The Rod and the Water
Previously, we have seen God meet the Israelites needs: for safety, with the destruction of the armies of Egypt; for water, with the purification of bitter waters at Marah and then the oasis at Elim; for food, with the provision of both Manna and quail; for the rest, He provided the Sabbath which was to be a day of honor for Him and quiet for the people; and finally, the Lord provided for future generations by giving a memorial so they could remember what God had done for their forbearers.
It would be unrealistic to hope, by now, the people would be at peace with Moses, trusting the Lord, knowing He was in control of all circumstances. But I suspect, knowing both them and us, we realize the people were ready to turn on Moses at the first sign of a problem. And of course, one comes up.
The people were traveling on the way to Mt. Sinai, and again there is a water shortage. The Lord had met this need twice, within in a matter of days. Nevertheless, off they go to Moses, demanding water. Moses reiterated a truth he had previously noted back in Exodus 16:8. When the people attacked him, they were attacking God. “Your grumbling is not against us but against the LORD” (Exodus 16:8 ESV).
We have to be careful when we go to the Lord, with our needs and frustrations, that our attitude is one of dependency - not accusation.
“ … Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6–7 ESV).
Note, the issue isn’t that the people are concerned about water. The concern was their lack of trust in God. Are there any recent areas where you may have responded in a similar manner? Sadly, the people were thirsty, so they didn’t listen to Moses’ words, just their own discomfort. So they continued to complain. And they brought up the same old saw, “Moses led them into the desert to die.” If this were true, it would make Moses a trifle strange, for if the people died, so would he. But, as before, they were behaving irrationally.
The other reason the peoples’ complaint was so odd was they were demanding action from Moses, as a man, that only God could provide. Where did they expect Moses to get the water? Their food was arriving daily from God, not Moses, so why did they go to him, except to ask him to appeal to God?
I wonder how often believers expect church leaders to be more than human. They sometimes act as if they believe leaders are some sort of supermen. Some of the Christian cults actually elevate leaders to the level of minor, in some cases major, deities. One thing that can happen, when men are elevated above their humanity, is the disillusionment of the people when they find the leaders have feet of clay. Another danger is when the leaders buy their own Public Relations.
Then, as in this case with Moses, there is a real danger the people will turn on the one that the Lord has placed over them. Leaders have a responsibility to make sure they don’t foster a false view of themselves. As members of a local church, we also have a responsibility to make sure we don’t put our leaders up on a pedestal for our own reasons.
At this point, Moses was starting to get a little bent out of shape. He went to the Lord, frustrat.ed because he could do nothing with this bunch. Additionally, he was also afraid that the problem was getting out of hand, and the people might stone him. “A little out of hand? brother!” If it were me, I’d quit.
The Lord was ready to act! But in doing so, He intended to show the people He was in charge, and Moses was His representative. He had Moses take the rod, representing his authority. This was the rod God provided as an emblem of authority before Pharaoh.
Second, Moses was to take the elders with him, to see God working and have them report back to the mob.
Moses' actions, directed by the Lord, were intended to reinforce his position as God’s servant and leader. So he went out before them with their elders and the rod. I wonder if they thought their leaders were about to get it. Anyway, the Lord directed Moses to a rock at Horeb. And when Moses smote it. Water poured out. Moses named the place Massah and Meribah, meaning "to test or tempt" and "to quarrel." This would later go down in the history books, so the people would never forget what God did. Now everything should be all right, right? Not likely.
There is also another prophetic picture found in this section. The rock provides a perfect picture of the smitten Christ. It is important to note the rock was to be smitten only once. Moses
later gets in trouble in a similar situation, when he smites a rock twice. God intended this be a picture of Christ.
“For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, 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 drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ” (1 Corinthians 10:1–4 ESV).
This rock speaks of the spiritual provision of the Lord, just as the Manna speaks of Christ as Bread of Heaven. Christ is often pictured in Scripture as the rock or the cornerstone, i.e.:
For it stands in Scripture: “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame” (ESV). So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,” and “A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.” They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were des- tined to do” (1 Peter 2:6–8 ESV).
Again, He is the rock upon which the church is built.
“And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18 ESV).
Finally, we know Christ was smitten once for our sin. From that smiting flows all the blessings God has for us, past, present and future. The past tense of salvation is redemption. The present tense is sanctification. And the future tense is glorification. Also with the receiving of Christ, we also receive the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Praise the Lord, blessed be His name.