to survive.

Matthew 6:31-33.

So do not worry, saying, What shall we eat? or What shall we drink? or What shall we wear? For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

Psalms 37:25.

I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread.

The test of Massah and Meribah.

Deuteronomy 6:10-18 (Grumbling is questioning God)

When the LORD your God brings you into the land he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to give you, a land with large, flourishing cities you did not build, houses filled with all kinds of good things you did not provide, wells you did not dig, and vineyards and olive groves you did not plant, then when you eat and are satisfied, be careful that you do not forget the LORD, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. .........

Do not put the LORD your God to the test as you did at Massah.

Be sure to keep the commands of the LORD your God and the stipulations and decrees he has given you. Do what is right and good in the LORD’s sight, so that it may go well with you and you may go in and take over the good land the LORD promised on oath to your ancestors

The test of Massah and Meribah.

Look how Jesus responded when Satan tempted Jesus to throw himself off the pinnacle of the temple.

Matthew 4:5-7. Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. If you are the Son of God, he said, throw yourself down. For it is written: He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone. Jesus answered him, It is also written: Do not put the Lord your God to the test.

The test of Massah and Meribah.

We put God to the test when we grumble and complain and try get God to do our will instead of His, by quoting Scripture out of context.

Ex 17:7. And he called the place Massah and Meribah because the Israelites quarrelled and because they tested the LORD saying, Is the LORD among us or not?

Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The episode recounted by the Book of Exodus features the Israelites quarrelling with Moses about the lack of water, and Moses rebuking the Israelites for testing Yahweh; the text states that it was on this account that the place gained the name Massah, meaning testing, and the name Meribah, meaning quarrelling.

The test of Massah and Meribah.

Paul is not the only person to suggest that the Israelites were followed by a water source during their wilderness wanderings.

A first-century C.E. source called Pseudo-Philo’s Biblical Antiquities makes a similar claim: But as for his own people, he led them forth into the wilderness: Forty years did he rain bread from heaven for them, and he brought them quails from the sea, and a well of water following them (10.7).

In 1 Corinthians 10:4, Paul says that it was a rock that followed them. How did these two ancient interpreters come to their conclusions? Since Moses named both the rock at Rephidim (Exodus 17:7) and the one at Kadesh (Numbers 20:13) ‘Meribah,’ some concluded that both were one and the same rock and that it, therefore accompanied Israel on their journey.

The test of Massah and Meribah.

1 Corinthians 10:1-4.

For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea.

They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. They all ate the same spiritual food

and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ.

And so Jesus Christ is referred to as:

The Rock of our Salvation.

Rock of ages cleft for me.

The Living water.

John 4:10-15. Jesus answered her, If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water. Sir, the woman said, you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? ...........

Jesus answered, Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again,but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life. The woman said to him, Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.

See NOTE 1

The Living Water.

John 6:35.

Then Jesus declared, I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty..........

Jesus takes away our thirst for the things of this world, he replaces our lusts with Godly desires.

John 4:14.

Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again,but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst.

Matthew 5:6.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

When Jesus says those who come to Him will never hunger and those who believe in Him will never thirst, He is saying He will satisfy our hunger and thirst to be made righteous in the sight of God

Hunger and thirst for God.

Note the words of the wonderful song, Fill My Cup, Lord by Richard Blanchard:

Like the woman at the well I was seeking For things that could not satisfy; And then I heard my Saviour speaking: “Draw from My well that never shall run dry.”

Fill my cup Lord, I lift it up Lord, Come and quench this thirsting of my soul, Bread of heaven, feed me ‘til I want no more, Fill my cup, fill it up and make me whole!

Hunger and thirst for God.

In a world hot in pursuit of quenching its thirst with everything but God, Tozer wrote:

In the midst of this great coldness toward God there are some, I rejoice to acknowledge, who will not be content with shallow logic. They will admit the force of the argument, and then turn away with tears to hunt some lonely place and pray, “O God, show me thy glory.” They want to taste, to touch with their hearts, to see with their inner eyes the wonder that is God.

I want deliberately to encourage this mighty longing after God. The lack of it has brought us to our present low estate. The stiff and wooden quality about our religious lives is a result of our lack of holy desire. Complacency is a deadly foe of all spiritual growth. Acute desire must be present or there will be no manifestation of Christ to His people. He waits to be wanted.

Hunger and thirst for God.

The woman at the well wasn’t worthy, God is not looking for worthy people, he is looking for thirsty people, hungry people.

Charisma magazine (Hunger for God)

The truth is, God has a banquet prepared for us--a feast of His presence- but we won't have the appetite for it if we have been satisfied with something else.

Many of us make the mistake of filling up on junk food--immoral TV programs, movies and other forms of entertainment, for example. But even seemingly good things, such as certain spiritual activities or disciplines, can diminish our hunger for the best.

Matt. 6:33. Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.

Often we fail to do this because we get our eyes on something else, something that seems more pressing, more appealing than the meal set before us. But the ideal is for our hearts to burn with a desire for God in all circumstances.

Are you hungry for God no matter what? Or has something other than Him become the focal point of your desire?

Charisma magazine (Hunger for God)

The psalmist wrote about his hunger for God in

Psalm 42:1-2.

As the deer pants for the water brooks, so pants my soul for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.

The type of desire he describes is the type every one of us should have. It's not something unusual that is reserved for only a few impassioned souls; the normal state of a Christian is to be thirsty and hungry for God.

Ps. 107:9.

tells us that God "satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things"

But we must meet the requirement of the Word in order to receive the promised reward:

We must be thirsty and hungry.

The desperate encountered Jesus.

Blind Bartimaeus did not keep quiet when told to stop crying out to Jesus but cried even louder.

Mark 10:46-52.

As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus, was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me! Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!

Jesus stopped and said, Call him. So they called to the blind man, Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you. Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus. What do you want me to do for you? Jesus asked him. The blind man said, Rabbi, I want to see. Go, said Jesus, your faith has healed you. Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.

Are you too busy to be hungry for God?

Martha complained that Mary was sitting at Jesus feet and not helping with the housework.

Luke 10:38-42.

As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? \

Tell her to help me! Martha, Martha, the Lord answered, you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.

Hunger for God.

Do you have a hunger for God’s Word?

1 Peter 2:2-3.

Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.

Colossians 3:16.

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.

Luke 1:53.

He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty.

Hunger for God.

Do you have that hunger for Him?

As John Piper puts it: If we don't feel strong desires for the manifestation of the glory of God, it is not because you have drunk deeply and are satisfied. It is because we have nibbled so long at the table of the world. Our soul is stuffed with small things, and there is no room for the great.

Between the dangers of self-denial and self-indulgence is this path of pleasant pain called fasting. For when God is the supreme hunger of your heart, He will be supreme in everything. And when you are most satisfied in Him, He will be most glorified in you.

The greatest enemy of hunger for God is not poison but apple pie. It is not the banquet of the wicked that dulls our appetite for heaven, but endless nibbling at the table of the world. It is not the X-rated video, but the prime-time dribble of triviality we drink in every night.”

Hunger for God.

The greatest adversary of love to God is not his enemies but his gifts. And the most deadly appetites are not for the poison of evil, but for the simple pleasures of earth. For when these replace an appetite for God himself, the idolatry is scarcely recognizable, and almost incurable. . . .

Therefore, when I say that the root of Christian fasting is the hunger of homesickness for God, I mean that we will do anything and go without anything if, by any means, we might protect ourselves from the deadening effects of innocent delights and preserve the sweet longings of our homesickness for God.” ― work/ quotes/ 200711">

The test of Massah and Meribah.

Philippians 2:14-16.

Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation. Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life.

James 5:7-9.

Be patient, then, brothers and sisters, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, patiently waiting for the autumn and spring rains. You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near. Don’t grumble against one another, brothers and sisters, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door!

We all need water or else we will die but we need Living water even more.

Hunger and thirst for God.

Psalm 63:1-5.

1 You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water.

2 I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory. 3 Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you. 4 I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands. 5 I will be fully satisfied as with the richest of foods; with singing lips my mouth will praise you.

The test of Massah and Meribah.

Numbers 20:23-24. At Mount Hor, near the border of Edom, the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, Aaron will be gathered to his people. He will not enter the land I give the Israelites, because both of you rebelled against my command at the waters of Meribah.

Numbers 27:12-14. Then the LORD said to Moses, Go up this mountain in the Abarim Range

and see the land I have given the Israelites. After you have seen it, you too will be gathered to your people, as your brother Aaron was,

for when the community rebelled at the waters in the Desert of Zin, both of you disobeyed my command to honour me as holy before their eyes. (These were the waters of Meribah Kadesh, in the Desert of Zin.)

See NOTE 1

The test of Massah and Meribah.

Numbers 20 But the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you have not believed Me, to treat Me as holy in the sight of the sons of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land which I have given them.”

Moses was told to speak to the rock. Instead, he called the people rebels (v. 10) and said, “shall we” bring forth the water" implying that it was the work of Moses and Aaron to provide for the people. It was not. Rather, it was the Lord who would provide the life-giving water.

Speaking to the rock probably might also symbolize the Word of God (as given to Moses) where striking the rock represented Moses’ effort. The life-giving water is the result of God’s Word--not man’s effort.

Also, it could be that striking the rock represented Christ, who is the Word of God and who was struck once (the crucifixion ordeal) out of which living water flowed ( bible/ nasb95/ John%204.10

Moses relied on a previous method God used instead of relying on God he relied on methodology, relying on his rod and not God.

The test of Massah and Meribah.

Look at Moses as the representative of the Law, what lesson does his inability to enter the Land of Promise teach us?

This truth, that the law cannot bring us into the Land of Promise. There was a point to which Moses could bring Israel, and then he must lie down and die, and his work must be given into other hands, into the hands of Joshua, whose very name shows that he was an eminent type of Christ. There is a point to which the law may bring us. i.e.: It is to a knowledge of sin.

Romans 7:7.

By the law, is the knowledge of sin. I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet"

What the law does, is teach us that we are utterly sinful, utterly lost. It requires perfect obedience; and, in many things we offend. It makes no provision for transgression, proclaims no forgiveness. It can give no peace.

Thirsting for God.


For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are, yet he did not sin.

John 19:28-30.

Later, knowing that everything had now been finished, and so that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips. When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

Was it just a physical thirst that Jesus had?

I believe that after been forsaken by God the Father and been made sin for us, there was a longing in his spirit to be drawn back into the intimate fellowship that he had enjoyed before the cross.

Hunger and thirst for God.

The Lord has given us a variety of appetites, which are essential for our physical survival. But He has also created within our hearts a hunger that is spiritual. David was a man who recognized and felt this yearning for the Lord. Throughout the Psalms, we find him meditating, offering praise, or crying out to God. His greatest joy was to be with his heavenly Father in intimate communion.

Hungering for the Lord is a desire to know and draw closer to Him. Sadly, this yearning lies dormant in many believers’ lives. They’re saved but have very little desire for more. One of the problems is that our society is filled with all sorts of things that grab and hold our interest and affections. These pleasures and pursuits compete with God for our attention, claiming our time and effort.


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Scripture quotations taken from the NASB:

New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation Used by permission. (