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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Don Smith :: Portraits of Christ

Don Smith :: Exo 17; The Rock

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Portraits of Christ
“The Rock” (Exodus 17)

  1. On the twenty-first day of the seventh month of Tisri, B.C. 520, the Word of the Lord came to the prophet Haggai.
    • This was the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles.
    • It is also no coincidence that Haggai’s name means “festival.”
    • Haggai was most likely born during a Feast.
    • The Lord exhorted His people, through Haggai, to complete the rebuilding of the Jerusalem Temple.
    • When Israel returned from Babylonian captivity, they started to work on this major project.
    • But after years of slow tedious work, they began to be discouraged as they compared the glory of the former Temple to it’s less-than-spectacular present condition.
    • So it was on the last day of the Festival that the prophet Haggai stood on Mount Zion and gave an amazing prophecy. (Haggai 2:6-9)
    • One would come with incomparable glory to fill the Temple.
    • He would be called “The Desire of all Gentiles.”
    • In essence the Lord was saying, “You build it. He will come!”
    • He would be a Temple of superior glory than even the former temple.
    • It would be in this temple place that the Lord would give His people peace.
  2. The Feast of Tabernacles is a prophetic type of Christ’s coming.
    • A type or shadow is someone or something intended by God to point to its fulfillment in Christ.
    • As Passover foreshadowed deliverance for Israel, so Christ is our Deliverer.
    • As Moses mediated the old covenant, so Christ mediated the new covenant of Grace.
    • As Manna was God’s daily provision from heaven, so Christ is our daily provision.
    • As those who were healed of a deadly snake bite by looking upon the Bronze Serpent impaled upon a pole, so we are healed of sin’s curse by looking upon Christ crucified.
    • As Israel drank sweet waters after a tree was thrown into the bitter waters of Marah, so we drink of the sweet waters of Christ who has come out of Mary.
    • Next we will look at “Christ our Rock.”
  3. The “rock” is one of the most frequent and familiar “types” in Scripture.
    • The Rock was a designation for God Himself.
    • He is the Rock of Ages, the Rock of our salvation, the Great Rock in a weary Land, and the Rock in the Wilderness.
    • The Rock was a symbol of God’s power, protection, preservation, and provision.
    • Israel sang to God as their Rock. “The Lord lives! Blessed be my Rock! Let God be exalted, the Rock of my salvation!” (2 Samuel 22:47)

Back to the historical origin of the Feast of Tabernacles, where the Rock in the Wilderness poured forth water in B.C. 1445.

In Exodus 17:1-7, the “Rock” was really on trial at Rephidim.

  1. God’s providential care had brought them there. (Exodus 17:1)
    • He had led them by the pillar of fire and the cloud of His Presence.
    • He delivered them through the Red Sea; made the waters sweet at Marah; provided daily Manna for them to eat, and now at Rephidim He brought them to where there was no water.
    • But don’t miss the point that God had led them there for a purpose.
  2. Israel put God’s purposes on trial. (Exodus 17:2-3, 7)
    • He was proving His utter faithfulness to His people.
    • However, they contended with Moses.
    • They commanded him to produce water.
    • Moses redirected their attention back to God.
    • They were questioning God’s sovereign purposes in leading them.
    • In their minds it would have been better to die in Egypt than die of thirst.
    • The bottom line for them was: ”Is the Lord among us or not?” (Exodus 17:7)
    • In other words, “Where is God in this crisis?”
    • At this point, the crowd was plotting the death of Moses.
  3. Moses cried out to the Lord in prayer. (Exodus 17:4)
    • Even though God is sovereign, He has so desired that His plan be accomplished through the prayers of His people.
    • God knew exactly what He was doing in leading them to Rephidim.
    • He was testing them to expose the contents of their heart.

God then made plans for His own trial. (Exodus 17:5)

  1. God’s accusers were Israel.
    • Their accusations were: “How could a holy God lead His people to a place without water? Where is God in this? Has He abandoned us? Does He care that we are dying of thirst?”
  2. The jurors were the elders.
    • They were to witness God’s testimony to the accusations of His people.
    • It was their role to communicate the results back to the people.
  3. The courthouse was the wilderness and Moses was the judge and executioner.
    • He was commanded by God to take the rod he had carried out of Egypt.
    • God had used Moses’ Rod as the instrument of His judgment and wrath.
    • When he put it into the Nile, the water turned to blood.
    • When he put it into the Red Sea, the waters parted.
    • God commanded Moses to take this same Rod as a prophetic type of God’s wrath.
  4. The accused would become “The Justifier.”
    • The Lord Himself stood upon a rock like a criminal stands on the witness block.
    • Think of this: God was standing before the people, not the people before God.
    • Who was the One standing upon the Rock? 1 Corinthians 10:4 says, “For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ.”
    • The Rock followed Israel as the “Angel of the Lord,” and the “Pillar of Fire”—it was Christ.
  5. God then commanded Moses to accomplish God’s justice.
    • He was to strike the rock with the rod of God’s wrath and judgment.
    • Rather than striking the people who deserved death, Moses was to strike the rock upon which the Lord stood.
    • Is God guilty? No!
    • Are the people guilty? Yes!
    • Whose wrath was afflicted upon the Rock? God’s wrath.
    • Isaiah 53:4 says, “He was smitten by God and afflicted”
    • Isaiah 63:9 says, “In all their affliction He was afflicted, and the Angel of His Presence saved them; In His love and in His pity He redeemed them; He bore them and carried them all the days of old.”
  6. What resulted was God’s provision of living water. (Exodus 17:6-7)
    • Enough water flowed out of the Rock at Massah and Meribah to meet the need of more than one million thirsty men, women and children.
    • “Massah” means “trial” and Meribah means “litigation, contention and quarreling.”
    • The significance of striking the rock is clear. God Himself satisfied His just demands for our sin by becoming the object of His wrath rather than His people.

Thirty-eight years later, in B.C. 1406, a new generation was faced with the same dilemma at Meribah.

Once Again the Rock was on Trial. (Numbers 20:1-13)

  1. God’s providential care had brought Israel to this place of testing, just as He had done before. (Numbers 20:1-2)
    • It was at this site that Moses’ sister, Miriam died and was buried.
    • All this was a reminder that only Caleb and Joshua would be going into the Promised Land from the previous generation.
    • But what about Moses and Aaron? Was this on their mind? I don’t know.
    • We are sure that God was on schedule and that He was not making a mistake to lead them where there was no water.
    • Had this generation learned to trust in God’s gracious, providential care?
  2. But like so many other previous occasions God and His purposes were on trial when there wasn’t any water. (Exodus 17:2-5)
    • Like their faithless forefathers, the people contended with Moses.
    • This time Aaron is mentioned as well.
    • The under-forty generation was questioning their leaders and their God.
  3. Moses and Aaron, these veterans of the desert, went to the door of the Tabernacle and fell on their faces. (Exodus 17:6)
    • No doubt they were fatigued and irked by being the object of other people’s complaints with God.
    • The glory of the Lord appeared to them as before.
  4. Once again God initiated a plan for His own trial and His accusers were still Israel. (Exodus 17:7-10)
    • They were accusing Him of neglected providence—just like their fathers.
    • They were tired of traveling in the wilderness of sin eating manna and always one step away from extinction.

The wilderness was God’s courthouse and all the people were the jury.

  1. The judge and executioner would once again be Moses.
    • However, this time the Lord did not say to strike the Rock.
    • Instead, Moses was instructed to speak to the Rock.
    • The Rock had already been judged 38 years earlier for the people’s sin.
    • There was no need to re-execute God’s Rock.
    • God promised to bring forth enough water to satisfy everyone.
    • Moses addressed the jury, while they plotted to kill him.
    • With Aaron’s rod in his hands, as God commanded, angry words came out of his mouth, “You rebels!”
    • After all these years, Aaron’s grace and patience had been exhausted.
    • Perhaps it was his fear that their faithlessness would keep him and his brother in the wilderness even longer.
    • He was irritated at having to be the object of their complaints with God.
    • He asked, “Do my brother and I have to do this again?”
    • But like a fatigued leader, he began to think the success of his mission depended upon him rather than God.
    • It was the Lord, the Rock of their salvation, who brought forth the water.
  2. Moses struck “the Rock” twice with the rod. (Exodus 17:11)
    • The water flowed abundantly, just as God had promised.
    • But Moses had disobeyed God’s instructions.
    • He used a method which worked to meet the people’s need, but it was not pleasing to the Lord.
    • God took these types and shadows seriously.
    • In essence, God was preserving the truth that Christ died once for sinners.
    • He does not have to be re-executed every time we sin or every time we have a need.
    • The Reformers interpreted Moses’ misconceived act to be like a priest re-executing Christ in a Mass.
    • We do this as well, when we discredit the work of Christ on the cross by thinking we must add to it or that it isn’t sufficient to completely save us, no matter how heinous the sin.
    • Our part is to repent and confess our sin.
    • His grace then flowed like cleansing water.
  3. God’s provision of grace was revealed once again at Meribah. (Exodus 17:13)
    • The same people, who once contended with God, then glorified Him.
    • It is in understanding the flow of God’s grace from Christ that we are motivated to glorify God.

Turn to John 7 where the Feast of Tabernacles is described.

  1. The year was AD 29 or AD 30
    • It is 550 years after Haggai’s amazing prophecy.
    • The Feast in Jerusalem was in its last day, when Jesus stood up in the temple.
    • Jesus declared, “ If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink.
    • He said this while the pageantry of this Feast was being enacted all around Him.
    • During each of the proceeding six or seven days, the High Priest had been going daily to the Pool of Siloam to collect water in a golden picture.
    • He then led a torch light processional back into the temple.
    • As He walked, the trumpets blew and the people celebrated.
    • In the temple, he poured the golden picture of water over the burnt sacrifice.
    • The water and the blood then flowed from the altar.
    • The words of Isaiah were in mind. (Isaiah 12:2-6)
    • They also sang from Psalm 118:15, 23-29.
    • Like the Hebrew children who pitched their tents in the wilderness around the tabernacle, the people in Jerusalem constructed booths around the temple.
    • And like their time in the wilderness, they were plotting the death of God’s anointed.
  2. The occasion was the Feast of Tabernacles. (Exodus 17:1-2)
    • Jesus avoided going to Jerusalem early in the week because He was aware the Jews were looking to kill him.
    • His hour to be glorified had not come.
  3. The court was Jerusalem and His accusers were the Pharisees; their case against Him was twofold: (Exodus 17:14)
    • He was a law breaker by healing a man on the Sabbath. (John 5:8)
    • He was a blasphemer because he claimed to come from God and share His glory. (John 7:29)
  4. Christ, like the Rock in the wilderness, anticipated His hour on the cross. (John 7:37-39)
    • He spoke these words while the High Priest was pouring water over the altar.
    • Water and blood flowed from the altar as blood and water would flow from His wounded heart on Golgotha.
    • Because He was smitten of God, rivers of living water flowed forth. This water is the Holy Spirit.

The New Testament identifies Christ as the “Rock.” (1 Corinthians 10:1-3)

“Moreover, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware that all our fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea, all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ.” (1 Corinthians 10:1-4)

Time Line

1445 BC   1408 BC 520 BC 29 AD
Exo 12 Exo 17 Num 20 Hag 2 Jhn 7
Egypt Rephidim  Kadesh Jerusalem Jerusalem
Moses Moses Moses &Aaron  Haggai Jesus
Passover  Rock Rock Feast of Booths Feast of Booths
  "Massah" "Meribah"   Water/Spirit

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.


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