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Welcome to our study of the Lord in the book of Exodus. Before we begin I’d like to share a verse from Psalm 87:7, the last part, and you’ll see very soon why I’ve chosen that verse. It says, “All of my springs of joy are in You.” Isn’t that a wonderful verse! “All of my springs of joy are in You.” You can substitute the word “joy”; all my springs of everything are in Him. With that in mind, knowing that He is the Source of all, let’s commit our time to Him and we’ll look in the word.
Our heavenly Father, once again we thank You for that great truth. We pray that you would burn it indelibly into our spirits, that all of our springs are in You. We thank You, Lord, that we can trust the indwelling Holy Spirit to turn the eyes of our heart again to the Lord Jesus Christ. Thank You for Your revelation of Yourself to us. You’ve made Christ central in the Godhead. We just pray that He would manifest Himself to us. Thank You, Lord, that You are with us and now we commit this session unto You. In the matchless name of our Lord Jesus. Amen
We are looking at the clincher of the many principles that we’ve been sharing on that third outworking of redemption. Let me review those three. We looked at the cloud, and because we’re saved by power and blood we can expect to be guided all the days of our life until we get to heaven. Then it was followed by the song of Moses and Miriam, and because we’ve been saved by power and blood He’s put the joy bells in our heart. We have a song to sing. As long as we recognize that the Lord is our song, and we maintain union with Him, that song will never go away.
The last several weeks we’ve been meditating on the truth that the Lord is our faithful Provider, illustrated by the water stories and by the manna and quail, and so on. He gave us a whole section on hunger, a whole section on thirst, and the end of that was to show that He is the food of life, the drink of life, the bread of life and water of life. That’s the clincher and where we will go now. When we meditated on the Lord as the faithful Provider, we looked at quite a few principles. In fact we touched on nine different principles on God as our Provider. I’m not going to review those again, only to say that each one sheds a little bit more light on what it means to be saved by power and blood, and to know that He is going to be my Provider.
There’s one more principle we’re going to look at today illustrating this whole truth that God is our Provider, our Provision. This one brings us to the climax of God’s heart in this matter of provision. All the stories so far that have dealt with hunger and thirst, the water stories, the manna, the quail, all were designed to bring us where we are going to go now. I’m referring to Exodus 17:1-7. That’s the wonderful story water issuing forth from the smitten rock. That will reveal Christ as the source, the bread of life, the water of life.
Remember where these redeemed people are going. You might know the goal. They are going to the land that flows with milk and honey. That’s true, but first they are going to Mt. Sinai. We need to understand that. That was the goal from the burning bush. Remember God said in Exodus 3:12, “Certainly I will be with you. This shall be a sign to you that it is I who has sent you. When you brought this people out of Egypt you shall worship God at this mountain.” There are many stops along way to Sinai. That’s where they are going and heading. When they get there they’ll stay a full year. On the way they have stops, and this stop is Rephidim.
No one actually knows geographically where Rephidim is. We know the vicinity, because of 17:6, “Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb.” When he says “at Horeb” he’s sort of describing where Rephidim is. Horeb is a mountain range. Sinai is a peak on the mountains of Horeb. So, we are in the vicinity of Sinai but we’re not there yet. Although geographically we can’t pinpoint exactly where Rephidim is we know the meaning of the word “Rephidim”. It’s a resting place. It’s a stop along the way, one of the many stops that they had on their way to Sinai. If you want a list of all of their stops you’ll find it in Numbers chapter 33; not a lot of stories connected with those, because not much happened there.
I call this the climax, the clincher. It takes the nine principles, God is our faithful Provider, and takes you closer to His heart. It’s a bit of a transition. We’ve been studying God as Provider, and the clincher presents the Lord as our Provision. That’s not the same thing. He’s our Provider, but He’s also our Provision, because this story of the smitten rock is a clear picture of Christ who was smitten for us, for our transgressions. The proof text on that is 1 Corinthians 10:4, “and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ.” We have God’s inspired interpretation of that rock. Because it pictures Christ smitten, Christ crucified, the finished work of Christ, and such a picture of Calvary, it’s often lifted from the text and it’s presented as a story to give unbelieving sinner. It’s a story for unbelieving sinners, but it’s also a story for believing sinners.
Clearly we have no objection for applying this to those who don’t know the Lord, because He is the source of their satisfaction as well as ours, but for our purposes I’m going to try to stick a little closer to the record in Exodus. The people we’re studying have already been redeemed by power and by blood. We’d say in our language that they are Christians; they are believers, and they’ve already trusted in the Lord. This rock story has it’s first application to believers. It also applies to unbelievers, but it’s first application is to us. It’s absolutely true that the unbeliever needs the truth of Exodus 17:1-7, but in a special way so do we, because there are many Christians who have enjoyed and seen God as their faithful Provider, but have failed to see Him as Provision. We need to go there. There’s a message at this rest stop for believers, and that means there is a message for you and me. It’s one thing to know the Lord as your Provider, and it’s a whole different thing to discover Him as your Provision.
Christ is the source of satisfaction, and He is pictured by the water that comes out of that rock. You’ve got the smitten part, that’s the cross, and then you’ve got the flow, and that’s the life of Christ. I think we’re almost incurable sometimes from the tendency to look to the blessings rather than the One who gives the blessing, the Blesser. Sometimes we confuse expressions of joy for the source of joy. The source of joy is the Lord. For example, the family is a wonderful expression of joy. You know that from your family and I know that from my family, but it’s not the source. I love my Lillian. The Lord gave me that wonderful woman, but she’s not the source of my happiness. The Lord is the source of my happiness. She surely is an expression of my joy, but she’s not the source of my joy. The same thing can be said of other experiences. There are many expressions. Ministry is a wonderful expression of joy, but that’s not the source of joy. Christian fellowship and I love to get together. It’s a wonderful thing, but it’s not the source of our joy. Sometimes it ministers to us and meets us, tapes and CD’s and website and all of that kind of thing, books, that’s wonderful expressions of joy, but it’s not the source of joy. We need to embrace Him as our Provision. That’s why I began with Psalm 87:7, “All of my springs of joy are in You.” Not most of them, not pretty nearly all of them, but all of my springs are in You.
One test, really, of whether the natural expressions of joy or the source of joy is your attitude is when some of those things are taken away. That’s how you can tell whether it was an expression or source. If I lose my joy when circumstances change, I think I’ve been looking at that circumstance as the source of my joy. If something you’ve looked forward to is suddenly cancelled and you lose your joy, then it’s a dead give-away that the Lord wasn’t the source of your joy. That thing you were looking forward to at that moment became your source. That’s true of all things, whether your schedule is suddenly interrupted and your attitude toward that or some of the resources of your life begin to give way or fail…. It’s not wrong to enjoy things. God has given us all things to enjoy. I can’t wait to get together with Christians for wonderful fellowship. I can’t wait for you all if you get a chance to meet my new granddaughter who is coming very soon in May. That’s a great expression of joy and I can’t wait, but that’s not the source of our joy. It’s exciting to see the Lord provide unexpected things and delight us with expressions of joy, but we must never substitute that for the Lord Himself. He’s independent of all those things, and He alone is the source of joy.
Just as it’s easy to look to expressions of joy rather than the source, sometimes it’s easy to look at second causes, secondary means as the source of joy. The source of your joy is not your income, not your bank account, savings account, your investments you made along the way. The source of joy is not the generous gifts of God’s people when they meet you in your need. That’s a wonderful gift, but that’s not the source of joy. These days all eyes are being pressured to look to the government as the sources for everything. They say, “We’ll take care of the elderly, and take care of the indigent, and take care of the unemployed, take care of those who are disabled, take care of those who are catastrophically sick, take care of illegals, and take care of everybody. So, people look to the government and other things. I wonder how many true believers actually believe that verse that He is the source and all my springs are in Him. May God help us with that! That’s what we’re going to look at.
Romans 8:32, “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?” Notice “with Him freely give us all things”. We ask for things as if God gives us things apart from His Son. 1 Corinthians 1:30, “But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption.” Wisdom is a Person and His name is Jesus. Righteousness is a Person and His name is Jesus. Sanctification, we need to live a holy Jesus; that’s a Person, and His name is Jesus. Redemption is a Person. 2 Corinthians 3:5, “Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God.” He doesn’t make you sufficient. He is sufficient; He’s a Person, and we need to have Him as our Person. Ephesians 2:14, “For He Himself is our peace.” We go out and pray for these things. He said, “I am the Way, I am the Truth, I am the Life.” If fact the whole list of the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23; love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control, is all the fruit of His Life. The Spirit of God is the Life of God, and that’s all the fruit of His Life.
We ask for power, “Lord, give me power, give me patience, give me more love, give me a forgiving spirit as if God would give those things and something else called Jesus. He doesn’t give those things and something else called Jesus. He just gives Jesus. If you have Jesus, you have love, you have power, you have patience. It’s His Life in you. We emphasize that so much because it’s easy to forget those things. Here is my prayer addressed to the Lord. I like to express my heart in rhyme:
As You are to heaven, it’s value and worth
So I have found you to be on the earth
Beside you, on sum of my creed
There’s nothing I seek or I need.
It’s all Him; all the Lord. We sing about it, we say, “He’s all I need, He’s all I need, Jesus is all I need, He’s all I need, He’s all I need, He’s all I’ll ever need, Jesus is all I need”. And then we start asking Him for other stuff, “Lord, we need patience.” Let me emphasize again Exodus 17:1-7 in the light of their journey to Sinai. If we are really going to enter into this we’ve got to see this because Sinai, as you will see, is a very big deal when they finally get there. When we get to chapter 19 I’m going to lay great emphasis on the meeting, the personal meeting between them and their Lord. Up until this time in their experience they’ve only really experienced one side of God. It was the pleasant side; the good side. They saw Him as a God of judgment, but mostly that was against God’s enemies; the Egyptians. They had a little glimpse of that. Their personal experience up until this time is, “He’s pretty good; He’s gracious to us and He’s exempted us from many of the plagues in Egypt. He made us rich when we went out and spoiled the Egyptians. He was determined to deliver us from long bondage and slavery. He is a real benefactor. He’s good to us. We saw Him lead us with us cloud. We saw Him open the Red Sea for us. We saw Him provide manna. We saw Him provide quail. We saw Him provide water for us.” Pretty much that was their view of the Lord, “He’s a wonderful Provider; terrible for those who don’t know Him, but He’s pretty good to us.”
At Sinai for the first time they are invited to meet their benefactor. I want you to try to enter into that. Actually they got excited about it. If some invisible stranger set you free from slavery and started to pay all your bills, and took care of you and delivered you from everything that is negative, satisfied your hunger, satisfied your thirst, and then you got the word, “The one who has done all that would like to meet you face to face.” Would you be excited about that? I think I would be. I think I’d dress up in my finest clothes and hope I didn’t spill soup when we were sitting at the table. It would be an exciting time. When they got to Sinai they were in for the shock of their lives. What they expected was exactly the opposite. They were about to have their eyes opened to a revelation of God that they never experienced before. Let me quote this passage from the New Testament, and leave it there, and we’ll pick it up when we get to Sinai. Hebrews 12:18-21, “For you have not come to a mountain that can be touched and to a blazing fire, and to darkness and gloom and whirlwind, and to the blast of a trumpet and the sound of words which sound was such that those who heard begged that no further word be spoken to them. For they could not bear the command, ‘If even a beast touches the mountain, it will be stoned.’ So terrible was the site, that Moses said, ‘I am full of fear and trembling.’” That’s what they’re going to face when they get to Sinai.
It’s true they had a snapshot of the God of Sinai at the Passover when God saved them from God, before He saved them from Egypt, but I think most of them didn’t get that. I think that was just a religious experience, something they could hand down to generations, like a ritual. They saw God’s judgment fall on the lamb, but to them I don’t think they said, “Oh look; the lamb is God.” I don’t think they thought of the lamb as God. They are just following directions. To them the lamb was a lamb, “I’m glad he took my place,” but they didn’t get the full picture. All of this to say this is two stories we’re going to have at Rephidim; the one we’ll look now and, Lord willing, the one we’ll look at next week where Christ is the source of all blessing and the provision and where Christ is our victory. But here they are going to see the two sides of God brought together; His holiness, His righteousness, and on the other side His grace, His mercy. So, for the rest of this lesson we’ll gather our thoughts around those two heads. Let’s look at the holiness, the righteousness of God, and then let’s look at His grace.
In terms of His righteousness let me say it this way, “Judgment was well deserved, and I think expected by them.” On the other side, mercy was received instead. In that connection I love Habakkuk 3:2, “In wrath remember mercy.” I think some of you know Dana Congdon. Dana told me that his prayer for the United States is, “In wrath remember mercy.” It’s a good prayer.
Let’s look at the story. I’m going to begin with this truth, that judgment is deserved and expected. Let me read the first four verses, Exodus 17:1-4, “Then all the congregation of the sons of Israel journeyed by stages from the wilderness of Sinai, according to the command of the Lord, and camped at Rephidim, and there was no water for the people to drink. Therefore, the people quarreled with Moses and said, ‘Give us water that we may drink.’ And Moses said to them, ‘Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the Lord?’ But the people thirsted there for water; and they grumbled against Moses and said, ‘Why, now, have you brought us up from Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?’ So Moses cried out to the Lord, saying, ‘What shall I do to this people? A little more and they will stone me.’” They are grumbling again. You remember when they were only three days delivered, and after they had just sung the song they came to the waters of Marah, Exodus 15:24, “So the people grumbled at Moses, saying, ‘What shall we drink?’”
Usually when we grumble we do what Adam did in the garden and what Israel does here at Rephidim; we try to pass the buck and blame some other person or some circumstance. Verse 2, “The people quarreled with Moses and said, ‘Give us water that we may drink.’” They were looking to men, to this man as their provision. That always fails. Let me address any elders here or teachers here or pastors that are here or those who listening by some electronic means to this tape, brace yourselves, brothers. You know that you’ve got to point people to Jesus, to the Lord. Many times, in an unhealthy way, they are going to look to you and not to Jesus; to the human instrument, and they are going to want you to do what only God can do, and force feed you, and so on. When they discover what you knew all the time, you know it’s not in you, it’s in the Lord, and you fail, as you have to fail, because you don’t have what it is, then they are going to try to stone you. That’s what follows. So, brace yourselves because that’s what’s going to happen. You think people leave the service and go home and have a nice turkey dinner. Usually it’s roast preacher.
Exodus 17:4, “So Moses cried out to the Lord, ‘What shall I do to this people? A little more and they will stone me.’” We get this idea that something or someone or some circumstance needs to be blamed. I suppose they could have looked at the sky and said, “How come you aren’t raining?” and the sky would answer, “I rain when God tells me to rain.” The wilderness certainly would cry out, “Don’t look to me; I’m a wilderness; I’m living up to my nature. I can’t give you water. I don’t have it.” Moses had that same response, “Why are you complaining to me? I’ve been following the cloud. Hello! I didn’t bring you here. God brought you here.” So, I say that they deserved judgment, and not only because of their complaining, but that was a symptom of something far deeper in their hearts. As you go on you are going to realize that the problem is never the problem, and so the solution is never the solution. The problem always is relationship with God, and that’s where they were hurting. Exodus 17:P2, “Therefore the people quarreled with Moses and said, ‘Give us water that we may drink.’ Moses said to them, ‘Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the Lord?’”
Usually, not always, when we think of a provision we connect it to faith. You’ve heard expressions, “Trust God for your provision; depend upon the Lord for your provision. He’ll provide if you trust Him,” and so on. We’ve heard it said, and probably said it ourselves, “I’m trusting God to meet my needs.” So, we take provision and trust and we put it together. I’m not knocking that because there is an element of truth in the relationship of trust and provision, but in this case was Israel trusting the Lord for provision? It seems pretty obvious. I don’t see them praying or asking or begging or believing or depending or submitting or in any way calling upon the Lord to meet their need. They were light years away from trusting God to provide, and even further than that, from trusting God as Provision. In fact it’s the very opposite. They were not only not trusting; they were doubting.
Exodus 17:7, “He named the place Massah and Meribah because of the quarrel of the sons of Israel.” Meribah just means “to strive” and Massah means “to prove” the Lord and test God. God saw their unbelieving heart. I want you to notice that certain words came from their lips. God bypasses what comes from your lips, and He listens to what is in your heart. I love what Augustine said about his mother when she was left on the beach. He promises her he wouldn’t go to Rome and the last view of his mother was on the beach praying as his boat moved out to go to Rome. God knew that he would be saved when he got to Rome, but Monica didn’t know that. In his confessions Augustine said this in a very pithy way, “God bypassed the prayer of her lips to answer the prayer of her heart. He bypassed the prayer of a moment to answer the prayer of the life.” That’s an awesome statement and that’s what God does.
They said with their lips, and they addressed Moses, “Moses, why did you bring us out here.” Here is what God heard, Exodus 17:7, “They tested the Lord, saying, ‘Is the Lord among us, or not?’” They never said that with their lips. They only said that with their heart. Psalm 78:18-19 refers to this story, “And in their heart they put God to the test by asking food according to their desire. Then they spoke against God; they said, ‘Can God prepare a table in the wilderness?’” They never said, “Can God provide a table in the wilderness,” with their lips. They only said it with their heart. God hears the heart, so they were actually doubting the presence of God; “Is He among us?” They were doubting the power of God; “Can He provide for us?” They didn’t say it with their mouth. We’re too holy to say those things out loud, but God sees our heart.
Many years after this God through Moses gives this command to the second generations. Deuteronomy 6:16, “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test, as you tested Him at Massah.” Psalm 95:8-9, “Do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah, as in the day of Massah in the w8ilderness, ‘When your fathers tested Me. They tried Me, though they had seen My work.’” The psalmist calls the sin of grumbling “hardness of heart”. Unbelief; “hardness of heart”. They were measuring the presence of God, “Is He among us?” and the power of God, “Can He provide in the wilderness?” by their circumstances. “If He were here we wouldn’t be in this mess. If He were powerful He would get us out of this mess.” That was their heart, “We doubt His presence and we doubt His power. It’s all your fault, Moses.” I’m saying that they deserved judgment.
I said not only they deserved judgment, but they expected it, not only because of Moses’ rebuke, but because of the word of the Lord. I’m going to read a passage but I’ll stop early. We have an advantage because we have the full record. They didn’t have that. Just like Job; he would have loved to have chapters 1 &2, but he didn’t have that. We have it. Exodus 17:5, “Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Pass before the people and take with you some of the elders of Israel; and take in your hand your staff with which you struck the Nile, and go.’” If that was all the information you had, like I say we have the advantage of the full record, “Take the staff with which you struck the Nile.” That has a message in it. If He had said, “Take the staff that swallowed up Pharaoh’s serpents,” or He had said, “Take the staff that opened the Red Sea,” then I think they would have had some encouragement and hope. But when He said, “Go out and take the staff with which you smote the Nile,” that’s blood and that’s judgment, and that’s a tough statement. They deserved it because they blamed somebody else, and they tested God and doubted His presence and doubted His power and forgot His former mercies, and they had murder on their heart and were ready to stone God’s servant.
I wonder how Moses felt. I almost had to laugh when I read this. He just got done telling the Lord, “They are about ready to stone me,” and God says in verse 5, “Pass before the people and take with you some of the elders of Israel.’” I think if it were me I think I would rather hear God say, “Behold, I have just given you the feet of a gazelle, the feet of a cheetah,” or, “There’s a cave; hide.” But Moses says, “They are out to stone me,” and He says, “God stand in front of them.” I would have said anything but that. There’s no question they deserved judgment, and I think they expected it when they heard about the rod with which He smote the Nile.
God had every right to wipe them out, didn’t He? He’s a holy God and He has every right to judge you and me. They’re going to see a full view of that side of God when they get to Sinai, but there’s another side in this story and it’s the mercy side. Let me point out a few things that illustrate His mercy. The first I’ve already mentioned, but I’ll mention it again. Remember that they are where they are because God led them there. He set them up and led them there. God arranged the meeting. He knew what was in their heart and He knew exactly what they needed. He initiated and He always initiates. The first words in the Bible, “In the beginning God…” That’s not only the first words in the Bible, that’s a principle, and it’s always in the beginning “God”. He comes first and He initiates and He sets things up. When He shows up He’s not looking for something good in me. He doesn’t come to my door saying, “I’ve heard your testimony and there’s really something I enjoy there and I’d like to be your God.” There’s nothing in me that is going influence the Lord. Grace is great, not because of what it finds when it comes to your door. Grace is great because of what it brings when it comes to your door.
Notice what God does next. Remember His presence to them, His visual presence is the glory cloud. That’s how they see Him and that’s His revelation. Verse 6, God tells Moses, “Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb.” Think of that in terms of the cloud and what they saw. I don’t know where the cloud was at that moment, but it moved and it went and settled on the rock at Horeb. If you get the full picture, there’s the rock, there’s the cloud on top, in front stands Moses with the rod with which he struck the Nile, and several elders. We don’t know exactly who they are, but on the level of earth it’s scary to those people. Here’s the wonderful turn of events. Verse 6, “You shall strike the rock.” Not strike the grumblers. That’s what I would have said. Not strike those who are presumptuous, not strike those who have murder on their heart, not strike this unbelieving band, but smite the rock. That staff had to go through the cloud to hit the rock. God took the smiting. They deserved, but God took it. What happened? Did that smiting then bring forth the blood of the guilty? The exact opposite took place. It brought forth drinking water to refresh and satisfy the thirst of those who deserved to be judged. The glory cloud on the rock, the rock is Christ, strike the rock. To become our provision, to become the bread and drink of life He had to be smitten. He’s holy. Somebody had to be judged. He couldn’t bypass judgment. He said, “I will not bypass the guilt of the sinner. I’ve got to deal with it.” Romans 5:8, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” You know the Lord loves you and you know the Lord is in love with you. I want you to realize this. His love for you is not growing stronger day by day. He doesn’t love you more today than He loved you yesterday. And He’s not going to love you more tomorrow than He loves you today. God is infinite. Even God can’t love you anymore than He loves you. He can’t. He’s exhausted Himself. There’s no more to give. He’s given Himself, and He calls that, “I loved you with an everlasting love”; an infinite love.
Aren’t you glad this morning that the Lord provided a substitute for you? You deserve that rod and I deserve that rod, but praise God He took it! Psalm 130:3, “If You, Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand?” Psalm 103:10, “He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor rewarded us according to our iniquities.” Brothers and sisters, we can’t just read this “la, la, la”. How do you picture this? Water came out. Don’t forget that there’s two and half million of them, people waiting for a drink. Do you picture it like a drinking fountain and everybody in single line waiting for their turn to get a drink?
Exodus 17:6, just says, “You shall strike the rock, and water will come out of it…” Water will come out? It did. I want you to listen to some of these verses. Psalms 114:7-8, “Tremble, O earth, before the Lord, before the God of Jacob, who turned the rock into a pool of water, the flint into a fountain of water.” Psalm 78:20, “Behold, He struck the rock so that water gushed out, and streams were overflowing.” How do you picture it? It gushed out like the breaking of a levy or a dam. Psalm 105:41, “He opened the rock and water flowed out; it ran in the dry places like a river.” Picture this. Psalm 78:15-16, “He split the rocks in the wilderness and gave them abundant drink like the ocean depths. He brought forth streams also from the rock and caused waters to run down like rivers.” Ocean depths? Not a river; like rivers. Try to picture this, because it’s more than just a trickle and more than just a pool and more than just a fountain; it’s a gushing fountain. It’s more than a river; it’s rivers, ocean depths.
Listen to Isaiah 48:21, “They did not thirst when He led them through the deserts. He made the water flow out of the rock for them. He split the rock and the water gushed forth.” That fountain, those rivers that came out of that rock never stopped flowing for thirty eight years. Water abundant to supply the thirst of two and half million people, their flocks, their herds, for bathing, for cooking, for washing clothes and I don’t even doubt the children had water for swimming, all through the wilderness. If there is ever a picture of Christ as the source of living water, here you have it; everywhere they went on their pilgrim journeys there were rivers and waters and brooks and streams. The manna came once a day and the waters flowed continually, not just for five hours, not twenty four hours or a week or a month but for 38 years without stopping, this water came out of the rock.
What we have in chapter 17 is the last time you are going to hear the children of Israel complain about thirst in the whole rest of the record. They never had to complain about that again. If you read the full record He did shut off the spigot at the end to teach the second generation the same lesson that the first generation had to learn. At Rephidim, at this resting place, Christ revealed Himself as the source of life; “All my springs of joy are in Him.” He is the satisfaction my soul yearns for. He’s the water of life.
I want to quote again 1 Corinthians 10:1-4, “For I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, 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 were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ.” I want to home in on that little expression “the rock that followed them”. Jewish commentators take this quite literally. They have a set of books that date back pretty much to the days of Ezra, and it’s called “The Mishnah”. They claim that Ezra was somehow the initiator, the starter of the synagogues and was the first president of the first synagogue. We know that he returned with Zerubbabel and Jeshua from Babylon. Anyway, in that set of commentaries, the Mishnah, they have another book called “Haggedah”. The Haggedah is dedicated to the moral command, and so on. In this book they address that the rock followed them. They take it literally. Some say that rock was a round rock that just rolled along, and when they stopped it camped in front of the tabernacle. One described it as a swarm of bees, and they just sort of followed along. One commentary I read said, “It was like a tumble weed,” and that rock followed them and every time they needed it either He struck it again or it was there to provide. Actually I read one commentator who suggested that perhaps the rock floated behind them.
J. Sidwell Baxter in the New Testament in 1 Corinthians 10 says, “It’s not literal at all. God is just placing things in chronological order. In other words 1 Corinthians 10 says, “First there’s the cloud, then there’s the Red Sea, then there’s the manna, and the rock followed. In other words, that’s next. They just take it in that chronological order. But we read that the rock that followed them was a spiritual rock, and the rock was Christ. We don’t have to guess at that. It’s Christ illustrated by brooks and streams and rivers running all through the desert. Christ is presented as the source of life. He is the rock that followed.
I want you to remember when you first came to Jesus what a glorious day that was. I remember the day I came so well. I just cried for hours and hours. There was such a dramatic thing in my own life. But your first drink you found forgiveness of sin. Your guilt was gone, your penalty was paid, you drank assurance that your name was now in the land of the book of Life and you are going to heaven when you die and you are not going to be judged and you are not going to go to hell. That was the first drink that you ever had. But that rock has been following you ever since. It followed you into your education and into your marriage, or if you didn’t get married, it followed you into your single life, it followed you into your job, and when you went to the hospital. That rock followed you, into the office, into the school, on the athletic field, into the assembly of God’s people. Everywhere and at all times since you’ve been saved by power and blood that rock has been following you and giving forth provision, and that provision is Himself. Followed you when you were divorced, into your bankruptcy, into when you were backsliding. That rock will never stop following you. You can’t get away from it.
Remember, this is not a group of people that understood the exchanged life. They didn’t even make it into the land. This is the rebellious people, a stiff necked people. They are called stiff necked because of the animals who were stiff willed and didn’t want to follow man. After Israel made the golden calf, do you know what they did the next morning? They gathered manna. Do you know what they did the next morning? They drank from the rock. That rock followed them, and that Lord is the One who will never stop following us. It doesn’t only apply to those who abide in Jesus. Israel was redeemed by power and blood but they died in the wilderness, and yet that rock still followed them because they were His people.
The world knows nothing of this. They don’t have a rock that follows them. When they have a heartache they have to go there alone. The rock is not following them. When they need comfort they’ve got to go on their own, and when they show up at the cemetery their hearts are broken because they have no rock to follow them. They have to turn to doctors and to medicine and they have to turn to addictive substances and they have to turn to counselors because they don’t have a rock. You have a rock. Psalm 46 describes the earth when it’s falling to pieces. It’s pretty contemporary, actually. “The mountains are slipping into the sea. The mountains are quaking. Nations are in an uproar. Kingdoms are tottering.” And yet in the heart of that psalm we read this, verse 4, “There is a river whose streams makes glad the city of God.” Aren’t you glad for that river? I’m praising God for that river. It’s always there. In that same Psalm he says, “Relax, and know that I am God.”
That’s the clincher principle, that God is not only our Provider, but He has become through smiting our Provision. Everything flows from Calvary. Everything comes from the cross. Every blessing you ever had in your life, every blessing I’ve every had in my life can be traced back to the smitten rock.
Let me close with a couple of comments from the lips of Jesus. John 7:37-38, “Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, ‘If anyone is thirsty let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, “From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.”” Isn’t that awesome! And then finally we come to the end and we’re in heaven now. Revelation 22:1, “Then he showed me a river of the water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb.” They share the same throne, by the way. The throne of God and the Lamb. But if there is still two people still in the land because he’s calling attention to the One who was smitten and it’s the throne, and it’s the source, the virgin source of this living water.
I like to word it this way as a principle; the closer I get to the throne (i.e. the Lordship of Jesus, the Kingship of Christ, His throne) and the closer I get to the Lamb, that is the finished work by His substitution, the clearer the water becomes. It’s clear as crystal. Some people like to fight over muddy waters and they are way down stream where all the tributaries of the world have muddied up the water. Let’s move on, brothers and sisters in Christ, and let’s go to the source, to the throne, let’s go to the Lamb where everything is crystal clear. Invite them to come with you. If they don’t come, leave them behind. You just go up and let them fight over muddy waters. We’ve come too far to fight over muddy waters. I want drink from the crystal water, from the Lordship of Christ, from the finished work of Christ.
We’ll leave it there. I know the mind can’t contain more than the seat can stand.
Heavenly Father, thank You for Exodus 17:1-7, not what we think it might mean, but all You’ve inspired it to mean and work that in our hearts. Thank You, Lord, that You are not only our Provider but You are our Provision and all our springs are in You. We ask You to make that so real in our lives. Prepare our hearts as we continue to go through this wonderful book and taste of some of the out-workings of the glory of being Your children. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen