The Smitten Rock – Exodus 17

Israel’s journey from the blood-marked door to the Red Sea, where they sang redemption’s song, was followed by the bitter waters of Marah being made sweet. Then followed the happy scenes of Elim with its springing wells and date palms; refreshment to a tried people. However, this was not for long, as Exodus 17 brings them to another time of “No water to drink.” Could this be divine leading? Rephidim, the place to which they were brought, seems to imply a place of refreshment, but no water of refreshment was found. We are reminded in the rehearsal of Israel’s journeys in Numbers 33 that Rephidim was “the place of no water”. Was this the three days into the wilderness to hold a feast unto the Lord (Exodus 5:1)?

Moses was driven to the Lord in this hour of need, and what a revelation of God was given. Moses, with the elders of Israel, was to go before the people. The Rock in Horeb (waster) would be the most unlikely place to find blessing, yet it was the place of the burning bush (Ex 3:1), where Moses first met the Lord and was called the back side of the desert. It was there when once again Israel’s God was to be proven. The Rod with which he had smitten the river in Egypt spoke of a Rod of Judgment and the Lord Himself standing upon this Rock. What a scene for these elders to look upon as the smitten Rock brought forth its refreshing streams!

“That Rock was Christ” (1 Cor 10:4) reminds us of what took place at Calvary. It was there our Lord was “stricken, smitten of God and afflicted” (Isa 53:4). “I will stand there upon the rock before thee”, reminding us of the hand of God in judgment upon His Son. What abundant waters flowed out and the people drank. There is no limit to the outflowing from the cross work to meet the need of the world of the ungodly. Yet today how few drink of this exhaustless supply!

Like Israel, we are so slow to learn that “all my (well) springs are in Thee” (Psa 87:7). Oh the greatness of our God! A God of holiness in deed, yet ever seeking the well-being of His needy people. But what of our thirst? Is it for the past enjoyments, or is it as with the Psalmist, “My soul thirsteth for God” (Psa 42:2, or “My soul longeth, yea even fainteth for the courts of the Lord” Psa 84:2). Not only did the smiting of the Rock (Christ) meet the need of the sin question, but is a supply for daily need. “What shall we eat, what shall we drink, or wherewithal shall we be clothed” (Matt 6:31) may fill the mind of the worldling, but should find no place with the child of God today. The woman of John 4 was told, “Whoso drinketh of the water that I shall give shall never thirst,” a drink that fully satisfies. Again our Lord invited the gathered company at the feast of John 7 to come and drink, adding, “Out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water, this spake He of the Spirit which they should receive.”

Twice the Rock at Horeb is called a Rock of flint” (Deut 8:15), and Psalm 114:8 suggests the natural impossibility for water to flow from “the flint”. God’s ability is infinite. What can He not do for the need of His people! Are there flinty rocks in our pathway, things that are insurmountable? Thank God there is One able to change the darkest hour into daylight, the seemingly impossibility into blessing.

A marked place was left behind with its unhappy memories, Massa (temptation) and Meriba (chiding). How sad if we should leave behind us memories of our failure to glorify Him, times when our faith failed to rise and like the disciples (Matt 6:30, 8:35, 14:31, and 16:8), who four times were told, “Oh ye of little faith!” How great is our God, even with His failing people! Twice in 1 Corinthians we are told that “God is faithful”. May we not live carelessly, but rather may we be encouraged to greater diligence as His followers!