They journeyed from the wilderness of Sin and camped at Dophkah. They journeyed from Dophkah and camped at Alush. They journeyed from Alush and camped at Rephidim; now it was there that the people had no water to drink (Numbers 33:12-14).
So, this morning I’m reading (scanning, actually) this section of Numbers. Starting at verse one, it’s quite a tedious list of the places Israel visited on their journey through the wilderness.
My eye glossed over verse 14 on its way to 15. And then it went back to 14: They . . . camped at Rephidim; now it was there that the people had no water to drink.
As I reread the verse I remembered how God led them through the wilderness -- with a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. When the cloud lifted from the camp, the Israelites followed. When it settled, they pitched their tents. So when I read here in Numbers that the people landed at a desperate place in the wilderness, it is clear that their arrival was not an accident.
God Himself had led them there.
That, for me, was a significant point. Why would their Protector, Redeemer, Savior . . . why would God lead them to a place like that?
As if to answer the question, my thoughts jumped to Psalm 23 and 2 Corinthians 1.
Sometimes the paths of righteousness lead us straight into a dark place (Psalm 23:3-4). Sometimes “we have the sentence of death in ourselves so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead” (2 Corinthians 1:9). And though the idea disturbs my preconceptions, God does, at times, lead us to places without water, or light. Places of confusion, despair, and even heartache.
Maybe to remind us He is in the valley with us. Maybe to remind us that as He brought water to Israel from -- of all things -- a rock (Exodus 17:1-7), so He will quench our thirst in the midst of our own valley -- perhaps also from the most unlikely of sources.
And maybe also to teach us not to trust so much in ourselves, but rather in Him who raises even the dead.