As we have read and studied the Book of Exodus we have watched as God has saved the Israelites from their slavery in Egypt. So far, we have seen how God has done that through placing Himself into the realm of human suffering to save.
He saw from His heavenly throne the suffering of the Israelites. He went down and began to intercede for a helpless and enslaved people. He called His prophet Moses from the burning bush and sent him to Egypt as the deliverer. We saw how God interceded with plague after plague. We saw the Passover and the night of terror for Egypt as they lost their firstborn. We watched as God led the Israelites out by a strong arm from Egypt to the Red Sea. We read about the Israelites crossing the Sea on dry ground and we as it were, heard their singing on the other side. Now, we have not heard much singing, it seems all we’ve been hearing from them is grumbling. They grumble against Moses and against God.
They were thirsty, then hungry, then tired of the food God gave them, then thirsty again, then they want meat, then they wanted to gather it on their time schedule not God’s. They didn’t really like manna that much and according to them eating whole onions was way better than the food God supplied. They received their food in Egypt, according to them, for free.
Like it or not, we see way too much of ourselves in these Israelites than we care to admit.
Throughout this account we have also seen glimpses of Jesus. It’s as if Jesus, the Son of God is following them as they travel through the wilderness. We saw Christ at the burning bush, we saw Him at the Passover and today we will see Him as the Rock.
We need to be careful when we search for Christ in the OT. It is true that the Bible is all about Jesus. Sometimes we can miss Him if we are not careful and other times, we can think we see Him but can be mistaken. The best way to be sure is to turn to the NT. It’s in the NT where we see exact and proper interpretation of the OT. So, for example if one of the NT writers quotes an OT verse and says, that’s Jesus then we can be very certain we have found Him in the OT. This passage is one of those times.
1. Why Did You Lead Us Here to Kill Us and Our Children?
17 All the congregation of the people of Israel moved on from the wilderness of Sin by stages, according to the commandment of the Lord, and camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. 2 Therefore the people quarreled with Moses and said, “Give us water to drink.” And Moses said to them, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the Lord?” 3 But the people thirsted there for water, and the people grumbled against Moses and said, “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?”
We quickly see the crisis and the complaint. What was the crisis? They are in the desert and they are thirsty.
This is not the first time they had been thirsty, right?
Exodus 15:22–25 (ESV)
22 Then Moses made Israel set out from the Red Sea, and they went into the wilderness of Shur. They went three days in the wilderness and found no water. 23 When they came to Marah, they could not drink the water of Marah because it was bitter; therefore it was named Marah. 24 And the people grumbled against Moses, saying, “What shall we drink?” 25 And he cried to the Lord, and the Lord showed him a log, and he threw it into the water, and the water became sweet.
There the Lord made for them a statute and a rule, and there he tested them,
Here’s the order…thirst, grumbling, grumble to Moses, Moses prays asking God for water, Moses’ prayer is answered and God gives them water.
What should be the order? Thirsty, Pray and ask God for water, God gives it. There is no prayer here.
Grumbling shows our lack of faith. These Israelites had no real faith. Sprinkled among them were a few and then later we will see that God will bring their children into the promised land.
This is a wonderful example of how NOT to respond when hardships come. When a day of difficulty comes, we must remember these grumblers and not be like them.
This isn’t the first time, is it?
Exodus 14:11–12 (ESV)
11 They said to Moses, “Is it because there are no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us in bringing us out of Egypt? 12 Is not this what we said to you in Egypt: ‘Leave us alone that we may serve the Egyptians’? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness.”
Exodus 16:2–3 (ESV)
2 And the whole congregation of the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness, 3 and the people of Israel said to them, “Would that we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the meat pots and ate bread to the full, for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.”
The Psalmist, speaking of this event tells us…
Psalm 95:7–11 (ESV)
7 For he is our God,
and we are the people of his pasture,
and the sheep of his hand.
Today, if you hear his voice,
8 do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah,
as on the day at Massah in the wilderness,
9 when your fathers put me to the test
and put me to the proof, though they had seen my work.
10 For forty years I loathed that generation
and said, “They are a people who go astray in their heart,
and they have not known my ways.”
11 Therefore I swore in my wrath,
“They shall not enter my rest.”
This Psalm tells us that God loathed this generation of Israelites. That is some pretty strong language. Their constant grumbling is what Moses highlights. Their quarreling, fighting, and grumbling against God. This is a great sin.
What should we do when we encounter disappointments? Go to God in Prayer not in Grumbling. Talk to God in reverence. Ask Him to help you. We can be honest with God about our doubts and difficulties but understand God does not accept open revolt or refusal to trust Him.
Numbers 14:30–32 (ESV)
30 not one shall come into the land where I swore that I would make you dwell, except Caleb the son of Jephunneh and Joshua the son of Nun. 31 But your little ones, who you said would become a prey, I will bring in, and they shall know the land that you have rejected. 32 But as for you, your dead bodies shall fall in this wilderness.
These Israelites were not humble rather they were demanding God to do things. Their demand was… Give us water to drink.
God had already set before them certain conditions.
Exodus 15:25–26 (ESV)
25 And he cried to the Lord, and the Lord showed him a log, and he threw it into the water, and the water became sweet.
There the Lord made for them a statute and a rule, and there he tested them, 26 saying, “If you will diligently listen to the voice of the Lord your God, and do that which is right in his eyes, and give ear to his commandments and keep all his statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you that I put on the Egyptians, for I am the Lord, your healer.”
These people refused to obey. Making demands from God or from God’s servant Moses shows a complete lack of humility.
Do we ever make demands of God? Give me water! This is the height of arrogance. The issue here is they thought that God owed them something. God does not owe us anything…we are the creatures and He the Creator. God does not owe us even a drink of water. Should we get it, it is an act of God whereby we show thankfulness. Give me___________ !
Often, we are more subtle than that. Give me________! We might not say that. Then when we don’t get something, we think God owes us we accuse Him. Whether we demand or whether we accuse it’s still an arrogant worldview that says, God You work for me!
2. Is the Lord Among Us or Not?
4 So Moses cried to the Lord, “What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me.” 5 And the Lord said to Moses, “Pass on before the people, taking with you some of the elders of Israel, and take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. 6 Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb, and you shall strike the rock, and water shall come out of it, and the people will drink.” And Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel. 7 And he called the name of the place Massah and Meribah, because of the quarreling of the people of Israel, and because they tested the Lord by saying, “Is the Lord among us or not?”
As I look at this passage, I’m left thinking who do these people think they are? Time and time again, they think they know better or are more ethical or moral than God is. They think they can call God’s goodness into question because they are not getting something they deserve. You don’t deserve anything from God. Who do they think they are?
Moses tells God, they are about ready to stone me.
When people think God exists to serve them and then something is not going like they think it should go, then those people are ready to say, is God among us or not. Is God real or not? Is God listening or not? God You’re not doing very well right now.
However, if people realize that we were created for God and for His glory then our response to God in hard times is not where are You God but God how can I bring You glory through this trial? God what are You showing me? How can I speak rightly of You while I’m suffering. How can I maximize Your glory right now in this time of suffering?
These responses show us who believes and who does not. The Israelites behaved the way they did because they did not know God rightly. They thought He existed for them.
There are many today who might ask that question is God among us or not? There are some wrong ideas about God that may even lead Christians to ask this question. Mainly, it has to do with our theology of God. Our theology is flawed when we think that the presence of God in the midst of His people will keep us from struggles. God, it doesn’t feel like You’re here.
Psalm 23:4 (ESV)
4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
What brings the Psalmist comfort? God’s presence. Not that he is spared from the valley. We think too often that God promises to spare His people from the valley and so when we find ourselves in the valley then, it seems that God is not with us. Is God with us or not?
These people deserved God’s wrath, plain and simple. They thought God was there for them. They thought God existed for their comfort. They made demands of God questioning His holiness and righteousness. They deserved God’s wrath.
Look what God tells Moses…
5 And the Lord said to Moses, “Pass on before the people, taking with you some of the elders of Israel, and take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. 6 Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb, and you shall strike the rock, and water shall come out of it, and the people will drink.”
Take the staff that you used to strike the Nile and God says, actually Jesus says, take the staff/rod you used to strike the Nile and I’ll stand on the rock and strike ME…Jesus is the rock. Strike the rock because Israel deserves My wrath, they deserved to be struck by Me. They deserve judgement but instead strike the rock.
When the Rock was struck water came forth.
1 Corinthians 10:1–5 (ESV)
10 For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, 2 and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, 3 and all ate the same spiritual food, 4 and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ. 5 Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness.
They all drank the water that day. Most and we might say just about all were not God’s people. They drank and God saved their lives that day. There is a difference between drinking of that water and drinking of Christ.
John 4:10–14 (ESV)
10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” 11 The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.” 13 Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
There is a difference between the water that day in the wilderness and drinking the living water Christ has.
Don’t be like the Israelites. Perhaps you have come here for a while and you’ve drunk the water of the rock. There is a difference between partaking of some of the benefits of Christianity and drinking of Christ.
Children, perhaps you’ve been here for a time maybe even a long time realize that you must give an account of your sin to God. You must come to Christ to have your sins forgiven. He was struck on the cross and took on our punishment for us. In order for His death to benefit you, you must believe.
Come to Christ and drink of the living water and be saved today.
2 Corinthians 5:21 (ESV)
21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
Sermon on this text by Voddie Bachum
Exodus by Ryken
Studies in Exodus by Davis