Water from the Rock
These seven short verses actually tie together with hundreds and hundreds of verses in the Bible. They are intricately woven together to show us marvelous things which the Lord did for His people, is doing for His people, and will do for His people.
We can only get an overall picture of this marvelous tapestry in a single sermon, but I hope you will appreciate that overall picture enough so that when you read the Bible on your own, and you come to a verse which ties together with this account, you can better understand the connection.
That is, of course, if you are taking the time to read your Bible. Read your Bible!
Text Verse: “And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb.” Revelation 22:1
We can’t live long without water, this is certain. And yet, water for our physical bodies often only pictures water for our spiritual lives. What makes us think that we need the less important, physical water, but that we can go without the more important of the two – the spiritual water?
Are we that dull to the things of God that we could ever assume this is the case? The Bible shows us of our great need for the true, living water. And it does so often. Let us think on this as we read accounts such as the one we are looking at today.
It’s all to be found in His superior word. And so let’s turn to that precious word once again and… May God speak to us through His word today and may His glorious name ever be praised.
I. Why do You Tempt the Lord (verses 1-3)
Then all the congregation of the children of Israel set out on their journey from the Wilderness of Sin,
The previous verses brought us the manna to sustain the lives of the people – their bread from heaven. This passage will now enter into a similar situation concerning water. As always, the names of the places are important to consider and certainly each was given based on what happened.
In other words, the names of the places are not necessarily names that existed already, but which are given based on circumstances that arose after their arrival. The Wilderness of Sin is mentioned here again. The name Sin means “thorn,” as in a thorn bush, and is a shortened form of Sinai.
The name “Wilderness of Sin” hasn’t been used since Exodus 16:1, where it was said to be between Elim and Sinai. From this point, it says that they set out on their journey. The word for “journey” here is different than the more common word.
It is massa. This is the second of twelve times it will be used; all of them are in the books of Moses – the first being in Genesis 13:3 and the last in Deuteronomy 10:1. It means “pulling up, breaking (camp), setting out, a journey.” Instead of it indicating just going somewhere, it indicates a station to station move.
There is a difference between going on a journey from your house to North Carolina and then back to your house, than packing up your belongings, selling your house, and moving to North Carolina. The second is more of the idea of this word massa. The camp is being broken down and the people are moving on. They are as pilgrims awaiting their arrival in the Land of Promise.
1 (con’t) according to the commandment of the Lord,
The Hebrew literally says, “according to the mouth of Yehovah.” He opened His mouth in instruction and the people moved according to that. This doesn’t mean that the pillar isn’t with them, but that the directions to follow the pillar are according to His spoken word. We can reasonably assume the pillar is with them.
It needs to be considered that everything which will take place then is according to His intentions. He has instructed the people, He has led them, and He will take them, intentionally, to a place where there is no water. We can never derive from the account the notion that any of what happens does so apart from His specific intent.
And so everything that does happen is given to show us a picture of something else. There is no reason to think otherwise, and there is only the complete assurance that this is the case. This will be seen more exactingly in the next words…
1 (con’t) and camped in Rephidim;
It is accepted that Rephidim is today known as a place called Wady Feiran. The detailed record of the wilderness wanderings in Numbers 33 says this about the travels of the Israelites –
“They moved from the Red Sea and camped in the Wilderness of Sin. 12 They journeyed from the Wilderness of Sin and camped at Dophkah. 13 They departed from Dophkah and camped at Alush. 14 They moved from Alush and camped at Rephidim, where there was no water for the people to drink.” Numbers 33:11-13
Every scholar that I read who commented on why this record in Exodus leaves off Dophkah and Alush said basically the same thing. Their answer is that “probably because nothing of moment took place at either.” Adam Clarke et al
That seems like a copout. Rather than taking a negative view, I would choose to take a positive one and say that each place where something is recorded is because the Lord selected it to show us the work of Christ.
This is the first of five times that Rephidim will be mentioned in the Bible, and all of them will be in Exodus and Numbers. Rephidim is a plural noun which comes from the verb raphad which means “to spread (a bed).” And so by implication it means “to refresh” or “comfort.” The word is used in the Song of Solomon in just this way –
“Sustain me with cakes of raisins,
Refresh me with apples,
For I am lovesick.” Song of Solomon 2:5
Raphad’s sole derivative is a feminine noun, rephida, which indicates a rest or support structure. That is used only once in the Bible, in the Song of Solomon as well –
He made its pillars of silver,
Its support of gold,
Its seat of purple,
Its interior paved with love
By the daughters of Jerusalem. SS 3:10
Chapter 16 began in Elim which pictured the message of Christ which went out by the mouth of the 12 apostles and the 70 disciples. From there, it went to the Wilderness of Sin, the Wilderness of the Thorn, where the quail and the manna were received.
That pictured Christ’s body being given as flesh to eat and bread to sustain. Now they leave that area and arrive in Rephidim. What picture is then being made? A clue is found in the finishing words of verse 1…
1 (con’t) but there was no water for the people to drink.
Again, water is the issue, just as it was at Marah where the bitter waters were made sweet. However, the problem isn’t that there is bitter water; it is that there is no water. One thing is for sure; in the dry wilderness life cannot endure long without water.
But let us not forget that it is the Lord who directed them here and He has done it for a reason.
2 Therefore the people contended with Moses, and said, “Give us water, that we may drink.”
Charles Ellicott notes –
“…we cannot be surprised at their “chiding.” Nothing but a very lively faith, or an utter resignation to the will of God, could have made a people patient and submissive in such an extremity.” Ellicott
It is hard to disagree with this. We are creatures which are tied to bodies which easily tire, quickly run dry, and are constantly in need of food. If we don’t get sleep, water, or food, we can quickly change into a being that doesn’t resemble our normal selves at all. Just ask my wife. The Israelites were no different.
Add into this a large multitude that tire at differing rates and you can see how some would wear out and start grumbling more quickly. Once a grumble starts, it rapidly spreads from one to all. In the case of walking among wadis, or dry river beds, there would be an even more pronounced feeling of misery.
Wadis imply that there was once water in abundance flowing right at their feet. Along the sides of the wadis, there would be plants which had gathered up the remaining waters after the torrents had subsided. In essence, there would be – “signs of water, water everywhere, yet not a drop to drink.” (Pulpit)
However, there is also the truth that the Lord had already showed them amazing acts of His power and gracious kindness. Would the people remember these lessons longer than the strain of lacking basic needs? Unfortunately, “No.” As Albert Barnes notes –
“It is a general characteristic of the Israelites that the miracles, which met each need as it arose, failed to produce a habit of faith.” Albert Barnes
And this is exactly what the Lord had purposed for them. He was leading them to the extreme points of their physical existence in order to produce a habit of faith and complete reliance on Him. And time and time again, they failed to realize this.
As these physical examples are intended to reveal spiritual pictures of Christ, then we should obviously look at the practice of our faith and see if it is, in fact, sound. Do we trust the Lord with each step of our walk?
I’ve noticed several types of people who post their lives openly on Facebook for the whole world to see. There are those who post how excited they are about going to church on Sunday morning. They then come home and post about the great “portion” of the Holy Spirit they got and how super life is.
On Monday, they are posting photos of piles of money that say, “If you like this photo, comment ‘Amen,’ and share it in the next ten minutes. You will receive a large sum in your bank account.” The expectation of the god Fortune has replaced reliance on the Lord.
By Tuesday morning, they are complaining about the ills of life, the things they lack, and the general drag that they feel as they trudge through the week. On Wednesday, they’re angry because they didn’t win the lottery. The pastor had told them that they would be blessed and they would reap a thousand-fold if they gave, and they were sure that it meant right now and in a big way.
They even bought the tube of miracle anointing oil at the church lobby for $25.00 and anointed the door posts of their house and their checkbook with oil. Why was the Lord neglecting them? The next Sunday, they start the cycle again.
And then, there are those who post about being excited that they are leaving for church. They come home and post about the great lessons from Scripture that they assimilated into who they are. They post on Monday about the excellent devotional they read.
They post on Tuesday about their brother who was just diagnosed with terminal cancer, but how thankful they are for having him in their life and about the honor of being there for him during the ordeal. On Wednesday, they post about the fantastic Bible study they went to and how relevant God’s word is to their own situation.
On Friday, they post that their house burned down and the bank lost all their money, but how grateful they are that the Lord is with them through it all. They’re thankful for their church and the people they attend with and in the outpouring of support and prayers they have received.
It is all a matter of perspective and the Lord is trying to get Israel to take the right perspective. And in His lessons to them, He is asking us to do the same. He has given us examples of what pleases Him and what angers Him.
2 (con’t) So Moses said to them, “Why do you contend with me? Why do you tempt the Lord?”
Moses responds that the people are acting inappropriately in two different ways. First he asks them “Why do you contend with me?” Here he uses the same word which was used at the beginning of verse 2 – riv. It means “to contend or quarrel.” It is what the story says they did and this is what Moses confirms they are doing.
However, instead of stopping there, he elevates the severity of their complaints to the appropriate level of the offense. They may be quarreling with him, but they are “tempting” the Lord. Here he uses the word nasah. It means “to put to the test, prove, etc.”
It is the same word that the Lord has used twice so far concerning His attempt to mold and shape the people into an obedient group who would be willing to simply trust Him –
“There He made a statute and an ordinance for them, and there He tested them, 26 and said, ‘If you diligently heed the voice of the Lord your God and do what is right in His sight, give ear to His commandments and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you which I have brought on the Egyptians. For I am the Lord who heals you.'” Exodus 15:25-26
“Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you. And the people shall go out and gather a certain quota every day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in My law or not.'” Exodus 16:4
They had been explicitly told that He was testing them for obedience and trust, and yet Moses now shows them that they have instead put the Lord to the test. The words are valuable to evaluate because it shows us more clearly the situation at hand. John Gill rightly explains their situation –
“…they tried his power, whether he could give them water in a dry and desert land; and they tried his patience by chiding with his servants, and showing so much distrust of his power and providence, of his goodness and faithfulness; and by their wretched ingratitude and rebellion they tempted him to work a miracle for them.” John Gill
Let us ask ourselves, “Are we receiving the tests of the Lord and using them to mold our faith, or are we testing the Lord by failing to see His hand of grace upon us, even in times of extreme trial?”
3 And the people thirsted there for water, and the people complained against Moses, and said, “Why is it you have brought us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?”
The truth of the record of the Exodus can be implied from verses like this. Israel was in bondage in Egypt and eventually ended up in the Land of Canaan. This we know. Had they left Egypt, the natural thing to do would be to head straight for Canaan, they didn’t. Instead, they went the opposite way.
When they left, it was apparently without enough water and food for even a few days, much less a long trek. Only a fool would do something like that. How much more foolish would be an entire congregation of people to do it. One may find something to sustain life, but two million could never.
And to exacerbate the situation, children and livestock came along too. The only reasonable explanation for the entire scenario is that the Lord led them, they followed, and they were completely dependent upon Him from the very start. If this isn’t what happened, then the story is simply a fabrication about a most foolish group with an even more foolish leader.
But it is not. And yet, despite this, it is the exact kind of accusation that they now make. They had left Egypt unprepared as if the intent was to kill them. If it were only Moses there, the allegation would seem reasonable.
But Moses is not alone. If they would simply evaluate the situation, they would be willing to pray in faith instead of argue in the flesh. However, the lack of water which was not only destroying them, but also their children and the livestock, was too great an affliction for them to see beyond.
Surely, of all of the afflictions we can face, thirst is one of the worst. The Lord was beaten, ripped, and nailed to a tree, but the only agony that He called out as He hung there dying was, “I thirst.” And like Him, the people are so suffering.
Were they justified in their anger? In the body, yes; in the spirit, no. They still lacked the faith needed as a group of people to understand that the Lord alone directs each moment’s existence for each and every soul. It appears that as a group of people, they never really acquired this faith. The 78th Psalm speaks of their situation –
“He split the rocks in the wilderness,
And gave them drink in abundance like the depths.
16 He also brought streams out of the rock,
And caused waters to run down like rivers.
17 But they sinned even more against Him
By rebelling against the Most High in the wilderness.
18 And they tested God in their heart
By asking for the food of their fancy.
19 Yes, they spoke against God:
They said, ‘Can God prepare a table in the wilderness?
20 Behold, He struck the rock,
So that the waters gushed out,
And the streams overflowed.
Can He give bread also?
Can He provide meat for His people?’
21 Therefore the Lord heard this and was furious;
So a fire was kindled against Jacob,
And anger also came up against Israel,
22 Because they did not believe in God,
And did not trust in His salvation.
23 Yet He had commanded the clouds above,
And opened the doors of heaven,
24 Had rained down manna on them to eat,
And given them of the bread of heaven.
25 Men ate angels’ food;
He sent them food to the full.” Psalm 78:15-25
If we just had water, we could go on
But instead we are out here dying of thirst
Our lives are ebbing away and our strength it almost gone
Things are much worse now than when at first
When we were in Egypt we at least had life
Now only death seems to await us in this dry land
With Moses we have quarreled, between us is strife
But he says we are only tempting the Lord’s gracious hand
Where are the Lord’s grace and His gracious hand?
We see the pillar but our souls are dry and parched
Yes the pillar is there, but we cannot understand
Why to this barren place, He has led as we have marched
II. You Shall Strike the Rock (verses 4-7)
4 So Moses cried out to the Lord, saying,
The notable thing about Moses is that he first defended the Lord in the eyes of the people and he then immediately elevated the people’s request to the Lord. There is no hint of him either speaking highly of himself, such as “You dare to resist me, the Lord’s representative!” Nor does he have Aaron come to his rescue either, “You dare to resist Moses, the Lord’s representative.”
Instead, he defended the Lord’s integrity and then went straight to the Lord in petition. And his petition refrains from any accusation against the Lord…
4 (con’t) “What shall I do with this people?
Moses doesn’t ask, “What have You done to this people?” He doesn’t ask, “What are You going to do for this people?” And, he doesn’t say, “You have left this people in a bad situation.” Instead, he says, “What shall I do with this people?” He never finds fault in the Lord. He instead asks for directions which he can carry out.
It is for such reasons as this that Numbers 12:3 will say, “Now the man Moses was very humble, more than all men who were on the face of the earth.” His humility is beautifully evident whether he is addressing the people below him or the God who is above him.
4 (con’t) They are almost ready to stone me!”
This is the first time in recorded history that stoning is mentioned as an individual punishment. The stoning of all of the people of Israel was mentioned in 8:26, but this verse shows that it was not just a way of harassing others. Instead, it is implied that it was a known form of execution.
His words to the Lord more accurately say, “Yet a little and they will stone me.” He was on the verge of being stoned and even the slightest amount of time or a single misstep in his interactions with them would result in his death.
But even in these few words we can get a look into the human condition. How often we are aggressive at attacking others over wrongs, but slow in thanking them for their good deeds! How slowly will we respond positively to kindness, and how quickly we will respond negatively to adversity!
So far since the night of the Passover and the departure from Rameses, the only note of thanks or praise from the people is found in the Song of Moses in Exodus 15. It was a song penned by Moses and which the people then joined in.
But apart from that, there is no note of either thanks or praise for the many miracles thus far evinced by the Lord for the people. As the Geneva Bible comments on this verse –
“How ready the people are to slay the true prophets for their own purposes and how slow they are to take up God’s cause against his enemies and false prophets.” Geneva
5 And the Lord said to Moses, “Go on before the people, and take with you some of the elders of Israel.
In Numbers 20, Moses will again bring water from a rock for the people. However, at that time, he is told to gather the congregation together to see the miracle. Here, Moses is only told to take of the elders of Israel. There are various opinions on why only they were chosen.
One is that the congregation was ready to stone him and so he left only with the elders. That makes no sense at all. If he told them what he was going to do, they would have waited to see if he could do it. Another view is that the distance was too far for the weary people to travel and so they left them there to accomplish the feat.
But that doesn’t fit either, because the same weary people would still have to travel to where the water came from. That is unless the water flowed all the way to where they are. But it says nothing of that. The elders are being singled out from the congregation for a reason. Only they are to witness the miracle.
5 (con’t) Also take in your hand your rod with which you struck the river, and go.
Again, as has been seen in the past, Moses is specifically instructed about the rod, or matteh, which he is to take with him. It is the rod of God which he had with him at the burning bush. This time, however, it specifically identifies it as the “rod with which you struck the river.”
One scholar says that this could mean either the Nile or the Red Sea, because the finger of the Red Sea could be called in Hebrew ha’yor, or “the river.” But this is incorrect. Moses did not strike the waters of the Red Sea; he stretched the rod out over them. However, when in Egypt at the first plague of blood, we read this in chapter 7 –
“So he lifted up the rod and struck the waters that were in the river, in the sight of Pharaoh and in the sight of his servants. And all the waters that were in the river were turned to blood.” Exodus 7:20
The same rod which brought death to the river when striking the waters will be used to bring forth a river of the water of life for the people when he strikes the rock.
6 Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock in Horeb;
The Lord has already selected the place and the miracle. The reason for the route, the reason for leaving out the interim stops from the narrative, and the reason for waiting until the people were almost completely parched – the reason for all of it belongs to the Lord. He has organized every detail to reveal Jesus.
He has promised now to “stand before” Moses. The pillar, which is the Lord, will stop and stand on the very rock chosen for the miracle. And it is a specific rock. In the Hebrew it says ha’tsur, “the rock” not “a rock.”
This is the first of 77 times that this word tsur, or rock, will be used in the Old Testament. Numerous times, it is used to speak specifically of the Lord as the Rock. The last time it is used in the OT is in Habakkuk where it is used in just that manner –
“Are You not from everlasting,
O Lord my God, my Holy One?
We shall not die.
O Lord, You have appointed them for judgment;
O Rock, You have marked them for correction.” Habakkuk 1:12
Even the coming Messiah is called by this term in Isaiah 8:14. That verse is then used to speak of Jesus in the New Testament in both Romans 9 and in 1 Peter 2:8. Thus the Rock is Christ. This rock is said by the Lord to be in Horeb. This is now the second time Horeb is mentioned in the Bible.
The first was when Moses came to Horeb, the mountain of “the” God in Exodus 3:1. Horeb means “Arid” or “Desert” and thus what we have is a marvelous miracle coming. The words are precise and they have been selected carefully to reveal the Lord’s greatness.
6 (con’t) and you shall strike the rock, and water will come out of it, that the people may drink.”
Like the waters of the Nile, Moses is told to strike the rock. Instead of blood, water will come from “the rock” in the Arid place. And it won’t just be a small amount, but enough so “that the people may drink.” Two million people, plus innumerable animals are waiting anxiously for relief. There will be enough to satisfy all.
The Lord is the God of miracles, not just enough to tease, but to fully satisfy. If He can bring such volumes of water from a solid rock, imagine what He can do for you!
6 (con’t) And Moses did so in the sight of the elders of Israel.
The word for “sight” is ayin, literally “eyes.” With their own eyes they beheld the marvelous sight of water gushing from solid rock. There was nothing hidden, there was no sleight of hand, and there was no magician’s trick.
The hand of Moses is used as the principle cause of the action, the rod of God is used as the instrumental cause which brought it about, and the glory of God is the final cause – the end purpose of what has transpired.
Moses is thus again shown to be the Lord’s representative, the rod is shown again to possess the ability to accomplish the Lord’s miracles, and God is both pleased to care for His people and to receive their praise through His mighty act of power.
7 So he called the name of the place Massah and Meribah,
It is rare for a place to be given two distinct names in the Bible based on one occurrence. But the Lord determined that it would be so in this case. The name Massah means “testing” and it comes from the verb nasah which was used in verse 2 to describe the tempting or testing of the Lord by the people.
The name Meribah means “quarreling” and it comes from the verb riv which was also used in verse 2 to describe the quarreling of the people against Moses. The fact that two names are given for the one location is then intended to further elevate Moses’ standing among the people.
Massah is named first as it was tempting against the Lord. Meribah is named second because it was in contention against Moses. Later, in Deuteronomy 6:16, this place will only be called Massah because it only refers to the people’s tempting of the Lord –
“You shall not tempt the Lord your God as you tempted Him in Massah.” Deuteronomy 6:16
Both names are exactingly explained in the final portion of verse 7 and the final words of the account –
*7 (fin) because of the contention of the children of Israel, and because they tempted the Lord, saying, “Is the Lord among us or not?”
The passage seems to end on a sad note, but it doesn’t really. It instead is looking back on the greatness of what God did despite the complaints of the people. They had questioned if the Lord was among them or not, and He confirmed that He was.
But only the elders saw it directly. The others didn’t. Why was this the case? What is the Lord trying to tell us through this? Stay tuned for an explanation of the passage after a short poetic break…
Take in your hand the rod and go
To a place I have chosen in a dry and barren land
I will show you the spot from where the water will flow
And from this marvel, future generations will understand
I will stand upon the Rock for you to see
A Rock hard and dry will come to life
You shall come to the place, even unto Me
And with the rod, you shall end this people’s strife
They will drink of the water, to re-nourish their soul
All will be satisfied, to them life I will give
I will prove to them I have it all under control
By water from the Rock, their souls shall live
III. A Wonderful Picture
The account of the water from the rock is memorable on its surface. If you tell it to a child, they will listen with wide-eyed wonder that such a thing could ever happen! But it is also an account which is intended to show us more than just the surface.
It is meant to show us the problem with man and how God fixed it. It follows naturally after the story of the quail and the Manna. Christ had to go to the cross in order for us to dine on His body – His flesh, the quail; His body, the bread which is the Manna.
The account is said to have happened at Rephidim. It seems the name was changed after the account to Massah and Meribah, but it was in fact named because of the account. They are different areas. The name Rephidim gives the idea of Rest and also Support.
The people received their rest and their support from the waters, even if it was contention and testing which occurred before the waters came. As the previous story pictured the death of the Lord in the giving of the Manna, this picture follows naturally from that same act.
The people thirsted in the wilderness for water, just as David thirsted for the truth of God in his own dry and thirsty land –
“O God, You are my God;
Early will I seek You;
My soul thirsts for You;
My flesh longs for You
In a dry and thirsty land
Where there is no water.
2 So I have looked for You in the sanctuary,
To see Your power and Your glory.” Psalm 63:1, 2
David lived in a fallen world and longed for the time when he would see the power and the glory of the Lord in His sanctuary. The people of Israel then picture us – the people of God – complaining of thirst in the same dry and parched existence.
But the Lord is always ready to provide for His people. And so He directs Moses and the elders to go to a particular rock where He will, in fact, provide for the people. There He says that He will stand before him on “the” rock. Paul explains what that Rock is in the New Testament –
“For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ.” 1 Corinthians 10:4
The Bible scholars Keil and Delitzsch note that the Lord, standing before Moses upon the rock “signified the assistance of God.” They then say this about the words l’phani and amad which are used to describe the Lord standing before Moses. These words –
“…frequently denote the attitude of a servant when standing before his master, to receive and execute his commands. Thus Jehovah condescended to come to the help of Moses, and assist His people with His almighty power.”
In this then we see an act of God, where he condescends in a way which will be for the benefit of His people. It is a picture of the incarnation, when Christ condescended to become a Man and live as one of us in order to restore us to spiritual life.
Knowing that the Rock is Christ, one must ask, “Why were only the elders taken to witness this?” The answer is in who they must then picture. As the Rock is Christ, then these elders are those who saw Christ’s work and can witness to what they saw. They are our elders in the faith, the apostles.
When the people are told about the water and where it came from, it will be an act of faith, not sight, to believe what they have been told. This then corresponds with what the New Testament says –
“For we walk by faith, not by sight.” 2 Corinthians 5:7
We are to trust the words of the Bible for what they are. They are an eyewitness account of what Jesus Christ did. The apostles saw, they testified, and now we must accept their words as they have been given.
And so Moses goes off with the elders and is told to strike the Rock with the rod of God. Moses, whose name means “He who draws out,” is the principle cause of what will occur. He pictures Christ drawing out salvation for His people.
The rod is Christ, the power of God. It is the instrumental cause by which the water will come from the Rock. As Romans says –
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.” Romans 1:16
The Rock is Christ, the material cause, by which salvation comes forth. The action of striking the Rock is the work of Christ, the efficient cause, by which the process is carried out. And the water is Christ, the final cause, by which salvation is accomplished and by which God is glorified. Every detail pictures Christ!
God sent his Son, the spiritual Rock to live among us. He was born without sin, and thus he was capable of drawing out salvation for His people, pictured by Moses – He who draws out. He lived under the law and died under the law – pictured by the Rod. His work in this is the process by which salvation was carried out.
He was smitten with the curse of the law, pictured by the striking of the rock with the rod by Moses. Not only was this pictured here, but it was later prophesied by Isaiah 700 years before Christ came. Using the same word, nakah, as when Moses struck the rock at Horeb, there in Isaiah 53 we read this –
“Surely He has borne our griefs
And carried our sorrows;
Yet we esteemed Him stricken,
Smitten by God, and afflicted.” Isaiah 53:4
And from Him came the water by which we receive eternal life. As Jesus said to the people in John 7 –
“‘If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. 38 He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’ 39 But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.” John 7:37-39
This was the final cause. The water from the rock is the giving of the Spirit. It is the granting of eternal life, and it is the glory of God revealed in each of us. This is according to the words He spoke to the woman at the well in John 4 –
“Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.”
Out of the dry place, Horeb, came the living waters. Likewise, out of the Heavenly Mt. Zion, which also means “Dry Place” has come the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God. It is the Bible which testifies to the work of the Godhead – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit -in the great plan of redemption of fallen man.
It should be remembered though, that the Lord was very specific about calling the rod in Moses’ hand, the “rod with which you struck the river.” The same rod which brings forth life from the Rock can also bring forth death for those who reject the Rock. The law is either fulfilled in Christ or it goes unfilled in one without Christ. It is a lesson and a warning that we are to choose wisely.
In Isaiah 4, the same word, nakah, is used to describe what the Lord will do to those who reject Him –
“His delight is in the fear of the Lord,
And He shall not judge by the sight of His eyes,
Nor decide by the hearing of His ears;
4 But with righteousness He shall judge the poor,
And decide with equity for the meek of the earth;
He shall strike the earth with the rod of His mouth,
And with the breath of His lips He shall slay the wicked.
5 Righteousness shall be the belt of His loins,
And faithfulness the belt of His waist.” Isaiah 11:3-5
In this passage we have a few simple verses about something that happened 3500 years ago, but which is actually an in-depth look into the very heart of God for those He loves. He sent His Son to be stricken so that we may live. Truly, what manner of love is this!
Let us never downplay the majesty of what He has done for us, and let us never cease to tell of His marvelous work to those still lost and thirsty in a dry and barren land. And maybe this is you. Maybe you have a thirst which just cannot be quenched. Let me then tell you about the water of life and how you too can drink of it freely.
Closing Verse: “And the Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ And let him who hears say, ‘Come!’ And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely.” Revelation 1:16
Next Week: Exodus 17:8-16 (Yehovah Nissi – The Lord is My Banner) (49th Exodus Sermon)
The Lord has you exactly where He wants you. He has a good plan and purpose for you. Even if a deep ocean lies ahead of You, He can part the waters and lead you through it on dry ground. So follow Him and trust Him and He will do marvelous things for you and through you.
Water from the Rock
Then all the congregation
Of the children of Israel
Set out on their journey from the Wilderness of Sin
As the record of the story does tell
According to the commandment of the Lord
Yes, according to His spoken word
And camped in Rephidim where there would be rest, you’d think
But there was no water for the people to drink
Therefore the people contended with Moses, and said
“Give us water that we may drink or soon we will be dead
So Moses said to them this word
“Why do you contend with me?
Why do you tempt the Lord?”
This is utterly futile you see
And the people thirsted there for water
And the people complained against Moses, and said
“Why is it you have brought us up out of Egypt?
To kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst instead
So Moses cried out to the Lord, saying
“What with this people shall I do?
They are almost ready to stone me, I am relaying
And so for directions about this I am asking You
And the Lord said to Moses, so He did tell
“Go on before the people, and take
With you some of the elders of Israel
A scene quite wonderful for them I will make
Also take in your hand your rod as I am telling you so
With which you struck the river, and go
Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock in Horeb
And you shall strike the rock, as I say
And water will come out of it
That the people may drink this very day
And Moses did so in the sight of the elders of Israel
The water is Christ, as the Bible does tell
So he called the name of the place Massah and Meribah
Because of the contention of the children of Israel
And because they tempted the Lord
Saying, “Is the Lord among us or not, this to us please tell
How faithless we are, giving in to our weakness
And complaining against You Lord
Help us in our times of distress
To remember the promises found in Your word
Help us to praise You through every trial
And to give you the glory You are justly due
Give us hearts though the trials to smile
And to continue always to sing praises to You
Yes Lord! Thank You for our sure hope because of Jesus
Thank You for the marvelous things that You have done for us
Hallelujah and Amen…