By Henry Mahan
Exodus 17:1-7; Matthew 16:18; 1 Corinthians 10:4
The people of Israel journeyed from the wilderness of sin and pitched in Rephidim. There was no water to drink. The people murmured against Moses because there was no water.
If we did not know something of the evil of the human heart from scripture (Jer. 17:9) and from our own experience (Rom. 7:24), we would be at a loss to account for the unbelief, ingratitude, and insensibility of these people to God's goodness and faithfulness. They had been delivered from Egypt. They had seen the hand of God at the Red Sea. They had been fed with quail and manna. Now they are ready to stone Moses because they have no water.
We learn from Israel in the wilderness a needed lesson, and that is the unvarying tendency of the human heart to doubt God! The smallest cloud of trouble is sufficient to hide the face of God. We had rather lean on a cobweb of human resources and wisdom than on the everlasting omnipotent arm of God. It is well called, 'an evil heart always ready to depart from the living God.'
Note, if you will, the age-old questions in Exodus 16 and 17, 'What shall we eat? What shall we drink?' The only question missing is, 'What shall we wear?' After these things do the heathen seek.
Faith has a brief but comprehensive answer to all these questions--God! There is nothing that exceeds the wickedness of the human heart except the abounding grace of God! The only thing greater than our sin is his grace! Someone once said, 'Two things man has never fathomed--the depth of sin and the grace of God.'
vv. 4-6. 'Go out, take the elders and your rod. I will stand upon the rock in Horeb. You shall smite the rock. There shall come water out of the rock. The people shall drink.'
What makes this event so special? What is there about the rock smitten that is so special? Paul answers (1 Cor. 10:4) in four words, 'that rock was Christ.'
1. The people thought that they would perish
All hope was gone, the simple fact being that there was no water. No water--no life. Is this not our state and condition by birth, nature, and practice? No spiritual water, no life, only death in a dry, thirsty, and barren land (Psalm 63:1-2). The human well is dry, the religious well is dry, the philosopher's well is dry.
There is nothing that we can do nor the world of flesh can do to save our souls.
2. There is a rock
'There is a rock in a weary land; its shadows fall on the burning sand.' In appearance it is only a rock like so many other rocks.
Without anointed eyes one would never see it nor know the power, beauty, and life-giving water therein. Christ said to the woman, 'If you knew, you would ask and I would give you living water.'
Look at the rock! A rock is an unlikely thing to afford water. Only a rock, yet God stood on that rock. Christ was called 'only a carpenter: no beauty that we should desire him: you are only a man; how can you be God?' Oh, for anointed eyes to see that 'God was in Christ' (2 Cor. 5:19). 'He that hath seen me hath seen the Father' (John 14:9).
3. The rock was smitten
There was no water coming forth from the rock until Moses smote it with his rod. So our Lord Jesus Christ was smitten, scourged, and crucified that his precious blood might flow forth for the redemption of our souls. 'He was smitten of God and afflicted' (Isa. 53:4, 10-12). You may get as technical as you wish; but the message of the word is clear, 'He was smitten and afflicted' by the wrath, judgment, and justice of God for us and 'by his stripes we are healed.'
4. The rock was smitten for a rebellious people
No need to dress up Israel. They were a sinful, undeserving people, as we are; they were thirsty, as we are; they could do nothing about it, as we can't; God had mercy upon them, as he did upon us, and gave them water and life from the rock, as he has given us life in Christ. The rock yielded water abundantly. It required no purification by men, no effort to pipe it, only to drink of it freely. 'All the fitness he requireth is to feel your need of him.'
5. The rock followed them (1 Cor. 10:4)
It followed them through the wilderness, over the hills and valleys to Canaan. All the desert could not dry up that rock. So Christ is our fountain of life and the source of all grace through the wilderness of this world until we come to the heavenly Canaan. Also read Numbers 20:1-12.