Intro: The wilderness experience of Israel was a time for learning & growth. God was doing more than just taking Israel from Egypt to Canaan; He was taking them from being no people to being the people of God. (His nation).
- God provided everything they needed during this period. They were to learn true dependence on God, and walk by faith, not by sight.
I. Notice how Paul describes this journey centuries later: 1 Cor. 10:1-4 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.
What does Paul tell us about the Israelites (Jewish fathers)? The Elements of God’s provision:
A. They were:
1. under the cloud – Guided by God Himself
2. they passed through the sea – Protected from their enemies.
3. baptized into Moses in the cloud and sea – Initiated into the company of Moses through their symbolic immersion in the cloud and sea.
4. All ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink. The reference to “spiritual” food and drink does not refer to the type of food, as opposed to physical, but to the source of their food and drink. IT was spiritual, or from God, not their own provision. John MacArthur says… “The Lord miraculously provided manna for food (Ex 16:15) and water for drink (17:6). In this sense they were all spiritually sustained, that is, given provisions from a divine source rather than a natural one
5. drank of the spiritual rock that followed them – Twice during this period God miraculously provided water from a solid rock; (Rephidim and Kadesh)
B. Yet the writer here says that rock was Christ. (There was a legend among the Jews that the rock that Moses struck followed the Israelites through the wilderness. Paul may have been referencing this legend. It was not the literal rock that followed them, but the Christ who was with the Father.)
1. Many understand this verse to mean that what followed the Israelites was the water that the rock provided. God did not just provide for them one time, but He continually gave them what they needed. So, the rock of Rephidim, was according to Paul, a prototype of Christ. Jesus is God’s continuing provision.
2. It is interesting to note that the term Paul uses here for rock is not petros, a large stone or boulder, but petra, a massive rock cliff. God used a boulder at Rephidim. But the spiritual rock which followed them throughout their journeys was not that small boulder but the great unmovable rock of Christ.
II. Let’s go back and take a closer look at God’s provision for Israel at Rephidim in Ex.17:1-7 “Then all the congregation of the children of Israel set out on their journey from the Wilderness of Sin, according to the commandment of the LORD, and camped in Rephidim; but there was no water for the people to drink. 2 Therefore the people contended with Moses, and said, “Give us water, that we may drink.” So Moses said to them, “Why do you contend with me? Why do you tempt the LORD?” 3 And the people thirsted there for water, and the people complained against Moses, and said, “Why is it you have brought us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?” 4 So Moses cried out to the LORD, saying, “What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me!” 5 And the LORD said to Moses, “Go on before the people, and take with you some of the elders of Israel. Also take in your hand your rod with which you struck the river, and go. 6 Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock in Horeb; and you shall strike the rock, and water will come out of it, that the people may drink.” And Moses did so in the sight of the elders of Israel. 7 So he called the name of the place Massah and Meribah, because of the contention of the children of Israel, and because they tempted the LORD, saying, “Is the LORD among us or not?”
A. A Life-Giving Rock…“no water for the people to drink…” The “wilderness” described here is not the big sky country of Montana where Bigfoot lives. The word for wilderness means “uninhabited” and most of the wilderness of the Bible was desert. There is not much water in the desert. Nothing but rocks. This wilderness provided a unique opportunity for Israel to learn about God and themselves.
1. Without water they would perish. They couldn’t take enough – this was the wilderness. They have to trust God. If they were going to survive at all they would have to rely upon God. Thus this rock that God chose became a life-giving rock.
2. Men & women are dying of thirst in the wilderness of sin today. This life has little to offer of any lasting or “quenching” value. Christ is the only source of true spiritual satisfaction.
a. Only He can provide truth – John 8:32 – 32 And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” John 14:6 – “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.
b. Only He can provide forgiveness – Acts 4:12 – 12 Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”
c. In John 4, Jesus used the illustration of water to teach the woman at the well about what he had to offer. It was not actual water, but spiritual truth, that filled every need, and made a relationship with God possible. John 4:10-14 10 Jesus answered and said to her, “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.” 11 The woman said to Him, “Sir, You have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep. Where then do You get that living water? 12 Are You greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank from it himself, as well as his sons and his livestock?” 13 Jesus answered and said to her, “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, 14 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.”
d. Zechariah prophesied about a day when “living water” would flow from Jerusalem, looking to the day when the gospel would be preached for the first time there. (Zech. 14:8)
e. John 7:37-39 “On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. 38 He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”39 But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. Jesus invited those who were thirsty to come to Him and drink, speaking of the coming of the Holy Spirit, who would guide the apostles to preach the gospel. Just previous to this, after feeding the crowed with a few fishes and loaves, Jesus made the distinction between the physical and spiritual – John 6:63 – It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life.
3. Though we live in a world where people are living unfulfilled lives, it is not because the truth is not available. There was a time when salvation was shrouded in a mystery. But today the mystery has been revealed and God has provided everything that pertains to life & godliness. The simple light of scripture is the answer to today’s perplexing problems – marriages, broken homes, rebellious youth, crime, money problems, etc. Your problems. God’s truth will quench your thirst. But the provision of God goes beyond that… But notice how this Rock provides water (life)….
B. A Smitten Rock – “You shall strike the rock” In order for the Rock to produce water, it had to be smitten. Why did the rock have to be smitten? I don’t know if the Bible tells us about the rock at Rephidim, but Jesus had to be smitten because of me.
1. Isa. 53:4-6 – 4 Surely He has borne our griefs And carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, Smitten by God, and afflicted. 5 But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed. 6 All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.
a. God allowed Jesus to pay the ransom for my sins. At the beginning of 1 Peter 2, Peter calls Jesus a living stone. We will come back to Peter’s words in just a moment. But notice how he describes the death of Jesus at the end of that chapter. 1 Peter 2:24 – 24 who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness — by whose stripes you were healed. 1 Peter 3:18 – For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit,
b. The writer of Hebrews points out that Jesus only had to be smitten once – His death was a final propitiation. Remember that 38 years later a Kadesh, the people thirsted and God told Moses to speak to the rock and it would provide water. Moses failed to obey God and struck the rock again. He missed Canaan. The rock was only to be struck once. (fault of the Roman Catholic mass – designed to be a literal re-offering of Christ)
2. Why did God choose to provide water through a rock? It might be because that was the last place that the people would expect it to come from. How could you get water from a lifeless rock? So God chose to save men in a manner that appeared foolish. The world scoffs at the cross, yet it was through the cross that the wisdom of God was made known. 1 Cor 1:18 – For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. Vs. 21-24 – 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. 22 For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; 23 but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.
C. A Rock of Decision – A Cornerstone or a Stumbling block – Jesus is pictured as a Rock we either accept or reject. You cannot be indecisive about Jesus. Return to 1 Peter 2. – 1 Peter 2:6-8 6 Therefore it is also contained in the Scripture, “Behold, I lay in Zion A chief cornerstone, elect, precious, And he who believes on Him will by no means be put to shame.” 7 Therefore, to you who believe, He is precious; but to those who are disobedient, “The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief cornerstone,” 8 and “A stone of stumbling And a rock of offense.”They stumble, being disobedient to the word, to which they also were appointed.
Conclusion: The point is clear – the Rock cannot be avoided – either we will cling to Him for salvation, or we will stumble over Him and be broken to pieces. Jesus is our spiritual Rock that was smitten for us, and God has provided everything through Him.
Paul’s point in 1 Cor. 10, is that even those who received all of God’s provisions in the wilderness, fell in the wilderness and they stand as a reminder to us. We can also fall away and not enter in.
“On Christ the Solid Rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand, all other ground is sinking sand.”