1 The entire Israelite community left the Wilderness of Sin, moving from one place to the next according to the Lord’s command. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. 2 So the people complained to Moses, “Give us water to drink.”
“Why are you complaining to me?” Moses replied to them. “Why are you testing the Lord?”
3 But the people thirsted there for water, and grumbled against Moses. They said, “Why did you ever bring us out of Egypt to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?”
4 Then Moses cried out to the Lord, “What should I do with these people? In a little while they will stone me!”
5 The Lord answered Moses, “Go on ahead of the people and take some of the elders of Israel with you. Take the staff you struck the Nile with in your hand and go. 6 I am going to stand there in front of you on the rock at Horeb; when you hit the rock, water will come out of it and the people will drink.” Moses did this in the sight of the elders of Israel. 7 He named the place Massah and Meribah because the Israelites complained, and because they tested the Lord, saying, “Is the Lord among us or not?” Exodus 17:1-7
I don’t know if I would’ve had the patience of Moses. Here is a man who didn’t necessarily want his calling but stepped out in faith knowing the Lord had clearly spoken to him. He was a man whose character was formed by years of being both an Egyptian royal and a simple shepherd. He approached Pharaoh and boldly spoke “Let my people go.” His legacy is that of a leader of God’s people and a key player as God delivered Israel and brought them into a new land.
But Moses had to deal with the day-to-day grumblers and complainers who weren’t always on board with how the process was playing out. Sometimes it was clear that the people of Israel had it better in Egypt…there was food to eat, water to drink, and provisions for cattle and livestock. When those things were in short-supply, Moses got an ear-full. In Exodus 17, the people lacked water and they caused an uprising, demanding Moses to do something.
Often when we step out in faith, we see there is adversity that comes across our path. It seems that any bold move comes with resistance which can even be from those who we think should “get it” (i.e. those who should understand where we are coming from and why we are following God’s leading). The example of water coming from the rock is a great lesson for us as we balance the desire to step into God’s calling while navigating the trip-falls and landmines that come across our path. Let’s dig in together!
1. Remember what Is in your hand
Moses has a moment of fear as he calls out to the Lord in verse 4: What should I do with these people? In a little while they will stone me! No doubt all of Israel has seen miracle after miracle up until this point. The 10 plagues leading to Pharoah’s reluctant dismissal of God’s people. The parting of the Red Sea. Manna and quail provided as food. All of these events had to have proven that God was in control and that He would provide. Yet the people doubted and it was beginning to rattle Moses.
God tells Moses to go on ahead to the rock but he makes specific mention of what to bring. He is to take his staff with him. God mentions the staff as the object “you struck the Nile with in your hand.” God has performed miracles before with the staff and He will do it again. I believe God places provision and abilities within our hands as well. Those things we surrender to His control and just like the staff, He uses them to bring about the miraculous. There are things He has placed within you that are unique only to you. They are useful to Him being able to bring you into the land He has prepared. Do not forget those things…remember what is in your hand.
2. Prepare for haters (whiners and complainers)
At the conclusion of this story, Moses names the place “Massah and Meribah”…I think he had a sense of humor because those names literally mean “testing and arguing”. Moses wants to solidify the place as a moment in time where God provided despite the haters and those who questioned why God had brought them there. Over the years, whenever this story would be retold, what would be remembered? God’s provision. The people did not die of thirst or dehydration. God showed up and they could not ignore the miracle.
It’s the same with us. When we step out, there are sure to be naysayers. They come out of the woodwork and can rattle you if you aren’t prepared for them. Questions like “Why would you do that?” “Where’s the money going to come from?” “Who do you think you are?” I’ve heard many of them and I’m sure you have too. Steps of faith don’t come without some pushback. But take heart. If God is in it, you are right where you are supposed to be. The provision will come. The haters will be silenced. If you stand firm, God will bring the victory.
3. Use every opportunity to give God glory
Yes Moses hit the rock and the water flowed out. But really he was acting on faith. God caused the water to come out through Moses’ simple display of obedience. “Moses did this in the sight of the elders of Israel.” (vs. 6) That specific mention of “elders” makes me aware of a couple things: First, the leaders of Israel needed to see that God was in control and they were not. Secondly, the obedience of Moses had to be publicly seen so the people would know it was God’s doing and not his. God could’ve told Moses to go off, hit the rock and then come back and tell everyone that he got the water. But in doing that, Moses would’ve taken credit for something that wasn’t his.
Remember, God does not share His glory with another. He calls us in big acts and small to give Him the credit and make Him known. We do the right thing when we are simply obedient as Moses was and get out of the way so people can see God. This flies in the face of a culture that is all about me-first and getting the recognition we deserve. But as Christians it’s not about whether or not we get recognized. At the end of the day, everything we do is ALL about Him.
My struggle in this message today is two-fold. One is the ability to step out in faith while ignoring voices (both within and without) that say I’m not good enough and I don’t have the abilities, resources, talents, etc. The other struggle I have is to not allow my ego to get too big when God does show up and I want to act like I had something to do with it. Maybe you wrestle in the balance of those two temptations as well. As I think more about it, here’s the word that comes into my mind: humility. I can’t lose in this fight if I am willing to stay humble and in all things, give my Savior the honor and glory He is due. We live in a culture where humility is not valued. It is seen as weak or a lesser quality that is undesirable. But as Christians, we need to develop it and while cheering one another on, we point everyone to Christ and Him alone.
Let’s pray for each other this week as we seek to release fresh water from the rock. Let’s allow the things He has placed in our hands to be used for His glory and His fame.
I love you guys!