Water from the Rock

Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock in Horeb; and you shall strike the rock, and water will come out of it, that the people may drink” (v. 6).

- Exodus 17:1–7

Here again Israel is faced with a trial of their faith and of their trust in God’s faithfulness to provide for them. The illustration before us reveals that the man of faith walks along a path of trial. But notice how the Israelites turned this situation, a time of their own testing, into a testing of God. God’s design was to wean them of every earthly dependence, to teach them to trust Him, but their response was one of murmuring and of questioning the faithfulness of God.

Moses told the people that they were tempting the Lord, not him—that they were, in essence, putting God on trial for abandoning them and breaking His promises. Even though they murmured against Moses directly, they called God into question because Moses was God’s representative on earth. What folly was this! The God who had delivered them from Egypt, parted the Red Sea, made the bitter waters sweet, and provided quail and manna had certainly proved His faithfulness. His word alone should have been sufficient. Yet the Israelites called His faithfulness into question. We learn from this how distrustful is the human heart. Despite the many ways God has cared for us, protected us, and delivered us, we still doubt Him.

While it would have been His right to destroy the people then and there, the Lord was gracious to them. He told Moses to go to the rock of Horeb, and to smite the rock. God Himself would stand on the rock and be identified with it. God would “stand before” the people. The judicial language is strong here. God would take the place of the accused and receive the punishment of the rod.

The Rock is one of the titles of Jehovah (Deut. 32:15). In 1 Corinthians 10:1–4, we read that the Rock (of Horeb) was Christ. Christ would stand in our place, the place of the accused, and bear judgment for the sins of His people. The rod is a symbol of judgment—in this case, divine judgment, for Moses was God’s representative. By the rod, Jesus was smitten, and by His stripes we are healed (Isa. 53:5). In the same way, by the smiting of the rock at Horeb, water flowed forth, just as the Holy Spirit flows forth from Christ to nourish and equip His church. And so, in the Old Testament, we see this beautiful picture of God’s grace in the salvation of His people, for He stands in our place so that by His wounds we will be healed.

Coram Deo

Read carefully 1 Corinthians 10:1–13. What does Paul say we should learn from the example of the Israelites in the wilderness? It is easy to ignore these examples because we often think that we would never act that way, but what does Paul say in response to this kind of attitude (v. 12)? Confess today your complaining and distrust of God.

Passages for Further Study

Psalm 95
Isaiah 53:4–6
John 7:37, 38
1 Corinthians 10:1–13

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