“Behold, I will stand before thee there upon the rock in Horeb; and thou shalt smite the rock, and there shall come water out of it, that the people may drink. And Moses did so in the sight of the elders of Israel.” (Exodus 17:6)
Just as they had done by the bitter waters of Marah, the Children of Israel are again complaining against Moses that they have nothing to drink. But much is different this time at Rephidim. God has now delivered the Hebrews from peril several times and it is with bellies full of freshly gathered Manna that they murmur against Moses. These are not the desperate pleas of those genuinely fearful for their survival; they have repeatedly witnessed firsthand the grace of God in action. The complaints made here are the exaggerated protests of a people clamoring for ease and comfort, disappointed at the sight of any further hardship, moping at the notion that they might be denied for a moment any of life’s necessities.
The Children of Israel knew that God had no intention of letting them die in the wilderness, He had saved them too many times. But as a child might despair of “starving to death” because his lunch is served to him a half an hour past its usual time, the Hebrews again were unwilling to let the Lord do all things in His own perfect timing and sought to interject their own will into His plan.
If much is different in the manner of the complaining at Rephidim, then much more is different in the manner of deliverance. At Marah, the Lord took bitter waters and made them sweet. This time, the Lord will bring life-giving waters from a rock. A hard and solid stone in a dry and barren land will usher forth a river from which the entire congregation will drink deeply.
“And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.” (1 Corinthians 10:4)
We are told in First Corinthians that the Rock in Horeb is Christ. Jesus, the Rock of our Salvation, was that Rock from which the Waters of Life flowed. The Lord Jesus told the Samaritan woman at the well that He was the Source of Living Water, and that whosoever would drink of that Water would never thirst again (John 4:10-14). He gave the invitation for anyone who thirsts to come unto Him (John 7:37), an invitation that was foreseen by the Prophet Isaiah (Isa. 55:1). The picture we have at the Rock of Horeb is that of Salvation, the providing of the Water that brings life ever-lasting.
God’s instructions to Moses here are very interesting. Take with thee three elders of Israel (v. 5). What Christ has done to save us was not accomplished in secret, out of the sight of witnesses. As three witnesses would accompany our Lord when He was transfigured (Matt. 17:1), so would three accompany Moses. And thy rod, wherewith thou smotest the river, take in thine hand, and go (v. 5). Though God could accomplish all things without the aid of man, He chooses to accomplish His will by enlisting human agency. Man is given the inestimable privilege of co-operating with God and playing a role in His plan. Surely the Lord did not need Moses’ help to bring water from the rock, but He chose to allow Moses to take part in this act.
Our attention is drawn here again to the rod in Moses’ hand, that simple shepherd’s staff that has been used so miraculously. God brings to Moses’ remembrance the occasion when he struck that mighty river in Egypt, turning life-giving water into blood (Ex. 7:20). Now, that very same staff will strike a rock that will bring forth life-giving water. Who would have guessed that a shepherd’s staff could be used so mightily by God? Yet God can use whatever is in our hand to serve His purposes. Moses did not need to wave a gilded wand, the staff that he already held was sufficient. Neither do any of us need to look for something fancier, something more elegant to bring Him glory. He wants to use those things we already have.
“Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.” (Isaiah 53:4)
The Rock was smitten by God, but He was also stricken by man. At the Crucifixion, the wrath of God was poured out upon the Lord Jesus, but it was man who inflicted the wounds upon His body. Many have argued over who really put Jesus to death: was it the Jews? The Romans? The answer is that it was all of mankind. It was you and it was me. Our sin put Him on the Cross; we are all guilty of striking the Rock. Yet it is by that very striking that the Waters of Life flow.
To God goes all glory. In service to Him,