While the place names of Sin, Rephidim, Horeb, Massah, and Meribah were well known at the time when the stories of Exodus were written down (they first existed as oral stories passed down), these place names have shifted over time and conquerors. Faith and not geography is the point of the text. When the Israelites first encountered a need for water, they went to an oasis that God made safe to drink (Exodus 15:23-27). At Rephidim, however, they have moved into rockier terrain where an oasis is hard to find and water is apparently scarce. The people do not just complain but they "quarreled" (Meribah) and "tested" (Massah) the LORD. The same Greek word for test is used to describe Jesus' experience with Satan in the desert. The end of verse 7 indicates that this testing and quarreling was rooted in a fear that the LORD was no longer with the people. They have shifted from complaining about Moses to realizing their survival depends upon the LORD. An almost identical scene can be found in Numbers 20:7-13 but this time the "Meribah" is between the LORD and Moses because in that case Moses was not suppose to strike the rock. There is an important distinction in the ancient mind which should be lifted up at this time. The difference between magic and a miracle is that magic is a ritual which results in a predictable supernatural event. In magic, the power is in the person and the objects of the ritual. A miracle is a gift from God and not controlled by rituals or people. By performing the "ritual" of striking the staff in Numbers in the same way he did in this passage, Moses claimed the power of giving water.
Exodus 17:7 "Is the LORD among us or not?"
During times of uncertainty, it is not surprising to hear people ask if the LORD is here.
When have you questioned whether God was still listening?
Have you experienced a "dark night of the soul" when pray seems empty?
When have you quarreled with God? Have you stopped because it seems pointless?
Can you have faith and test God?