September 23, 2016
Exodus 17:1, 3-6; Numbers 20:7-11
(All scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated.)
They had just left the wilderness of Sin where they complained about being hungry. Now the Israelites were grumbling about being thirsty. Here is a shortened version from Exodus 17:1 and 3 through 6:
Then…Israel…camped in Rephidim….And the people thirsted there for
water, and…murmured against Moses…,“Why is it you have brought
us up out of Egypt, to kill us…with thirst?” So Moses cried out to the
LORD…“What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to
stone me!” And the LORD said to Moses, “…take with you some of the
elders of Israel…[and] your rod, with which you struck the river….Be-
hold…you shall strike the rock…in Horeb…and water will come out of
it, that the people may drink.”
It was more than grumbling! They were about ready to stone Moses! But God in His gracious provision fulfilled their need (see Philippians 4:19), and gave them water in a most unusual way. Moses was to strike the rock of Horeb with the rod he carried – with which he had performed many miracles (see for instance Exodus 7:20; 8:5; 8:17; 10:13; 14:16) – and God promised water would flow out of it ! And it did! There is no record of judgment against the Israelites because of their grumbling, blaming, and not trusting God. However, the place where this happened was ever after known as Massah and Meribah (Exodus 17:7), which means “testing and quarrel.” That’s quite a legacy to leave!
But there is another incident, similar and related to the first we have examined. It happened almost 40 years later than what happened at Horeb rock. It is recorded in Numbers 20:7 through 11:
…the LORD spoke to Moses…“Take the rod; you and…Aaron gather the
assembly together. Speak to the rock before their eyes, and it will yield
its water…and give drink to the congregation.”…And Moses and Aaron…
said to them, “Hear now, ye rebels! Must we bring water for you out of
this rock?” And Moses…struck the rock twice with his rod; and water
came out abundantly….
You can see the difference right away!
• In the first case, God told Moses, “…you shall strike the rock…and water will come out of it…” (Exodus 17:6). And his attitude was submissive as he obeyed what the LORD had told him to do.
• But the second time God told Moses, “Speak to the rock before their eyes, and it will yield its water…” (Numbers 20:8). And what was Moses attitude on this occasion? He was angry and probably fed up with 40 years of hard-hearted rebellion by the people! So he struck the rock this time also – twice! Hadn’t it worked that way the first time? And God, in His mercy and grace, gave forth water anyway – in spite of Moses’ rebellious actions!
What do these two episodes teach us?
• Paul, speaking of the Israelites in I Corinthians 10:2 through 4, wrote:
…all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, all ate the
same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they
drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was
If that Rock was Christ (representative of Him in a prophetic way) then the Lord only needed to be struck once! And that striking was the brutal torture and death He experienced at the hands of sinful men! It says in Hebrews 9:25, 26 and 10:14:
…not that He should offer Himself often….He then would have had to suf-
fer often since the foundation of the world; but now once at the end of the
ages, He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself….For
by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.
So the first incident where Moses struck the rock signifies Christ’s suffering and death. Once we put our faith in Him and His sacrifice for our sins, “…He is…able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He ever lives to make intercession for them…” (Hebrews 7:25). Jesus does not need to be struck again!
• The second incident signifies how we are to approach our Savior once we are redeemed! Here is what Hebrews 4:14 through 16 says about it:
Seeing then we have a great High Priest who has passed into the heavens,
Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession [of faith]. For we do
not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but
was in all points tempted [tested] as we are, yet without sin. Let us there-
fore come boldly to the throne of grace [speaking to Him about our needs],
that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
We now only need to ask, seek, and knock! (See Luke 11:9, 10).
Moses – because of disobedience – lost the privilege of leading the new nation of Israel into the Promised Land (see Numbers 20:12). Let us learn how important it is to obey the Lord’s commands! For there can be a heavy penalty when we don’t!