The Lord your God has saved you. He has brought you ought of Egypt to receive His gifts in faith and with thanksgiving, and thus to worship Him, in righteousness and holiness before Him.
This is most certainly true, appearances and all experience to the contrary. For you do not see it or feel it, not yet. Not when you are surrounded on all sides by desert wilderness, and there’s no well or water to be found. Not when sin, death, the devil and hell still assail and oppress you, so that you are staggered and cannot stand.
It is still true, nevertheless, that God the Lord has saved you, and even now He is giving you life; even though your sinful heart is doubtful and afraid, irritable and quarrelsome.
In spite of His great and free salvation, your thoughts, words and actions — proceeding from your sinful heart — do not praise and honor the Lord Your God, but profane His holy Name. Instead of worshiping Him (in faith and with thanksgiving), you grumble against Him, and against His servant. And you put Him to the test: "Is the Lord among us or not!?"
You harden your heart against Him. You close yourself to His gracious gifts of life. And you go thirsty. In foolish desperation, you long to go back to your former idolatry, to the land of sin and death (from which the Lord has freed you), where all the water turns to blood, and the more you drink, the more you thirst. In truth, by such apostasy, you’re already there (back in Egypt).
Repent. Return to the Lord your God with all your heart. Turn away from your unbelief, despair and selfishness. Do not obey your thirst for that which is not God and cannot give you life!
Rather, seek the Lord where He may be found, where His Word is spoken, where His gifts are given. Find Him where He finds you: in the courts of the Lord’s House, in the midst of His Jerusalem. Not with grumbling, anger and complaint, but in faith and fervent prayer.
If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that speaks to you, then you would ask of Him, and He would give you living water. So, ask, and do not doubt, but firmly believe that He will give you what you need. Not on this mountain or that, neither here nor there, but in His Church on earth, wherever on earth it may be, established and built upon the Rock of Christ. Even Samaria or South Bend become the Mountain of God when Christ is at hand.
Here your thirst is quenched. Here you are cleansed within and without, body and soul, by the Spirit of Christ — from His Cross.
How can this be? How does the Lord put up with you? How shall He call you and receive you back to Himself, again and again? How is it that He tolerates your complaints and answers them?
It is entirely and solely for the sake of His own love. Not because you are so loveable — but for His own sake, because of who He is, He loves you. In some ways, it is that simple.
He remembers you and loves you. As in the past, so also now and forever. He remembers you by taking action to save you, to bring you out of Egypt to Himself. He moves to turn your idolatrous heart away from gods of stone back to Himself, your God in the flesh. All of this at His own expense, by His own sacrifice, by His holy and precious blood, by His innocent suffering and death.
For He is Christ, the incarnate Son of God, who has saved you. He is the Rock of your Salvation, your strength and your song, who has brought you out of bondage into life. He follows you in steadfast faithfulness, through the wilderness all the days of your life, even to the last.
When you grumble and complain — when you rumble and rage against Him — when you despise and reject His servants, the ministers of His Word — what does He do?
He admonishes, reproves, corrects and exhorts. He calls you to repentance. But He does not write you off. He does not make an end of you. He does not strike you with His Law to stone you to death and destroy you — though you deserve it.
His Law speaks to expose your sin; and your sin must be condemned and punished, put to death and dealt with, lest it bring you down to Sheol.
But see the staff which His Law wields, and hear how He strikes with it, not you, but the Rock (which is Christ). The Lord takes the blow and burden of the Law upon Himself. By the wood of the Cross, the heavy staff of Moses cuts Yahweh to the quick. He is stricken, smitten and afflicted, beaten and bruised, pierced and wounded for your transgressions. For your salvation.
He has been thirsty, even to the point of death, so that you may be given to drink from His well.
Behold the living water streaming from His open side, and with it flows His own Blood of the New Testament. From this Rock, the font and the chalice have been filled with His Spirit and His Life for you, for your salvation. Here is water. Drink. You shall not die, but live.
The same life-giving water of the Holy Spirit is poured out for you, even in the desert, in this very Word of the Gospel. It quenches your deepest thirst by forgiving all your sins. It cleanses your soul and body with the righteousness of Christ, your Savior. It gives you eternal life.
Is the Lord among us, or not?
Yes, He is here, for you, in love. He is hidden from your sight, for now, in the form of a hard rock — but His hardness is not set against you; it is for you, that He may be your sure foundation.
You are rocked and staggered by tribulation, by hurts and fears within and without, by trials and temptations, so great and so many that you cannot stand upright. You are always tripping and stumbling and falling, and dying.
But take heart, dear one. The Lord is with you.
Your tribulations shall not be permitted to lay you to waste on the desert floor. They rather produce in you hope and endurance, which shall not be disappointed. It does not depend on you, but Christ, and He does not fail; He shall not fall.
By your own strength, you cannot stand, but Christ sustains you. Even in His death, He is lifted up to save you, and it is in His grace and peace and righteousness, by His Cross, that you do now stand. His Spirit lives in you, and you live in Him. In Him you are strong and courageous!
Bride of Christ, rejoice! Here is your true Bridegroom.
Come, drink from His Cup, from His own hand. Drink the living water that flows freely from His open heart into yours.
Hear His Word, which is Spirit and Truth. Receive His gifts, which are life and salvation.
He is indeed the Savior of the world. But, more than that, He is your Savior and your God, and you are His beloved.
In the Name + of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.