And all the congregation of the children of Israel journeyed from the wilderness of Sin, after their journeys, according to the commandment of the Lord, and pitched in Rephidim: and there was no water for the people to drink. Wherefore the people did chide with Moses, and said, Give us water that we may drink. And Moses said unto them, Why chide ye with me? wherefore do ye tempt the Lord? And the people thirsted there for water; and the people murmured against Moses, and said, Wherefore is this that thou hast brought us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our cattle with thirst? And Moses cried unto the Lord, saying, What shall I do unto this people? they be almost ready to stone me. And the Lord said unto Moses, Go on before the people, and take with thee of the elders of Israel; and thy rod, wherewith thou smotest the river, take in thine hand, and go. Behold, I will stand before thee there upon the rock in Horeb; and thou shalt smite the rock, and there shall come water out of it, that the people may drink. And Moses did so in the sight of the elders of Israel. And he called the name of the place Massah, and Meribah, because of the chiding of the children of Israel, and because they tempted the Lord, saying, Is the Lord among us, or not? (Exodus 17:1-7)
The children of Israel ran out of water. This could be fatal in a harsh desert, especially when the need is as vast as 2 million people. The elders turned to Moses and demanded that he give them water to drink.The people didn’t ask Moses to seek God for water, nor did they say something like “God has proven faithful before, we wonder how He will provide this time…” in a spirit of expectant faith.
Instead they bitterly chided Moses.
Therefore Moses accused them of tempting the LORD, for the LORD had already proven His sufficiency in the miracle of the passover deliverance, and of the Red Sea, and of the bitter water turned sweet, and in the testimony of the manna which was an ongoing miracle, morning by morning. There was no excuse for their unbelieving chiding. Israel went back to their murmuring, accusing Moses of wanting to kill their children, and wishing they had never left Egypt.
The situation was getting dangerous, in unbelief the thirsty people were getting ready to stone Moses.
There was a Rock behind the camp. God sent Moses and the elders of Israel to gather the people around the huge rock. Moses was to take his Rod and smite the Rock in the presence of the people. Upon striking the Rock, fresh water gushed forth out of the rock, enough to water the entire congregation of Israel.
There is a deeper meaning to the Rock, and Moses’ act of striking it.
Moses reveals that God himself is “The Rock of Israel”, in the Song of Moses, of which we will have much to say later.
Because I will publish the name of the Lord: ascribe ye greatness unto our God. He is the Rock, his work is perfect: for all his ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he.(Deuteronomy 32:3-4)
The experience in the wilderness is also a prophecy of how salvation will come to the thirsty millions, both gentiles and Jew, in the desert of this sin cursed world.
At some point, Israel will strike her Rock! The plan of God was that as a result of Israel, striking her own Messiah, Living waters of life will flow out of the riven side of the Rock.
Later on, during the wilderness sojourn, the children of Israel would face yet another temptation, of thirst in the desert. Once again the children of Israel complained, murmured and threatened Moses, rather than praise the LORD for his faithfulness in previous trials.
And the people chode with Moses, and spake, saying, Would God that we had died when our brethren died before the Lord! And why have ye brought up the congregation of the Lord into this wilderness, that we and our cattle should die there? And wherefore have ye made us to come up out of Egypt, to bring us in unto this evil place? it is no place of seed, or of figs, or of vines, or of pomegranates; neither is there any water to drink. And Moses and Aaron went from the presence of the assembly unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, and they fell upon their faces: and the glory of the Lord appeared unto them. And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Take the rod, and gather thou the assembly together, thou, and Aaron thy brother, and speak ye unto the rock before their eyes; and it shall give forth his water, and thou shalt bring forth to them water out of the rock: so thou shalt give the congregation and their beasts drink.(Numbers 20:1-8)
This time the LORD told Moses to gather the people around the Rock, and holding his staff, He was to speak to the Rock, and out of the Rock Water would come.Now Moses was furious and impatient with the unbelief of the people, so he yelled at them and rebuked them, and in anger, He smote the Rock a second time.
Waters again gushed forth, and the people were saved, water came out of the rock, enough to slake the thirst of all of Israel. But God told Moses and Aaron that they hadn’t believed him, and could not bring the people into the promised land as a punishment, for striking the Rock twice, instead of speaking to it.
The moral of this story? The Rock is the Messiah.Moses represents Israel, in her priestly capacity. When Israel will strike the Messiah, living waters of salvation will flow unto the ends of the earth, and the spiritually dead will come to life again! But the Messiah only need be smitten once! Now all who call upon the name of the LORD(Speak to the Rock) will be saved(receive eternal life).
But when Moses struck the Rock a second time, he committed a grave sin, which disqualified him and Aaron from the promised Land. Should Israel reject the smitten Messiah, she too will undergo a Divine punishment,a temporary disqualification, whilst the rest of the world drinks deeply of the waters that flow.
Hasn’t the Prophet Zechariah said of Israel, in the name of God, “They will look upon Me, whom they have pierced and they shall mourn for him as for an only son…“?