Exodus 17 The whole Israelite community set out from the Desert of Sin, traveling from place to place as the Lord commanded. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. 2 So they quarreled 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?”
3 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?”
4 Then Moses cried out to the Lord, “What am I to do with these people? They are almost ready to stone me.”
5 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. 6 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. 7 And he called the place Massah and Meribah because the Israelites quarreled and because they tested the Lord saying, “Is the Lord among us or not?”
Most of us are familiar with this passage, at least the part where God provides water from a rock. Now when we read the Old Testament, especially the early chapters, we understand two things about God:
- One that He is mighty (He performs miracles)
- He is full of wrath
We see a lot of violence, killings, and punishments such as the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, or even the 10 plagues on Egypt. Even in this passage, we see that there is a battle going on under the command of the Lord.
But in the middle of all this wrath, we see a totally different side of God.
We see that the Israelites are complaining about having no water. I think this is simply odd, for the greatest miracles performed in the Bible are involve water. Water turning into wine and Jesus walking on water. And who can forget when God miraculously parted the Red Sea so that the Israelites could pass through?
What did they say next? Our children and livestock would die. Don't you remember the 3rd plaque? God killed all the livestock in Egypt, but not a single animal in the possession of the Israelites was even hurt. The same goes for their children, but now they are saying that God will kill their animals and children. Ungratefulness to the core.
To make matters worse, they try to "court marshal" Moses! So now God has to do something. What does He do? He asks Moses to take his staff. Before moving on, let us see how the word "staff" has been used consistently in the Old Testament:
Psalm 2:9 "You will break them with a rod of iron; you will dash them to pieces like pottery"
Psalm 23:4 "Even though I walk through the darkest valley,I will fear no evil, for you are with me;your rod and your staff, they comfort me."
Proverbs 13:24 "Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them."
So it is obvious that "rod" or "staff" has been used throughout the Bible a sign of punishment. What's next? God tells Moses to bring the elders of Israel with him. Now we know that the elders are only called if there is a legal conflict. Recall the story of the adulterous woman in John 8.
So the stage is set. The staff is there and so are the elders. Who's about get punished? Moses? The Israelites?......
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.”
Moses has said elsewhere that "He is the Rock, his works are perfect,and all his ways are just." God is the Rock, and He took the punishments that the people deserved upon Himself.
When the Hebrews cried our "Water!" "Water!", the Rock of Israel was struck and water flowed out.
And when their descendants shouted "Crucify!" "Crucify!", the desire of nations was struck and blood and water flowed out.
Of course, the latter was simply a medical condition and it was the not the same water that the Israelites received. But Jesus said:
“I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty"
And this is what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 10:4 that the rock that the Israelites consumed was Christ Himself.
I believe that this where Christianity rises above all other religions in the world. All prophets and leaders showed people away; Jesus Himself is the way. All leaders promised bread and water; Jesus is the bread and water.
The answers to all the personal problems of humanity are solved by the person of Christ. It is because of Christ that we can share at the Lord's Table. He had to die to give us these blessings, taking the punishment that we deserved.
Our needs are physical, but God provides the spiritual as well. They wanted water, God gave them eternal life.
(Next in this series: Sermon Time #3)
(Next in this series: Sermon Time #3)