The Israelis move to Rephidim (r'fee-DEEM), and there is no water. After the ten plagues that got Israel out of Egypt, after the parting of the Red Sea, after the bitter waters turned sweet, after the miraculous meal of quails, after the manna appearing every single morning, you'd think that the Israelites would have come to the place of saying, "Hey, let's wait and see how God's going to come through this time!" But instead they quarreled with Moses.
I find that quarreling is an easy and accurate "flesh indicator." The more quarrelsome a person is, the more he is walking in the flesh rather than the Spirit. James said,
James 4:1-2 What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. And you are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel...
Your flesh is the source of quarrels and conflicts. The carnal Corinthian church was rebuked by Paul when he said,
1Cor. 1:10-11 Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree, and there be no divisions among you, but you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment. For I have been informed concerning you, my brethren, by Chloe's people, that there are quarrels among you.
1Cor. 3:3 ...you are still fleshly. For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men?
So the people quarreled with Moses in the flesh instead of seeking the Lord in spirit.
Prov. 20:3 Keeping away from strife is an honor for a man, But any fool will quarrel.
Moses cries out to the Lord. Too often when we encounter a difficulty, we immediately set out to make our plans. "Let's see, how can I make this work out?"
But Moses knew the futility of the problem. Where are you going to get water for 2 or 3 million people? What else could he do but cry out to the Lord?
I think it's rather humorous that he doesn't say "Lord, what shall I do FOR this people?" He says "What shall I do TO this people?" That is of course a common temptation for a man in leadership of God's people when they're whining, complaining, and accusing. "Well, I'll just preach a sermon this week against people like that!"
But God doesn't tell Moses to take his staff and go strike the people. Sure, the people are fleshly. But they're also thirsty. And God will provide for them..
So instead of telling him to beat the people, the Lord tells him to take some of the elders of Israel, strike the rock at Cho-RAYB, and water will come out of it. An interesting solution.
And merely an interesting story until we read in the New Testament that...
1Cor. 10:4 ...all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ.
The rock that poured out water was Christ! Amazing!
In John chapter 7, we read that the Feast of Booths, was at hand. This was the eight day long feast that called the people to remembrance of the wilderness wanderings. The people would live in little booths with palm branches for roofs in commemoration of the time that their ancestors dwelt in tabernacles in the wilderness.
Each day for seven days, water was brought by the priests from the Pool of Siloam and poured out in front of the people to commemorate the water God provided from the rock. The eighth day of the feast did not include this water pouring.
John 7:37-39 Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, "If any man is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, 'From his innermost being shall flow rivers of living water.'" But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.
And to the woman at the well who was working to get water, He said,
John 4:13-14 ..."Everyone who drinks of this water shall thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life."
The living water of life springs forth from Jesus to satisfy our thirst for God and rescue us from death in the wilderness of sin. But what had to happen for that water to be released? The rock had to be smitten. Jesus Christ had to be smitten, crucified, killed, that the water of life could flow forth to all of us.
Again, just like Abraham's sacrifice of Isaac, just like the Passover, just like so many typological pictures of Jesus in the Old Testament, God has orchestrated each and every detail to be a perfect picture of Jesus Christ.
Unfortunately, in Numbers chapter 20, Moses manages to ruin this perfect typological picture and his career as God's leader all at the same time.
Num. 20:2-12 And there was no water for the congregation; and they assembled themselves against Moses and Aaron. The people thus contended with Moses and spoke, saying, "If only we had perished when our brothers perished before the LORD! Why then have you brought the LORD'S assembly into this wilderness, for us and our beasts to die here? And why have you made us come up from Egypt, to bring us in to this wretched place? It is not a place of grain or figs or vines or pomegranates, nor is there water to drink." Then Moses and Aaron came in from the presence of the assembly to the doorway of the tent of meeting, and fell on their faces. Then the glory of the LORD appeared to them; and the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, "Take the rod; and you and your brother Aaron assemble the congregation and speak to the rock before their eyes, that it may yield its water. You shall thus bring forth water for them out of the rock and let the congregation and their beasts drink." So Moses took the rod from before the LORD, just as He had commanded him; and Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly before the rock. And he said to them, "Listen now, you rebels; shall we bring forth water for you out of this rock?" Then Moses lifted up his hand and struck the rock twice with his rod; and water came forth abundantly, and the congregation and their beasts drank. But the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, "Because you have not believed Me, to treat Me as holy in the sight of the sons of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land which I have given them."
Same situation - God's people needed water from the rock. But the rock had already been smitten once. Once smitten, he never needed to be smitten again. Jesus only needed to die once.
Hebr. 7:27 ...this He did once for all when He offered up Himself.
So the Lord said, "Moses, go speak to the rock, that it may yield its water." Once smitten, our rock, Jesus Christ, only needs to be asked to release His living water for us. But Moses, God's representative to His people, was angry. God wasn't angry, but he was. He shouts, "Must we bring forth water for you?" and strikes the rock twice. There goes the perfect picture of Jesus Christ - once needing to be smitten, afterwards needing only to be spoken to .
Moses' disobedience ruins the typology, the analogy, that God had set up. And for that, God takes him out of the ministry. For misrepresenting the heart of God to His people, Moses is told that he will not be allowed to take the people into the promised land.
Misrepresenting God's heart is a sin greater than we give it credit for. Those who desire to teach the Bible, to lead God's people, must be aware of the weightiness of that responsibility.
In Luke 12, Jesus told a parable that is terrifying to those who would lead and teach God's people.
Luke 12:42-46 And the Lord said, "Who then is the faithful and sensible steward, whom his master will put in charge of his servants, to give them their rations at the proper time? Blessed is that slave whom his master finds so doing when he comes. Truly I say to you, that he will put him in charge of all his possessions. But if that slave says in his heart, 'My master will be a long time in coming,' and begins to beat the slaves, both men and women, and to eat and drink and get drunk; the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him, and at an hour he does not know, and will cut him in pieces, and assign him a place with the unbelievers.
This servant was put in charge of the other servants, and responsible to give them their rations. I see that as a picture of those in leadership of God's people - specifically teaching them, feeding them. James said,
James 3:1 Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we shall incur a stricter judgment.
Those servants whose job it is to give the rations to the other servants must always be on guard to make sure that we are feeding the sheep, not beating the sheep. I must constantly analyze the ministry here, asking myself, "Am I blessing or beating? Am I ministering or mistreating? Am I being gracious or grievous?"
But back here in Exodus 17, Moses is having victory. He is obedient to maintain the picture of Christ in striking the rock.
Massah (mah-SAH) means "test" or "trial." Meribah (m'REE-bah) means "place of strife." It was called Massah because they tested the Lord, and Meribah because they quarreled with Moses.
Next week, we'll see their first conflict with a people this side of the Red Sea - the Amalekites.