Exodus 17:6 Strike the rock, and water will come out of it for the people to drink.
God’s people ran out of water on their way to the Promised Land. The situation was so desperate that, without a miracle, many would soon be dead. So God told Moses to strike a rock with his rod, and enough water came out for everyone to drink.
The New Testament provides an interesting commentary on this episode. [T]hat rock was Christ (1 Corinthians 10:4), wrote Paul. It is hard to imagine how a rock could be Christ, but there is at least one parallel. When Moses struck the rock with his rod, water came out. And when the solder thrust his spear into Jesus’ side, water came out mixed with blood (John 19:34). Water from the rock satisfied people’s physical thirst, and kept them alive. Jesus satisfies our spiritual thirst, and keeps us alive forever. Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink (John 7:37), he said.
Exodus 17:8 The Amalekites came and attacked the Israelites at Rephidim.
As they journeyed to the Promised Land, God’s people faced opposition. The Amalekites waged war and were a serious threat. Moses told Joshua to lead the Israelites in battle while he went up a hill to watch and pray. As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning (Exodus 17:11).
Holding up your hands is easy for a while, but not for very long. When Moses grew tired, he sat on a rock and had others hold up his hands, until the Amalekites were defeated. From this we learn that battles are won or lost in prayer.
This is why Jesus began his ministry with forty days of prayer and fasting (Matthew 4:1-11). During this time he fought the devil, and emerged victorious. Three times Satan tempted Jesus, and three times Jesus defeated Satan.
Jesus also cast out demons, but his disciples were less effective. Why could not we drive it out? they asked. This kind can come out only by prayer (Mark 9:28-29), he said. In the battle between light and darkness, only those who pray have power. Satan wants us to save precious time by neglecting prayer. That is how he wins so many battles.
Exodus 19:1-2 On the first day of the third month after the Israelites left Egypt—on that very day—they came to the Desert of Sinai. . . . and Israel camped there in the desert in front of the mountain.
About seven weeks after leaving Egypt, God’s people arrived at Mount Sinai. There they camped for nearly a year (Numbers 10:11-12), and received God’s law. This was a formative time as they learned what it meant to be God’s people, and for God to be their God (Exodus 6:7).
Exodus 19:9 The Lord said to Moses, I am going to come to you in a dense cloud.
God was about to reveal himself and give the Ten Commandments. He wouldn’t appear on a rainbow, or on a beam of light, but in a dense cloud, also called a thick cloud (Exodus 19:16). At the very time God was revealing himself, he would also be concealing himself.
There is always more to God than meets the eye. We can know God truly (John 17:3), but never exhaustively. No matter how much we know about God, there will always be more that we don’t know, because God is infinite. This is also why God can never be boring.
If you hear a song that you really enjoy, you will want to hear it again and again. But after you have heard it a hundred times, it will not thrill you quite as much. This can never happen with God, because there is no limit to his perfections. Throughout eternity, God will never cease to amaze us.
Exodus 19:16-19 On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightning, with a thick cloud over the mountain, and a very loud trumpet blast. Everyone in the camp trembled. Then Moses led the people out of the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain.
Mount Sinai was covered with smoke, because the Lord descended on it in fire. The smoke billowed up from it like smoke from a furnace, and the whole mountain trembled violently. As the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke and the voice of God answered him.
God could have come down in gentleness, but he revealed himself in power. He was about to give his laws, and did not want them taken as suggestions. God is a great king whose word is to be obeyed on pain of death (Romans 6:23). Many think of God as an indulgent father, but that idea is not in the Bible. The God of the Bible kills people and sends them to hell. He is to be greatly feared and fully obeyed (Proverbs 10:27).
Exodus 20:1 And God spoke all these words. . . . You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an image. . . You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God. . . . Remember the Sabbath. . . . Honor your father and your mother. . . You shall not murder. . . . You shall not commit adultery. . . .You shall not steal. . . .You shall not give false testimony. . . . You shall not covet . . . (Exodus 20:3-17).
These Ten Commandments are the only words God spoke audibly to the nation of Israel. They were written in stone by God himself (Exodus 31:18), and were stored in the ark of the covenant. That was stored in the Most Holy Place, inside the tabernacle (Exodus 34:1, 40:20).
It would be hard to overstate the importance of the Ten Commandments before the coming of Christ, but a change has taken place. Most of the Ten Commandments are repeated in the New Testament, but not all of them. And surprisingly, we are never told to obey the Ten Commandments.
The Old Testament law is no longer binding in an absolute sense (Hebrews 8:13), but it serves an important purpose. It reveals our sin (Romans 3:20), so that we might flee to Christ, and be justified by faith (Galatians 3:24), wrote Paul. Christians are free from the law as a way of salvation (Romans 7:4-6), but are under Christ’s law ( 1 Corinthians 9:21) as a way of life. The Ten Commandments have great significance, but are not the way of salvation.
Reflection and Review
What should we learn from Israel’s battle with the Amalekites?
Why did God reveal himself in such a frightening way?
Why aren’t the Ten Commandments the way to be saved?