Text: Exodus 17:1-7
In our journey through Exodus, we have seen God bless the Hebrew people over and over again. But something else has also been consistent. His people have been ungrateful. In every trial, the Hebrews have responded to God time and time again with complaining and grumbling. Yet God continues to provide.
Man’s Rebellious Testing of God
Here in ch. 17, they face another trial. Again, they are thirsty and in need of water. But instead of remembering how God miraculously provided water before and trusting Him, they begin to complain.
And not just complaining, but “testing” the Lord. God led them to this place to test them, to take what was lacking in them, in their character, and draw it out in order for them to learn, to grow. But instead of learning what God was teaching, they rejecting Moses’ authority. They were rejecting God Himself. Instead of receiving that God was testing man, man wanted to test God. For man to test God is to question the Lord’s character, as if man has something to teach God. That’s not just complaining. That’s rebellion.
Sinful man is accusing a holy God of being unholy, accusing a just God of being unjust. Selfish man is accusing God of being selfish. Instead of seeing the mercy and patience and blessings of God and being grateful, they think God owes them something. And somehow if God doesn’t do everything they want, when they want it, God is suddenly unjust.
How quickly we become entitled, to believe we deserve something, that we are owed something. To the point that we can expect everything, but are grateful for nothing. It’s a mindset that anything good that happens, it’s nothing special since it’s what I deserve anyway. But when anything bad happens, I am shocked and appalled and look for someone to blame, and think God is unjust, since I think all I deserve is good.
But the gospel turns that warped thinking on its head. Because the good news of the gospel includes the bad news of our sin. We are all born sinners, nothing owed to us but God’s judgment, nothing deserved but hell. But because of God’s goodness, because of God’s mercy and love, Jesus took what we deserved – the wrath of God – as Jesus hung on the cross for our sins. And through faith in Christ, we are given what we do not deserve – unmerited salvation, unearned forgiveness, undeserved grace.
God’s Redemptive Remedy
Moses says, “What shall I do with this people? They’re almost ready to stone me!” God responds by giving Moses specific instructions. He told Moses to:
-Pass on, or make your way through the crowd and stand in front of the people. But Moses would not be alone. God tells Him to take the elders of Israel with him. God also says to take the staff that Moses used to strike the Nile.
-Then the most important part. God Himself would stand before the people. The cloud of God’s presence would be positioned there “on the rock”.
-Upon God’s command, Moses would take his staff and strike the rock.
So, with Moses and the elders together, and the cloud of God’s presence hovering over the rock, God tells Moses to take his staff and strike the rock. Moses did exactly as God commanded, and immediately water poured out of the rock. To satisfy the thirst of 2 million people, this was not a trickle or stream, but a gushing waterfall that flowed from this rock. And the people drank, and their thirst was quenched.
Later, the Apostle Paul would refer to this story in 1 Corinthians 10. He says that Christ is the Rock. Moses strikes the rock with the staff of God so that God’s people would be saved. Paul says that rock is Christ, giving us that visual of Christ being stricken by God, so that God’s people would be saved.
Hanging on the cross, after He died, a Roman soldier pierced Jesus’ side. And the Bible says blood and water flowed out. Blood for the sacrifice paid – water for the life He gave.
Jesus gave His life to give us life. An undeserved gift. He died to save some of the very ones who hurled insults, who wagged their heads, who mocked Him and beat Him. The very ones who were ungrateful and undeserving – including you and me.
He was struck, and yet what came from him was not judgment and wrath. What came from the Rock that is Christ was salvation and life. Salvation for those who deserved punishment. Life for the ones who deserved death.
May we not be hard-hearted, forgetful or ungrateful. By God’s grace, may we be tender-hearted toward Christ and all He’s done for us. May we overflow with gratitude and thanksgiving, with worship and adoration. May our lives be built upon the Rock, upon the One who was stricken for us, that we would know His love, depend on His grace, and trust His faithfulness – now and forever.