I was specially blessed in preparing and preaching this message from God:
September 28, 2014; 17th Sunday after Pentecost – A
Exodus 17:1-7 – The people grumble in thirst and God sends water from the rock
Philippians 2:1-13 – Jesus sets aside his Godly qualities to come down and serve our needs
Water from the Rock
“Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Philippians 2:4.
To better glean a fuller blessing of just some of the depth of meaning and connections throughout scripture and our faith in the lesson of water from the Rock; I think it will be helpful for us to understand the Jewish celebration attached to it. Since Jesus attended and participated in these celebrations we can understand some of those connections on even another level.
The Water from the Rock in Ex 17 is celebrated in the Jewish festival of Tabernacles. This remembering of the Water from the Rock is known as Simcha Bet Ha-sho-evah (the Rejoicing of the House of Drawing Water).
This special ritual foreshadows the time when the Holy Spirit will be poured out upon Israel.
At the Feast of Tabernacles the Word became flesh and tabernacled or lived among us! Jn 1:14 explains to us: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.”
Jesus told the Samaritan woman at the well, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water… Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.” Jn 4:10, 13-14.
On the morning of the first day of the festival called Sukkot or Tabernacles, and each day of that week, a priest carried a large golden ewer from the Temple mount down to the spring of Siloam. As he walked he was surrounded by jubilant worshipers who followed him as he drew water from the pool of Siloam. You remember how special the Pool of Siloam was- people waiting to be healed when the Angel of the Lord troubled (touched) the water.
The route back to the Temple led through the water gate (nothing to do with the Watergate that comes first to our minds with Nixon), and into the inner court. There in that grand courtyard of the Temple, a cheering crowd always waited near the altar. As the water bearing priest approached the altar, the ceremonial silver trumpets were sounded.
The priests would come chanting the words of Isaiah 12:3: “Therefore with joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.” The precious significance of this moment is that the word for “salvation” in Hebrew is Yeshua. Yeshua is the name of Jesus in Hebrew! With that in mind think again of the scene. Those who are able, please stand and follow me (as we circle the sanctuary).On the first through the 6th days, the priest and his joyful processional circled the altar once, but on the 7th day, they circled the altar seven times! All those times a whole group of priests are loudly affirming that with joy all were to draw water from Jesus!
The highlight of the ceremony was when the priest stood and poured the water on the altar, over the blood of the morning’s sacrifices. A long line of priests, all bearing willow branches, sang psalms of praise. The Talmud (The Oral Law is a legal commentary on the Torah, explaining how its commandments are to be carried out.) describes the ceremony in detail. The experience was one of intense and total joy, so much so that the Talmud says whoever has not been in Jerusalem for this ceremony has not experienced real joy!
Like all devout Jewish men, Jesus attended the Feast of Tabernacles in Jerusalem.
On the last day of one Sukkot festival, He stood and cried out to the crowd: “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” Jn 7:37-38. The verses go on to explain that Jesus spoke about the Holy Spirit.
Can you envision it? Jesus and His disciples had just attended the glorious celebration inside the Temple. They had sung psalms with the priests, followed the golden ewer of water seven times around the altar as they chanted Isa 12:3 “draw water from the wells of YESHUA (Jesus).”
Then Jesus and His disciples watched the water pour over the altar, over the blood of goats and rams from the morning sacrifices. As the rustlings of hundreds palms filled the air, foreshadowing the palms that would be lifted to hail Him when He would enter Jerusalem to die at Passover.
In the midst of all that, Jesus spoke in a commanding voice and explained the ritual the Jews had just witnessed. “If any thirst LET THEM COME TO ME!” He was the Light of the World, the Living Water, the Word made flesh to dwell among them. He would soon be the Passover Lamb, the Bread without Leaven (without sin), the First fruits. As our sinless High Priest, He would atone for sin once and for all.
“For I will pour water on him who is thirsty, And floods on the dry ground; I will pour My Spirit on your descendants, And My blessing on your offspring.” Isa 44:3.
Hundreds in the Temple that day heard Him …but only those with understanding believed. Do you?
This is the first mention of the “rock” and the “water” that came out of the rock. What does the rock represent? We are not left to guesswork or our own speculation or our own wisdom. I Cor. 10:1-4 lays it out for us clearly: “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.”
The bread that Israel ate was manna, that sweet bread from heaven which was a picture of Christ, the Bread of Life. Christ is also the Water of Life, and the rock is a picture of Him. It contrasts the unbelief of the people with the solid rock. The strength of faith of the people was like cobwebs, tearing as they leaned on it.
The Lord Jesus, as one hymn says, is “a Rock in a weary land.” The first verse goes like this: The Lord’s our rock, in Him we hide, A shelter in the time of storm; Secure whatever ill betide, A shelter in the time of storm. And then the chorus: Oh, Jesus is a rock in a weary land, A weary land, a weary land; Oh, Jesus is a rock in a weary land, A shelter in the time of storm. [Sing Water from the Rock that I wrote]
This is a marvelous picture of Jesus as the foundation—the One upon whom we rest and the One upon whom the church is built – Jesus is a Rock.
Many have fallen on the Rock, Christ Jesus (Ps 118:22 & Mt 21:42, the stone that the builders rejected, rejecting salvation. No human effort is able to get water from this Rock. Only when the rock was struck did it bring forth life-giving waters. Jesus was crucified, and nothing short of believing that He died in your place and bore your sins on that Cross will save you. The smitten rock is a picture of the death of Jesus Christ.
In Numbers 20:8 we are told of a second time that the children of Israel complained that they had no water. The first time Israel murmured about being thirsty God told Moses to strike the rock and water gushed forth. This time, however, God gives Moses different instructions. God tells Moses, “Take the staff, and assemble the congregation, you and Aaron your brother, and tell the rock before their eyes to yield its water. So you shall bring water out of the rock for them and give drink to the congregation and their cattle.” Moses was to speak to the rock because the rock had already been struck. Christ was crucified 2,000 years ago, and when He said on the Cross, “It is finished …”, it was indeed finished. Christ does not have to be crucified again. “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit.” I Pet 3:18.
From the Rock of Jesus Christ, come spiritual blessings today. The waters of blessing gush forth to relieve parched lips. Eph 1:3 informs us: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ.” The Rock was smitten once and from it flows an abundance of water. The world is not able to contain it. But in spite of that, there are many souls that are shriveled up and tongues that are parched. Millions of people are dying for lack of spiritual drink.
The world is thirsty. I ask you personally and particularly, have you been to that smitten Rock for a drink of living water? God says if you drink of that water you will never thirst again.
Children’s Sermon***How are all of you today? I have a problem. I’m thirsty and I want a drink of water. Does anybody think they can get some water out of this rock? X, why don’t you try? Here, use this stick if you need to. [Warn about swinging the stick.] OK, Y, why don’t you give it a try? Does anybody else want to try? Getting water from a rock is pretty hard, huh? None of us could get some water out of it, could we? Did you think I was crazy for asking you to try? Do you know that Moses got water from a rock?
When the Israelites were in the wilderness headed toward Mount Sinai they became thirsty. They started complaining to Moses about having no water. The Bible says they murmured. What’s a murmur? Let’s murmur together.
Well, the Israelites murmured against Moses and then Moses called out to God and God told Moses to get his rod and go to the rock. When he arrived there God told him to strike the rock and enough water would come out for all the people. Does that sound crazy?
But, you know what? It happened! Moses used the rod and hit the rock and water flowed out of the rock and all the Israelites were saved from dying of thirst in the hot desert.
What does this story tell us? … It is about God helping the Israelites even when they thought God had left them alone in the wilderness to die of thirst.
This story tells us that we should always believe God will help us, even when we think God has forgotten about us. God loves us very much. God will always listen to us when we cry out for help.
Let’s remember to never murmur against God, like the Israelites did, but let’s always ask God for help when we need it. And, if God asks us to do something silly like get water from a rock, what are we going to do? We are going to believe God, right?
KEY INSIGHTS ON THE ROCK OF EXODUS 17
- The “Rock” is one of the titles God “The Lord is my Rock, and my Fortress, and my Deliverer” II Sam 22:2. Ps 95:1 calls us to make a “joyful noise to the Rock of our salvation.”
- The first quality that impresses us when we see a rock is its strength and stability. This is a most comforting thought to the believer. The Rock upon which he is built cannot be shaken: the floods may come, and the winds may beat upon it, but it will “stand.” Mat 7:25.
- Another prominent characteristic of rocks is their durability. They outlast the storms of time. Waters will not wash them away, nor winds remove them, from their foundations. Many a vessel has been dashed to pieces on a rock, but the rock stands unchanged; and it is a deeply solemn thought that those who are not built upon The Rock, will be shattered by it—”And whosoever shall fall on this Stone shall be broken,” said Christ, pointing to Himself, “but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder” (Mt 21:24).
- Much of the blessedness of our type will pass unappreciated unless we note carefully the occasion when the stream of living water gushed from the smitten rock. It was not when Israel were bowed in worship before the Lord. It was not when they were praising Him for all His abundant mercies toward them. The very reverse is what is there described. Israel were murmuring (v. 3); they were almost ready to stone God’s servant (v. 4); they were filled with unbelief, saying, “Is the Lord among us, or not?” (v. 7). The giving of the water, then, was God acting according to His marvelous grace. Where sin abounded, grace abounded much more. What is the response of your heart to this amazing and rich mercy of God? Surely you say, out of deepest gratitude, “thanks be unto God for His unspeakable Gift” (2 Cor 9:15).
- Even though Moses struck the rock instead of speaking to it. nevertheless, the refreshing waters gushed forth from it. God gave the blessing! But how this incident also manifests, once more, the wondrous grace of God. In spite of (not because of) Israel’s murmuring, and in spite of Moses’ failure, water was given to them, their every need was supplied. Truly, our God is the “God of all grace.” May the realization of this draw out our hearts in adoring worship, and may our lives rebound more and more unto His glory.