“Present When Absent”
II.) Vs. 1-7 Water from a rock?
III.) Vs. 8-16 The Lord is my banner!
The young nation has had only 1 month of experiencing in the leading of God and so far they had not done so well. Their first real test was only three days from God’s miraculous dividing the Red Sea, when they got thirsty only to find the waters at Marah were bitter, impatiently they grumbled against God who made the waters drinkable, then God led them 7 miles away to the Oasis at Elim. Next we saw, they again grumbled against the Lord because they had no food. To which the Lord in His grace brought them the bread of heaven and meat. You would think that they would start to, “trust in the Lord”. Their problem is not that God is not leading, it is that their trust is in the way they are going instead of Who is leading them! God often leads us into difficult situations to show us that we need to trust Him and not where we are going.
II.) Vs. 1-7 Water from a rock?
Vs. 1 The first verse of chapter 17 sets the tone for the entire chapter. Moses writes down the migration of the nation from the wilderness of Sin “seen” to Rephidim (ref-I dim). The word means “resting place”. It was supposed to be a rest stop, a place to freshen up but instead it is anything but a rest stop. In the first seven verse we are told that upon arriving at the “rest stop” they found that there was nothing to drink. To make matters worse in verses 8-16 while they are still there a bunch of bikers from the outlaw gang called the Amalekites shows up and start attacking the weakest members of the nation.
So how did they get to such a bad “resting place”? Well we are told how they came upon this spot, “according to the commandment of the Lord.” God was guiding them by His presence of the cloud by day and fire by night and this is where He has led them! A place where again they have no water.
Vs. 2-3 Here were are given the response of the people to the first crises. They are mad at Moses and indirectly mad at God. We are told in verse four that they are mad enough to kill Moses. Notice the change of attitude from the crises of a lack of water in chapter 15:24 to this same dilemma here in chapter 17. In chapter 15 they spoke to Moses in a form of a question, “What shall we drink?” Now when facing the same situation, they make a demand, “Give us water!” When their expectation was not met the first time there was puzzlement, now they are angry. The word “contend” means to toss or wrestle with another.
Again they go right back to the conspiracy theory in verse 3 attacking the motives of Moses. Their attitudes have not gotten better with seeing the Lord’s provision in the past they have gotten worse. They are now ready to kill Moses and are putting God to the test. In verse 7 we are told that they even ask the question, “Is the Lord among us or not?” Can you imagine asking such a question in light of the visible presence of God? Rom 8:16-17 tells us “The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs; heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ.” Whenever we doubt the Lord’s word we are putting Him to the test. When we don’t trust God’s word for our lives we are saying that He is not trustworthy, we are writing Him off! Instead of looking to God and how faithful He has been to them in the past, they choose to look at their situation and use that to interpret who God is. Every difficult situation that God allows us to go through will become a test to us on how we are going to handle it.
Vs. 2, 4 We are given the response of Moses to the people. First he deals WITH them then he deals FOR them.
He calls them on the carpet: Vs. 2 “Your anger towards me is showing your heart towards the Lord and you have written Him off.” Notice Moses asks them why they are writing God off, when they should be saying, “Hey He has been faithful so far lets just sit back and see what He does this time!”
He goes to the Lord for them: Now I like this because of how it’s worded. Moses does not say, “What shall I do FOR these people?” No, he says, “What shall I do WITH these people.” Moses conveys the urgency of the situation, “They are ready to kill me.”
Vs. 5 It is interesting in light of Moses question of what to do with the people that God gives Moses four things to do for himself. Often the problem in leading people is not the people it is where you are as a leader!
“Go on before the people..”: Several things come to mind when I read these words.
Don’t be a man pleaser but rather be a God server! Don’t concern yourself with what the people want concern yourself with what God wants.
Don’t retreat advance! You can’t lead people from behind. They need to see you out in front trusting the Lord so that they will follow.
Get away from those who are not trusting the Lord. All to often effected by people who don’t trust the Lord. Moses biggest danger was not from the stones of the people but rather from boulders of doubt. We need to get away from the problem so that we can gain perspective.
“Take with you some elders of Israel”: Surround yourself with people that are like minded. We need to have around us those that also want to totally trust the Lord. Not only will they be an encouragement to you but they will be built up to help lead other to trusting totally on the Lord. Moses, was not to be a “Lone Ranger” Christian. Our, job is to equip the saints for the work of the ministry. We ought to be working ourselves out of jobs.
“Take in your hand your rod with which you struck the river.”: Several things come to mind as I read these words.
The staff represented that which support Moses. What is it that supports us in all that we do? Well it is God grace. It is as if God is reaffirming Moses by saying, “Lean on Me and I’ll do all the work!”
Moses had asked what to do with the people and God responds by reminding him of the past victories won by totally trusting in Him. Moses might be inclined to try something new, and God is saying to Him, “My grace is sufficient, not just for that situation but for every situation.”
“And go.”: Lastly, be a man of action. Talk is cheap get out there and get to it! People can not follow those that are indecisive even if they are. In spite of Israel’s demands and complaining keep on leading them.
Vs. 6 If Moses does these four things the out come will be what is described in this verse. The word, “Behold” is a word that is used in scripture to get our attention. God is telling Moses “stop and take notice of what I’m Going to do.”
“I will stand before you there on the rock in Horeb”: Horeb was in the wilderness and the word means desolate. What a great promise this is, no matter how lonely leadership or the situation is God says, “I’m going before you and I’m standing ready for action.” Moses may see an angry mob, but he needs to see a loving God! Moses, just like the Israelites needed more then just water they needed a fresh vision of the Lord who alone can refresh in desolate times! Moses is never asked to lead others without first being lead himself. What a great comfort that is. Moses was told to Go where the Lord would already be standing! The best we can do for others is to lead them to where the Lord is standing!
“you shall strike the rock, and water will come out of it, that the people may drink.”: Is there a more unlikely place to find water then a rock? They were in need, thirsty and yet God leads them to an unlikely place to find that which could quench their thirst. We are told in 1Cor. 10:4 that this rock speaks of Jesus. The rock smitten for us on the cross is Jesus. Jesus said, “If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink.” Then in the last invitation of the Bible, (Rev. 22:17) Jesus says, “Come! And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely.” God is showing them that He alone can refresh us and that the refreshment is in Jesus’ work on our behalf at the cross!
Vs. 7 Moses names the place “trial” and “quarrel” and they will be mentioned to 21 times in the O.T. and always as an example of the hard heartedness and in spite of that the grace of God in providing living water for them. In every instance where Israel lacked something they always acted prematurely. God would have provided for them if they had only trusted Him. The word “rock” will appear some 66 times to describe Israel’s hope of God’s faithfulness. God can make living water flow from a rock, but for it to flow from the human heart takes you trusting Him alone.
III.) Vs. 8-16 The Lord is my banner!
Vs. 8 We are told that Amalekites were descendants of Esau. They are the same people who we are told that Saul was ordered to wipe out and did not so he lost his kingdom. Further more later on we are told in the book of Esther that Haman who tried to wipe out all the Israelites was a descendent of Amalekites.
Deut. 25:17-18 tells what their strategy was they, “attacked your rear ranks, all the stragglers at your rear, when you were tired and weary;” These guys went after the ones furthest away from the group, those most vulnerable. There are a lot of people today in the rear ranks, weakened because they are not in consistent fellowship with the body of Christ.
Vs. 9-13 Four men, with Joshua who was put in charge of the battle, Aaron and Hur who’s job it was to lift up the hands of prayer with Moses so that victory could be obtained. God allows Moses, Aaron, Hur and Joshua all to be used to defeat the enemy. God would have us to pray always as if our life depended upon it. We are to pray and so live with passion.
Vs. 14-16 We are told that this was to be a never ending battle but yet one that the Lord will have ultimate victory. This battle represents our battle against our flesh which we continue to war against and will until we are in His presence.
Moses calls the altar, (the place of worship) The Lord is my banner. This is all one word in the Hebrew. A banner is a flag which is used to really the troops behind. So Moses is saying, “Rally behind the Lord, it is He that I look to, trust in and follow.” When you are, in a marching band or a military unit you follow the standard bearer. They had followed the Lord and that had gotten them out of water and into a fight, how is that possible? I have come to the conclusion in my life that the more God seems to absent in my circumstances the more He is really present. Don’t look at your circumstances as the basis of trusting the Lord trust the Lord no matter what you circumstance!