BETWEEN THE TEXTS
• Remember, Exodus is all about two things – knowing God and vocation. Exodus is an account of knowing God through personal experience and how it is that God would call a nation to be the community through which he would bless the human family.
• We left the Israelites feeling quite contented and happy after the Lord had responded to their complaint by providing bread and meat to eat for the duration of their desert journey on a daily basis. The ongoing dynamic of the Lord shaping his people had begun with the Lord testing the peoples’ trust in him and then giving them every assurance that He in deed can be trusted – especially in testing times. Testing leads to trust and is all about trust, we said.
• Again we come to a testing moment. This one will become quite famous in years to come. It will be put into verse and song a few times, but especially in Psalm 95.
• This testing event was a serious one, worthy of remembering for all time.
WEEK 5 Exodus 16:2-15 (TNIV)
Water from the Rock ( numbers relate to THOUGHTS – the bullet points below)
1 The whole Israelite community set out from the Desert of Sin, travelling from place to place as the LORD commanded 1 2. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink3. 2 So they quarrelled4 with Moses and said, “Give us water to drink.”
Moses replied, “Why do you quarrel with me5? Why do you put the LORD to the test?6”
3 But the people were thirsty for water there, and they grumbled against Moses. They said, “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to make us and our children and livestock die of thirst5?”
4 Then Moses cried out to the LORD, “What am I to do with these people8? They are almost ready to stone me7.”
5 The LORD answered Moses, “Go out in front9 of the people. Take with you some of the elders of Israel and take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go10. 6 I will stand there before you by the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it for the people to drink.” So Moses did this in the sight of the elders of Israel. 7 And he called the place Massah[a] and Meribah[b] because the Israelites quarrelled and because they tested the LORD saying, “Is the LORD among us or not?11, 12”
1. We get these little travelling notes from time-to-time throughout Exodus and Numbers, as the journey goes on. There are difficulties with the places mentioned and their order, so it is quite difficult to be certain of the route the Israelites actually took in the vast spaces of the Sinai Peninsular.
2. They are people on the move. God is on the move. There is constant change and constant need, testing, shows of God’s presence and commitment to his people and strength given for the ongoing journey of faith – sounds like the Church!
3. Again we are facing a “water problem” as we did just prior to the Lord “raining down” manna from heaven in 15:22ff. But this time the “testing” is of a more serious nature.
4. We are now fighting, not just complaining! When there is no water and desperation sets in among a group of people, people can say and do strange things in their desperation. The brunt of their desperation in God’s servant, Moses.
5. They are “quarrelling” or “finding fault” with him and his leadership. The “fault” they find is Moses’ intentions. They accuse Moses of being a shadowy, underbelly kind of man who has their murder on his mind. They think he is masterminding a mass murder in the desert, like some megalomaniac cult leader or something.
6. Moses points out that as they accuse him of such underhanded and evil intent, so they actually accuse the Lord of the same things because Moses is only a mere servant of the Lord. The Lord is making up the plan as they go, not Moses! The people don’t seem to pull back from their fighting accusations. They don’t seem to realise that when they pull down a servant of God they are directly offending and rejecting the Hand that feeds them.
7. Moses will constantly have to deal with this fault finding of him by the people and on occasions it turns very nasty as he even will be on the edge of being stones to death by these people! (Numbers 14:10). Moses has now joined an elite club of servants of the Lord who have been on the receiving end of a threat of or actual stoning by God’s people – David (1 Samuel 30:6, Jesus John 10:31, Stephen Acts 7:58, Paul Acts 14:19).
8. Notice how Moses now gives vent to his own fears as he speaks not of “God’s people”, or “my people”, or even “your people”, but “these people”. It is as if Moses is teaming up with the Lord and accusing these agro people of wrong doing and expecting the Lord to feel the same about “these people”. He is not saying “your people” and thereby putting all the blame for the current trouble on God’s shoulders. He will do that later!! He is siding with God and getting a small taste of what it is like for the Lord to have to knock these troublesome and so very human people into shape for their vocation of being a blessing to the whole world!
9. The Lord responds to the tricky situation of angry people ready to exact their desperate anger on Moses by doing something very visible once again. Moses is directed to go “in front” of the people with witnesses in two (the Elders). They are all going to get good seats in the house to see again that the Lord is with them and responding to them and keeping his promise to get them to their promised destination.
10. Moses is instructed to use the same rod with which he “struck” the waters of the Nile to turn them into blood to now turn this rocky land into a stream of gushing water. There is no doubt as to the Lord’s message here. He has provided them with water from dry land, as he also provided them with dry ground through the water at the Sea of Reeds. He is the Lord. He is still with them. Moses is indeed his servant. God takes responsibility for the plight of his people and handles their anger and doubt and deep questioning of his integrity with a show of power and gracious care.
11. It is noteworthy that this event is given two names to be remembered by. It must be significant! The words means “finding fault with” and “putting to the proof” someone. The people ask, “Is the Lord with us, or not?” They are raising serious doubts as to the Lord’s honesty, integrity and will regarding his stated promises to deliver on his promise to get them to the new land, give them a great name among the nations and keep them alive and growing as a nation, as he once promised to their father, Abraham (Genesis 12). They find fault with God’s leadership and management and pan for this to happen and they ask him to show himself and his will again – not in friendly terms but doubting, harsh and distrustful terms.
12. Through Moses the Lord really turns this question back around on the people. They ask, “Are you with us or not?” The Lord and his servant Moses really respond with a question back at them, “Are you with the Lord, or not?”
1. Testing times brings out the best and the worst in people. In his own fear Moses rises to the occasion and seeks the Lord on the people’s behalf as well as for himself. Moses “nails his colours to the mast” and declares his loyalty and trust in the Lord as he asks the Lord what he should do with “these people”.
2. Moses is on the Lord’s side. He does not give in to the people’s fault finding or aggressive questioning of him and the Lord. So he “passes the testing” by seeking the Lord and confessing faith in the Lord when there is no easy reason to do so.
3. On the other hand, the people lower their colours in fear and mistrust of Moses and the Lord. They get aggressive in their fault finding of Moses, not realising that they are really having a go at the Lord, who had not only brought them into being by the promise to Abraham and the freeing work he had just completed in Egypt, but also given them a destiny, meaning and purpose in his world as his own blessing bearers to the world. In ungrateful aggression they turn on the Lord and accuse him of not being there, or if he is there, not with them and for them.
4. So, where are you thins week?! Aggressively doubting the Lord for what he did not do for you or placing your life in his hands anyway? The people ask, “Are you with us, Lord, or not?” God says, “Are you with me, or not? Where are you in your faith journey?
5. Is one of the things to notice here all about how we faithfully respond to life as people of God? In the midst of great threat not only to faith but to life itself, Moses leads the way by living his faith. In the face of hard testing, he does those two things: 1) He seeks the Lord’s word on the situation (“What should I do, Lord), 2) He confesses faith in the Lord (Why do you find fault and fight with the Lord? He asks). What have you done when under the pump in life? These things or other things?
6. God seems so very able to absorb all the grumbling, complaining, fault finding and aggressive questioning his people throw at him. Most often he responds to their need with grace. Now and again he responds with judgement. This will happen later in the journey after Mt Sinai when the covenant between God and the people has been made at Sinai. (See Numbers from chapter 10 – particularly Numbers 11:1-3 as an example). Here he gives them what they need – not just the water but a sign that he was still there with them and for them, wanting them to live and continue the journey with him.
7. This account went into the worship life of Israel in sing and verse. In the Feast of Tabernacles (one of the main feast in the Jewish calendar), this event is remembered and then used as a prayer for God’s blessing in the form of rain/water for a good crop and good year of his favour. The picture of the future messiah kingdom developed around this event with Jerusalem being the holy city of God built on top of a rock/mountain with streams of living water flowing from it to all nations (When the Messiah finally came). The prophets (especially Isaiah) took this event and pictured God’s future as “streams of living water bubbling up in the desert” etc…..(Isaiah 35)
8. Jesus stands up at the Feast of Tabernacles in Jerusalem and proclaims those famous words recorded in John 7:37, “If anyone thirst, let that person come to me and drink”. He was saying that he is the living water from the rock. He is the water that quenches a person’s thirst for life for ever (Remember the conversation with the Samaritan woman at the well recorded in John 4?
9. Paul picked up this event and the legend that developed around in latter times from the Rabbis who said that the rock from which the water came was picked up by the Lord and then followed the people wherever they went, when he says the Rock was Christ” himself with the people of old – and also now with us (1 Corinthians10:4).
10. When the testing time is upon us, or a testing time has happened to us and we are still dealing with it, we have the choices of questioning the Lord and his leadership, his management, his church, his leaders (which may be necessary at times because the church is only full of imperfect human beings!) or doing those things Moses did – seeking the Lord and confessing faith. Faithfulness to the God of life and promise is in these things somewhere………
In the end, this event gets this response from the priests, poets and song writers of God’s people…
Today, if only you would hear his voice,
8 “Do not harden your hearts as you did at Meribah,[a]
as you did that day at Massah[b] in the wilderness,
9 where your ancestors tested me;
they tried me, though they had seen what I did.
10 For forty years I was angry with that generation;
I said, ‘They are a people whose hearts go astray,
and they have not known my ways.’
1 Come, let us sing for joy to the LORD;
let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation.
2 Let us come before him with thanksgiving
and extol him with music and song.
3 For the LORD is the great God,
the great King above all gods.
4 In his hand are the depths of the earth,
and the mountain peaks belong to him.
5 The sea is his, for he made it,
and his hands formed the dry land.
6 Come, let us bow down in worship,
let us kneel before the LORD our Maker;
7 for he is our God
and we are the people of his pasture,
the flock under his care.