Reading: Exodus 17
(After an impressive exodus from Egypt and an escape from the jaws of death by the shores of the Red Sea, some 1,000,000 Jews follow Moses as they begin to distrust him to care for them in the Arabian Desert. Their distrust is not of him though, it is ultimately of God, and they chiefly mistrust his ability to feed and give drink to such a vast multitude.)
Water, they pant, begging for relief from the beating heat of the sun. The words are echoed by the multitudes, some express it in anxiety, others in anger. All eyes turn to Moses, surely they can blame him for no water, and for this terrible, dead, and devastatingly hot desert!
Therefore the people quarreled with Moses and said, “Give us water to drink.” And Moses said to them, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the LORD?” (Exodus 17:2)
The people that had seen the miracles, and had seen the channel through which the power had come to strike down Egypt and its pride. This same people distrusted God’s ability to give them water. To be honest, I might too. In our world we live in a what have you done for me lately society. As humans, we are innately driven to distrust, miscalculate, and be skeptical. Many times such a thought process is very profitable, as it protects us from harm and dangerous ideas. Too many of us are gullible, trusting words instead of the actions, and we pay dearly for this mistake. Doubt is very helpful, in this sense. But once the doubts have been carefully and thoroughly answered, we begin to have trust. Faith.
God wants to curb our skepticism and doubt, turning it rightly into faith in Him and His ability to lead, keep, and grow us. The desert experience of the Jews was to turn their doubt into faith. God chose this experience, He chose it to be 40 years (obviously their free will made it possible, just as it was also planned beforehand). God had proven and would continue to prove His steadfastness, His love, His compassion, and His patience with such a wayward people. People much like us.
…they tested the LORD by saying, “Is the LORD among us or not?” (Exodus 17:7)
I want to turn now to one other application that stood out to me in this passage, and it applies to the title. God gives the people water, even to such a despicable generation as they were proving to be already (Yet I always wonder, how would I react to being hungry and thirsty? Surely such does not bring out the best in us). Let’s see just how God gives them water. Instead of giving them rain, He gives them a rock:
And the LORD said to Moses, “Pass on before the people, taking with you some of the elders of Israel, and take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb, and you shall strike the rock, and water shall come out of it, and the people will drink.” And Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel. (Exodus 17:5-6)
Strange instructions, don’t you think? Why not just rain? Well Paul tells us why. This event was both practical and symbolic:
For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ. (1 Corinthians 10:1-4)
Hmm. OK Paul, that was a little too far. That’s my first reaction, my first impression. This interpretation of the journey of the Jews in Exodus seems like overkill. Like a preacher trying too hard to make a typology, like trying to say the donkey in Abraham and Isaac’s journey up the mountain was Simon of Cyrene. Maybe it works, maybe it’s a stretch. But either way I usually say, what application is there here? If it’s useless, then return to the text and stop being cute.
But I can’t tell Paul that! This happens to be inspired typology.
First of all, the cloud and the pillar of fire are clearly depicted as “the angel of God” (Exodus 14:19), which is a clear pre-incarnation of Christ (a Theophany or Christophany). The staff of Moses that did all of the wonders can also be depicted as a type of Christ, having similar impact and purpose, but we don’t have the space to examine that here. The “spiritual food” refers to the fact that they didn’t hunt this food by natural means, but that the food simply came, in the form of both bread and meat, by means of a Divine miracle.
Lastly, the “same spiritual drink” that came from the “spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ.” The water that came from the “rock at Horeb” is a clear type of Christ.
1. “strike the rock” – The rock is struck, just like Christ was killed.
2. “water shall come out of it” – The rock gave forth abundant water, something miraculous and even ludicrous. Jesus, in death, was not a martyr, but gave forth living waters, understood being given eternal life through the death of the eternal one.
3. “the people will drink” – Imagine the crowds, as thousands and thousands ran to the rushing streams of water. Imagine buckets filling with water, children running and splashing in the cool water, and men drinking this water in cupped hands. Jesus, at the cross, didn’t pour-out water, He poured out salvation, like streams of mercy, oceans of love, and freedom to the prisoners. Any who will drink this water, shall “never thirst” (John 6:35), for he will receive eternal life from God Himself.
The death of Christ was to give forth salvation to the world, just like the rock that was struck gave forth water for the masses. The Rock is Christ. He is the Rock of my salvation. He is the satisfier of the thirst of my soul. He is the eternal spring of unconditional redemption.