Exodus 17:1-7

Sunday Morning Bible Study

March 2, 2008


Sometimes it’s pretty obvious that our complaining and griping are pretty petty. Consider these lawsuits filed by prison inmates (nearly all subsidized by taxpayers):

~ A death-row inmate sues corrections officials for taking away his Gameboy electronic game. (Donald Edward Beaty v. Bury)

~ Inmate complains because his meal allegedly was in poor condition. He claims his sandwich was soggy and his cookie was broken. (Brittaker v. Rowland)

~ Inmate who murdered five people sues after lightning knocks out the prison's TV satellite dish and he must watch network programs, which he says contain violence, profanity, and other objectionable material. (Jackson v. Barton)

~ Inmate sues to be given Reeboks, Adidas, Pony, or Avia hightops rather than the inferior brand sneakers issued by the prison. (Brown v. Singletary)

~ Inmate sues for not receiving his scheduled parole hearing, though he was out on escape when the hearing was to be held. (Young v. Murphy)

Now it sounds pretty petty when other people complain, but when I complain, it’s serious!

:1-7 Waters of Meribah

:1 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.

according to the commandment of the LORD – Moses wasn’t the one leading them. God is the one who has led them to this place.

Just like the Red Sea. God led them up the canyon until they were trapped between the Egyptians and the Red Sea.

Keep in mind – God is going to lead them into a place they’re going to complain about.

Rephidim[email protected] – “resting places”

Show Video – I’ve been coming across some interesting possibilities of where some of these places might actually be. I’ve got a Google Earth tour to show you the road from Egypt to Rephidim. I might be wrong about some or possibly all of these places, but I think the ideas are interesting…

no water – water is the essence of life in a desert. It’s a real need. It has been an issue in the past.

:2 Therefore the people contended with Moses, and said, "Give us water, that we may drink." And Moses said to them, "Why do you contend with me? Why do you tempt the LORD?"

contendriyb – to strive, contend. The name “Meribah” will come from this word.

temptnacah – to test, try, prove, tempt, assay, put to the proof or test. The name “Massah” will come from this word.

: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?"

complainedluwn – to grumble, complain, murmur

This isn’t the first time they’ve complained.

They cried out when they were trapped at PiHahiroth and Pharaoh’s chariots were closing in (Ex. 14:11).
They complained at the bitter waters of Marah (Ex. 15:24).
They complained over the lack of food in the wilderness (Ex. 16:2).
Now they’re complaining over the lack of any kind of water.

If you ask me, their complaints sound kind of reasonable.

Doesn’t complaining sound like the right thing to do in these situations?

Paul writes,

(Phil 2:14-15 NKJV) Do all things without complaining and disputing, {15} that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world,
It sounds to me like Paul is saying that there is something wrong with complaining. It sounds like complaining is even “harmful”.
What kind of a light can we be to people when we don’t believe that God can take care of us?

: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.

:5 your rod with which you struck the river -

Moses is supposed to use his “rod”, his “staff”.

Moses has done several things with his “rod”:
He’s seen it turn into a serpent (Ex. 4:4).
He’s used it to turn the waters of Egypt into blood (Ex. 7:20).
He’s used it to bring hail (Ex. 9:3).
He’s used it to bring the locusts (Ex. 10:13).
He’s used it to divide the Red Sea (Ex. 14:16).
But the thing God reminds Moses of is turning water into blood.

HorebChoreb – “desert”. This is the other name for Mount Sinai.

rocktsuwr – rock, cliff

We’ve talked about the possibility that the traditional site of Mount Sinai in the Sinai peninsula might be incorrect. Paul the apostle mentions Sinai being in “Arabia” (Gal. 4:25). Some have suggested that the Saudi Arabian mountain known as “Jabal al Lawz” (or, “Mountain of Almonds”) is a better candidate. We’ll talk more about this in upcoming weeks. My point is that there is an interesting rock formation near Jabal al Lawz. It’s a huge rock that’s been split. A few people have been to this area and found evidence of water erosion coming from the split in the rock. Here are a few pictures you can find on the internet…

strikenakah – (Hiphil) to smite, strike, beat, scourge, give a thrust; to smite, kill.

Moses was to take his staff, “strike” this Rock, and life giving water would come pouring out.

(Psa 105:41 NKJV) He opened the rock, and water gushed out; It ran in the dry places like a river.

Paul tells us something about this Rock.

(1 Cor 10:1-4 NKJV) Moreover, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware that all our fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea, {2} all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, {3} all ate the same spiritual food,

We’ve covered these events already. Paul teaches that the Red Sea was a picture of baptism with water on the sides and rainclouds overhead. The spiritual food they’ve all eaten was the manna.

{4} and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ.

The spiritual drink is the story we’re looking at this morning. Paul says that the Rock was Jesus.
Could it be that Moses “striking” the Rock was a picture of the death of Christ which gave live to us?
Remember that Moses’ staff brought forth blood and water…
(John 19:34 NKJV) But one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately blood and water came out.


Jesus is the Rock

I think God was painting another one of His grand pictures for His beloved people. He painted a picture when He asked Abraham to sacrifice his son, his only son, on Mount Moriah (Gen. 22).
He’s painting another picture here of the Rock that was smitten for us.
I think this is why Moses gets into so much trouble forty years later when the people are once again complaining about water. God tells Moses to only “speak” to the Rock to bring water, but Moses blows the picture and strikes the Rock again.
The truth God was trying to teach was that Jesus was struck only once for our sins. He died once and for all, paying for all our sins.

Now all we need to do to find benefit in our Rock is to “speak” to Him. We simply ask for salvation. He doesn’t need to be crucified again. We only need to have faith.

: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?"

MassahMaccah – “temptation”

Meribah[email protected] – “strife” or “contention”

This incident at Rephidim would be an important one. It is mentioned several times through the Bible, including several places in the Psalms.

(Psa 95 NKJV) Oh come, let us sing to the LORD! Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation.

Rocktsuwr – rock, cliff. Same word as the “rock” that Moses struck. David doesn’t talk about “striking” the Rock though, he talks of speaking, of “shouting” to the Rock.

{2} Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving; Let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms. {3} For the LORD is the great God, And the great King above all gods. {4} In His hand are the deep places of the earth; The heights of the hills are His also. {5} The sea is His, for He made it; And His hands formed the dry land. {6} Oh come, let us worship and bow down; Let us kneel before the LORD our Maker. {7} For He is our God, And we are the people of His pasture, And the sheep of His hand.

This first part of the Psalm is what we’re supposed to do. It’s what we’re supposed to do when we find ourselves in times that are more suited to complaining.
We are supposed to be praising, not griping. We are supposed to be trusting, not doubting.
Praise is one of the best ways to demonstrate trust.

Today, if you will hear His voice: {8} "Do not harden your hearts, as in the rebellion, As in the day of trial in the wilderness,

rebellion[email protected] – strife, contention
trialmaccah – despair, test; Some of the newer translations use the actual words “Meribah” and “Massah”.
It’s here at Rephidim that the people are hardening their hearts. How’s that?

{9} When your fathers tested Me; They tried Me, though they saw My work. {10} For forty years I was grieved with that generation, And said, 'It is a people who go astray in their hearts, And they do not know My ways.' {11} So I swore in My wrath, 'They shall not enter My rest.'"

These people knew better. They had “seen God’s work”.
They had seen the miracles performed in the land of Egypt.
They had been delivered from the angel of death.
They had seen the Red Sea part.
They had tasted the bitter waters that were made sweet.
They had been fed manna in the wilderness.
So now that they are faced with another trial, what do they do? Do they think that God has failed them for the first time? Yes.
Instead of asking, trusting, and praising, they chose to complain.


Trial = Opportunity to trust.

That’s what a test is all about. That’s what your difficulty is all about. An opportunity to trust.
They were failing in the wilderness because they were not learning to take all their fears to God.
If anyone should have known what God could do, it should be these people.
A woman was working in her yard with the weed whacker, when she accidentally cut off the tail of her cat. She ran screaming into the house, and told her husband, wondering what to do. He replied calmly, “Get the cat, and the tail, and we’ll take them to Wal-Mart.” She was incredulous. “How could that possibly help?” she asked. “Well,” he replied, “they’re the world’s largest retailer.”

Wouldn’t that be a marvelous thing if you had accidentally cut your cat’s tail off? Wouldn’t it be marvelous to know that if you had a specific problem like that, you had a place you could go to?

The thing is, we actually DO have a place to take our problems to. We can ask God for help.
Why is it we have to resort to complaining and griping? Because we don’t trust Him.
A parable is told of a farmer who owned an old mule. The mule fell into the farmer’s well. The farmer heard the mule braying- or whatever mules do when they fall into wells. After carefully assessing the situation, the farmer sympathized with the mule, but decided that neither the mule nor the well was worth the trouble of saving. Instead, he called his neighbors together and told them what had happened. He enlisted them to help haul dirt to bury the old mule in the well and put him out of his misery. Initially, the old mule was hysterical! (Wouldn’t you be with dirt being flung on you?) But as the farmer and his neighbors continued shoveling and the dirt hit his back, a thought struck him. It suddenly dawned on him that every time a shovel load of dirt landed on his back, HE SHOULD SHAKE IT OFF AND STEP UP! This he did, blow after blow. “Shake it off and step up...shake it off and step up...shake it off and step up!” he repeated to encourage himself. No matter how painful the blows, or distressing the situation seemed the old mule fought panic and just kept right on SHAKING IT OFF AND STEPPING UP! Well, it wasn’t long before the old mule, battered and exhausted, STEPPED TRIUMPHANTLY OVER THE WALL OF THAT WELL! What seemed like would bury him, actually blessed him...all because of the manner in which he handled his adversity.
Do you feel like people are shoveling dirt onto your back?  Feel like you’re getting buried?  Shake it off and step UP.  Don’t bray and complain like the donkey.  Learn to give praise like the Psalmist taught us.

The writer of Hebrews gives us some additional insight and direction:

(Heb 3:7-19 NKJV) Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says: "Today, if you will hear His voice, {8} Do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, In the day of trial in the wilderness, {9} Where your fathers tested Me, tried Me, And saw My works forty years. {10} Therefore I was angry with that generation, And said, 'They always go astray in their heart, And they have not known My ways.' {11} So I swore in My wrath, 'They shall not enter My rest.'" {12} Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; {13} but exhort one another daily, while it is called "Today," lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. {14} For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end, {15} while it is said: "Today, if you will hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion." {16} For who, having heard, rebelled? Indeed, was it not all who came out of Egypt, led by Moses? {17} Now with whom was He angry forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose corpses fell in the wilderness? {18} And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who did not obey? {19} So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.

There are two kinds of “rest” that we don’t enter into because of unbelief.
We won’t enter into the heavenly rest without belief.

You have to learn to trust in Jesus in order to have eternal life.

(John 3:16-18 NKJV) "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. {17} "For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. {18} "He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

You also won’t experience daily rest, daily peace, without trusting in Him.

You’ll spend your life worrying about everything.

He gives us a piece of advice to help us grow in our faith.
(Heb 3:12-13 NKJV) Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; {13} but exhort one another daily, while it is called "Today," lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.


Encouragement needed

Our hearts can be hardened through sin. If we refuse to be honest with ourselves, we can talk ourselves into anything.
As Erin says, “we need people who will pull our covers”
We need people who will help us stay honest with ourselves.
(Eph 4:14-15 NKJV)  that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, {15} but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head; Christ;

Jesus talked about the house that withstands the storms (Mat. 7) as the one built on the Rock.

Here Paul tells the church that the way we get out of the storm is by growing up, and growing up is what happens when we speak the truth in love.

Encouragement = Truth + Love

We need people in our lives who will encourage us to trust God.
That’s what we’re learning on Sunday nights, we’re learning how good it is to have people in your life who will encourage you in God.
We need to encourage one another to trust Him.
That’s not always easy when you are thinking yourself, “But what if God doesn’t come through???”
Dante Gabriel Rossetti, the famous 19th-century poet and artist, was once approached by an elderly man. The old fellow had some sketches and drawings that he wanted Rossetti to look at and tell him if they were any good, or if they at least showed potential talent. Rossetti looked them over carefully. After the first few, he knew that they were worthless, showing not the least sign of artistic talent. But Rossetti was a kind man, and he told the elderly man as gently as possible that the pictures were without much value and showed little talent. He was sorry, but he could not lie to the man. The visitor was disappointed, but seemed to expect Rossetti’s judgment. He then apologized for taking up Rossetti’s time, but would he just look at a few more drawings - these done by a young art student? Rossetti looked over the second batch of sketches and immediately became enthusiastic over the talent they revealed. “These,” he said, “oh, these are good. This young student has great talent. He should be given every help and encouragement in his career as an artist. He has a great future if he will work hard and stick to it.” Rossetti could see that the old fellow was deeply moved. “Who is this fine young artist?” he asked. “Your son?” “No,” said the old man sadly. “It is me - 40 years ago. If only I had heard your praise then! For you see, I got discouraged and gave up - too soon.”

By Anonymous ; From Brian Cavanaugh’s The Sower’s Seeds; from A 4th Course of Chicken Soup for the Soul; Copyright 1997 by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, Hanoch McCarty & Meladee McCarty

We need people in our lives who will encourage us to keep trusting God. We need to be encouraging other people to trust Him.

Are you at Rephidim today?  Has God led you to a place you don’t want to be?

How will you handle your trial?  Braying and complaining like a donkey?
Do you see the opportunity you have to trust God?  Do you know what it looks like to trust Him?
Do you realize your need for encouragement?  Do you realize you should be encouraging others?