Exodus 17 - Is the Lord here with us or not?
(1) At the Lord’s command, the whole community* of Israel left the wilderness of Sin** and moved from place to place. Eventually they camped at Rephidim, but there was no water there for the people to drink.
*community of Israel : sons of Israel
**wilderness of Sin: Exodus 16:1: ...between Elim and Mount Sinai...
(2) So once more the people complained* against Moses. “Give us water to drink!” they demanded. “Quiet!” Moses replied. “Why are you complaining against me? And why are you testing the Lord?”
*complained: Exodus 16:2-3: There, too, the whole community of Israel complained about Moses and Aaron.“If only the Lord had killed us back in Egypt,” they moaned. “There we sat around pots filled with meat and ate all the bread we wanted. But now you have brought us into this wilderness to starve us all to death.”
They don't seem to learn from their experiences! The people should have come to Moses to ask him to pray to God for water, but their action led Moses to say that they had challenged God. How often do we complain to God about our problems or even blame Him for our problems? Sometimes, He has brought us to the desert to test us too. Sometimes, He brings us to the desert to prepare us for His use. Consider the problems and heartaches in our own past and present - why has He brought us to this point? Perhaps, we need to ask not WHY but rather, "WHERE are You leading us?" Often, He doesn't reveal the destination to us till later - to strengthen our faith and teach us to depend on Him. We need to have faith that He has complete control of our situation and loves us and will care for us and use us for His great purpose.
(3) But tormented by thirst, they continued to argue with Moses. “Why did you bring us out of Egypt? Are you trying to kill us, our children, and our livestock with thirst?”
Israel's reaction might seem perfectly reasonable. Given the lack of water, anyone's natural reaction would be to worry. But Israel had much evidence from the past that God was powerful and trustworthy; Israel had great promises that the future would be wonderful. Why was this present situation so worrisome? Because at heart the people did not trust God. They gave no thought to what God had done in the past nor what He promised for the future; they thought only about their lack of water now. This helps us understand what "putting God to the test" means. Each Israelite looked around at the bleak wilderness and asked, "Why has God brought me here?" God clearly was not to be trusted; look at the scary and dangerous place to which He had brought them. However, if God were to apologize and come through with some water, maybe they would be willing to forgive Him and follow Him again. Notice how Exodus describes it: "...they tested the Lord, saying, 'Is the Lord among us, or not?'" The lack of water caused them to question whether God was really on their side. All that He had done in the past didn't count; all that He had promised to do in the future didn't count; what counted was the frightening present. God couldn't really be there, couldn't really be powerful and trustworthy, if He would bring them to a barren wilderness. The question should have been settled already; God is there; He is powerful and loving. Instead, each new difficulty caused Israel to question His power and goodness. They "tested" Him by making Him prove His faithfulness all over again. Years later, Moses looks back on this event and warns the people: "You shall not put the Lord your God to the test, as you tested Him at Massah." This is the verse Jesus quotes when Satan tempts Him in the wilderness.
(4) Then Moses cried out to the Lord, “What should I do with these people? They are ready to stone me*!”
*stone me - Numbers 14:10: But the whole community began to talk about stoning Joshua and Caleb. Then the glorious presence of the Lord appeared to all the Israelites at the Tabernacle.
Moses, David, Jeremiah, Stephen, Paul and Jesus suffered from stoning or its threatening. Stoning to death is still practiced in Iran, Saudi Arabia, etc.
(5) The Lord said to Moses, “Walk out in front of the people. Take your staff, the one you used when you struck the water of the Nile, and call some of the elders of Israel to join you.
(6) I will stand before you on the rock at Mount Sinai*. Strike** the rock***, and water**** will come gushing out. Then the people will be able to drink.” So Moses struck the rock as he was told, and water gushed out as the elders looked on.
*Mount Sinai: Hebrew Horeb, another name for Sinai or the mountain range.
**Strike: Zechariah 13:7: “Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, the man who is my partner,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. Strike down the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered, and I will turn against the lambs.
***Strike the rock -
Numbers 20:8-12: You and Aaron must take the staff and assemble the entire community. As the people watch, speak to the rock over there, and it will pour out its water. You will provide enough water from the rock to satisfy the whole community and their livestock.” So Moses did as he was told. He took the staff from the place where it was kept before the Lord. Then he and Aaron summoned the people to come and gather at the rock. “Listen, you rebels!” he shouted. “Must we bring you water from this rock?” Then Moses raised his hand and struck the rock twice with the staff, and water gushed out. So the entire community and their livestock drank their fill. But the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not trust me enough to demonstrate my holiness to the people of Israel, you will not lead them into the land I am giving them!”
Deuteronomy 32:4, 15, 18, 31, 37: He is the Rock; his deeds are perfect. Everything he does is just and fair. He is a faithful God who does no wrong; how just and upright he is! ... “But Israel soon became fat and unruly; the people grew heavy, plump, and stuffed! Then they abandoned the God who had made them; they made light of the Rock of their salvation ... You neglected the Rock who had fathered you; you forgot the God who had given you birth ... But the rock of our enemies is not like our Rock as even they recognize ... Then he will ask, ‘Where are their gods, the rocks they fled to for refuge?
1 Samuel 2:2: No one is holy like the Lord! There is no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God.
2 Samuel 22:47: “The Lord lives! Praise to my Rock! May God, the Rock of my salvation, be exalted!
Psalm 18:2: The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my savior; my God is my rock, in whom I find protection He is my shield, the power that saves me,< and my place of safety.
Psalm 78:15-16: He split open the rocks in the wilderness to give them water, as from a gushing spring. He made streams pour from the rock, making the waters flow down like a river!
Psalm 105:41: He split open a rock, and water gushed out to form a river through the dry wasteland.
1 Corinthians 10:3-4: All of them ate the same spiritual food, and all of them drank the same spiritual water. For they drank from the spiritual rock that traveled with them, and that rock was Christ.
Notice that the rock is only struck ONCE. Striking the rock recalled striking the Nile; there it brought death to Egypt, but here it brought life to Israel. There could be little further doubting that God was with them and able to provide for them.
John 4:10-13: Jesus replied, “If you only knew the gift God has for you and who you are speaking to, you would ask me, and I would give you living water.” “But sir, you don’t have a rope or a bucket,” she said, “and this well is very deep. Where would you get this living water? And besides, do you think you’re greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us this well? How can you offer better water than he and his sons and his animals enjoyed?”Jesus replied, “Anyone who drinks this water will soon become thirsty again. But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.”
John 7:37-39: On the last day, the climax of the festival, Jesus stood and shouted to the crowds, “Anyone who is thirsty may come to me! Anyone who believes in me may come and drink! For the Scriptures declare, ‘Rivers of living water will flow from his heart.’” (When he said “living water,” he was speaking of the Spirit, who would be given to everyone believing in him. But the Spirit had not yet been given, because Jesus had not yet entered into his glory.)
Revelation 22:1-2: Then the angel showed me a river with the water of life, clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb. It flowed down the center of the main street. On each side of the river grew a tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, with a fresh crop each month. The leaves were used for medicine to heal the nations.
Revelation 22:17: The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.” Let anyone who hears this say, “Come.” Let anyone who is thirsty come. Let anyone who desires drink freely from the water of life.
Referring to John 7:37, Chuck Smith wrote, "This was the Feast of Tabernacles in which they were celebrating how God preserved their fathers through the forty years of wandering in the wilderness. A part of the preservation was the providing of the water out of the rock. So during the Feast of Tabernacles, the priest would go down to the Pool of Siloam with these water jugs. They would fill them with water, and they would come back up to the steps where several hundred thousand Jews would be gathered in the Great Temple Mount area. In front of all of the people, as they were singing the Halel songs, the priest would pour the water out on the pavement there of the Temple Mount. That was to remind them how that God gave water to their fathers out of the rock in the wilderness. This was just sort of weaved in to the celebration of Tabernacles, the Booths, where they had to make their little booths, again to remind them how their fathers lived out in the wilderness for forty years. So this pouring out of water ceremony was a reminder of the water out of the rock, this experience." - Chuck Smith Commentary on Exodus 16-18: www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/chuck_smith_c2000/Exd/Exd016.html
(7) Moses named the place Massah* (which means “test”) and Meribah (which means “arguing”) because the people of Israel argued with Moses and tested the Lord by saying, “Is the Lord here with us or not?”**
Deuteronomy 6:16: You must not test the Lord your God as you did when you complained at Massah.
Psalm 81:7: You cried to me in trouble, and I saved you; I answered out of the thundercloud and tested your faith when there was no water at Meribah.
**“Is the Lord here with us or not?” is a question with a contemporary ring to it. A somewhat simplistic analysis would show a real distinction between the way in which God is viewed in the Old Testament and the New. In the Old Testament, God is deemed invisible. In fact, to look at God is to invite death. He speaks through angels to Abraham and Jacob. He speaks through dreams. He speaks in visions to various of the prophets. God sees all, knows all, but he lives up in the sky or on the mountaintop. Jesus changed all that. He came and lived among us. He became a human being. "Is the Lord among us or not?" is an Old Testament question. The New Testament answer is: "Yes, the Lord is always with us." For us, the relevant question is: "Are we with the Lord?" Do we know where we are going? Are we going to listen to the one who came to live among us, to be one of us? Or do we think of God as the distant one, the God portrayed in the Old Testament? I was born and raised in Princeton, and our most eminent citizen was Albert Einstein, who died when I was ten. There were many Einstein stories. Someone sent me the following told by Billy Graham:
In January 2000, leaders in Charlotte, North Carolina, invited their favorite son, Billy Graham, to a luncheon in his honor. Billy initially hesitated to accept the invitation because he struggles with Parkinson's disease. But the Charlotte leaders said, "We don't expect a major address, just come and let us honor you." So he agreed. After wonderful things were said about him, Dr. Graham stepped to the rostrum, looked at the crowd, and said, "I'm reminded today of Albert Einstein, the great physicist who this month has been honored by Time magazine as the Man of the Century. Einstein was once traveling from Princeton on a train when the conductor came down the aisle, punching the tickets of each passenger. When he came to Einstein, Einstein reached in his vest pocket. He couldn't find his ticket, so he reached in his other pocket. It wasn't there, so he looked in his briefcase but couldn't find it. Then he looked in the seat by him. He couldn't find it. The conductor said, 'Dr. Einstein, I know who you are. We all know who you are. I'm sure you bought a ticket. Don't worry about it.' Einstein nodded appreciatively.
"The conductor continued down the aisle punching tickets. As he was ready to move to the next car, he turned around and saw the great physicist down on his hands and knees looking under his seat for his ticket. The conductor rushed back and said, 'Dr. Einstein, Dr. Einstein, don't worry. I know who you are. No problem. You don't need a ticket. I'm sure you bought one.' Einstein looked at him and said, 'Young man, I too know who I am. What I don't know is where I'm going.'Having said that Billy Graham continued, "See the suit I'm wearing? It's a brand new suit. My wife, my children, and my grandchildren are telling me I've gotten a little slovenly in my old age. I used to be a bit more fastidious. So I went out and bought a new suit for this luncheon and one more occasion. You know what that occasion is? This is the suit in which I'll be buried. But when you hear I'm dead, I don't want you to immediately remember the suit I'm wearing. I want you to remember this: I not only know who I am, I also know where I'm going." - www.trinitystaunton.org/the%20wilderness%20of%20sin.htm
(8) While the people of Israel were still at Rephidim, the warriors of Amalek* attacked them.
Genesis 36:12: Timna, the concubine of Esau’s son Eliphaz, gave birth to a son named Amalek. These are the descendants of Esau’s wife Adah.
Numbers 24:20: Then Balaam looked over toward the people of Amalek and delivered this message: “Amalek was the greatest of nations, but its destiny is destruction!”
Deuteronomy 25:17-19: “Never forget what the Amalekites did to you as you came from Egypt. They attacked you when you were exhausted and weary, and they struck down those who were straggling behind. They had no fear of God. Therefore, when the Lord your God has given you rest from all your enemies in the land he is giving you as a special possession, you must destroy the Amalekites and erase their memory from under heaven. Never forget this! - (The Hebrews were ordered by God to totally wipe out the Amalekites, which they failed to do!)
1 Samuel 15:8-9: He captured Agag, the Amalekite king, but completely destroyed everyone else. Saul and his men spared Agag’s life and kept the best of the sheep and goats, the cattle, the fat calves, and the lambs—everything, in fact, that appealed to them. They destroyed only what was worthless or of poor quality.
Haman was the son of Hammedatha; chief minister of King Ahasuerus (Esther 3:1-2). As his name indicates, Haman was a descendant of Agag, the king of the Amalekites. Because of his attempt to exterminate the Jews in the kingdom of Ahasuerus, he is frequently called "the persecutor of the Jews". His plot against the Jews and his downfall are remembered during the Feast of Purim.
Amalek was the grandson of Esau, who was of the fleshly seed, and represents the flesh. So in scripture, Amalek is always a type of the flesh, the flesh-life, the fleshly seed. There's a spiritual seed; there's a fleshly seed. There's a spiritual side of my nature, there is a fleshly side of my nature, and the spirit and the flesh are in conflict. A constant warfare, my spirit lusting against my flesh, my flesh against the spirit, these two are contrary. Every child of God knows what it is to have a conflict with his flesh. Now Amalek is a type of the flesh. Here God's people, the spiritual seed is coming in to take the land, but the flesh is the first thing that moves in the way to stop them, and to hinder them from going in and taking, and possessing that which God has promised to give to them. One of the biggest barriers to our receiving the full promises of God for our lives is our flesh. The flesh is always warring against the spirit. Our flesh would keep us from entering into the fullness of God's promises, and into the fullness of God's blessings. Amalek came out to meet them, the picture of the flesh, and fought with them. - Chuck Smith Commentary on Exodus 16-18: www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/chuck_smith_c2000/Exd/Exd016.html
What made Amalek so dastardly was that unlike any other enemy who attacked the Israelites fleeing slavery in Egypt from the front, Amalek attacked the rear. This meant that his soldiers could kill women and children, the elderly and the infirm and in so doing avoid engagement with the soldiers at the front. In this way he could produce maximum carnage and maximum terror. The moral problem the Bible addresses is that this is not warfare, it is the slaughter of innocents—it is terrorism. Our enemies are just our enemies except if our enemy is Amalek. In that case our enemy is also the enemy of God. Amalek thus becomes the symbol of terrorism in every generation. He is the symbol not of evil but of radical evil. In our generation Amalek is alive and well and killing the weak ones at the rear of the march. Amalek has attacked the rear of our line of march in Madrid and Bombay, in Jakarta and London, in Haifa and Tel Aviv, in New York and Washington, in a quiet field in Pennsylvania and in a hundred other homes and families—leaving them covered with blood and tears. Yes, one can disagree and debate how Amalek must be fought, but not that Amalek must be fought. One must report and mourn the innocents who are inadvertently killed by our soldiers in our battle against Amalek, but that remembrance must always make the spiritual moral and political distinction that our victims were killed by mistake and Amalek's victims were killed by design. - www.msnbc.msn.com/id/13938178/site/newsweek/
(9) Moses commanded Joshua*, “Choose some men to go out and fight** the army of Amalek for us. Tomorrow, I will stand at the top of the hill, holding the staff of God in my hand.”
*Joshua: 1st mention of Joshua (Yehoshua).
** fight: Where did they get their weapons to fight with? Some say they had household weapons, though you have to wonder why Pharaoh would allow his slaves to have weapons. Some say the weapons were washed up on the seashore when the Egyptians drowned. I can see bows and arrows washing up, but swords?
(10) So Joshua did what Moses had commanded and fought the army of Amalek. Meanwhile, Moses, Aaron, and Hur* climbed to the top of a nearby hill.
*Hur: Per Josephus, the husband of Miriam. Per 1 Chronicles 2:19, he is Caleb's son.
(11) As long as Moses held up the staff in his hand, the Israelites had the advantage. But whenever he dropped his hand, the Amalekites gained the advantage.
(12) Moses’ arms soon became so tired he could no longer hold them up. So Aaron and Hur found a stone for him to sit on. Then they stood on each side of Moses, holding up his hands. So his hands held steady until sunset.
When we fight our "enemies", we too must raise our hands in prayer to God in heaven. In Exodus so far the staff of God is the token of the power of God; when Moses used it, God demonstrated his power. To use the staff of God was to say that God did it; to fight without the staff was to face defeat. Using the staff of God was a way of submitting to and depending on the power of God in all areas of life.
(13) As a result, Joshua overwhelmed* the army of Amalek in battle.
*overwhelmed: Hebrew mouth of the sword. It means as the sword devours – without quarter
(14) After the victory, the Lord instructed Moses, “Write this down on a scroll as a permanent reminder, and read it aloud to Joshua: I will erase the memory of Amalek from under heaven.”
(15) Moses built an altar there and named it Yahweh-nissi (which means “the Lord is my banner”).
The Expositor’s Bible Commentary provides the following insights into this battle and God’s revelation of Himself through it: “Both elements were to be operating: (1) the sword in Joshua's hand and (2) the staff (symbol of divine intervention) in Moses' hand. Once again divine sovereignty and human responsibility were linked in carrying out the will of God … Moses' outstretched arms primarily symbolized his appeal to God. He had commanded Moses on previous occasions, "Stretch out your hand" with the staff (9:22-23; 10:12-13; 14:16). ... The word for "banner" (nes) reflects the root "to be high," "raised," or "conspicuous." The allusion would be to lifting up the staff as a standard and a testimony to his power. The victory, then, was the LORD's, just as the war had been his. - www.path-light.com/IAM08b.htm
(16) He said, “They have raised their fist against the Lord’s throne, so now* the Lord will be at war with Amalek generation after generation.”
* Or Hands have been lifted up to the Lord’s throne, and now
- An Argument of the Book of Exodus by David Malick: www.bible.org/page.php?page_id=132
- Back to the Bible 101: "Jesus Christ our Redeemer, our Passover Lamb": http://www.geocities.com/genebrooks/exodus.html
- BibleGateway - Exodus 17 - The Provision of Manna: www.bible.org/netbible/exo17.htm
- Bible History: www.bible-history.com
- Blue Letter Bible - Chuck Smith Commentary on Exodus 16-18: www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/chuck_smith_c2000/Exd/Exd016.html
- Chuck Missler - Exodus: www.blueletterbible.org/audio_video/missler_chuck/Exd/Exodus-Expositional_template.html
- Clarke's Commentary - Exodus 17: www.godrules.net/library/clarke/clarkeexo17.htm
- Commentary on Exodus (part 3): www.geocities.com/genesiscommentary/exodus3.html
- Crosswalk: http://bible.crosswalk.com
- David Guzik's Commentary on Exodus: www.enduringword.com/commentaries/02.html
- Enduring Word - Exodus 17 - God's Provision and Protection of Israel: www.enduringword.com/commentaries/0217.htm
- Exodus Audio Bible Study Lesson: http://www.soniclight.com/study_cd/audio_bible_study_lessons/exodus.htm
- Exodus - From Egypt to the Sanctuary: www.bibleexplained.com/moses/Exod/Exo.htm
- First Presbyterian Church of Jackson Mississippi Sermon Archive Index: www.fpcjackson.org/resources/sermons/index6.htm
- Gleanings in Exodus: www.pbministries.org/books/pink/Gleanings_Exodus/exodus.htm
- I am that I am: www.path-light.com/IAM08b.htm
- Jesus Plus Nothing: Exodus – Chapter 17: www.jesusplusnothing.com/studies/online/exodus17.htm
- Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary Exodus: www.ccel.org/h/henry/mhc2/MHC02000.HTM
- Messages On Exodus - Peninsula Bible Church: www.pbc.org/library/series/10398
- Net Bible: http://www.bible.org/netbible/index.htm
- Selected Bibliography of Exodus: www.bible.org/page.php?page_id=133
- Sermons on Exodus: www.desiringgod.org/ResourceLibrary/Sermons/ByScripture/30/
- Testing the Waters: www.pbcc.org/sermons/morgan/1472.html
- The Gospel in Exodus: www.gracegems.org/LAW/Exodus.htm
- Wikipedia - Exodus: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exodus
- "Archaeological Study Bible", NIV Version - Zondervan Publishing House
- "Cruden's Complete Concordance" - Zondervan Publishing House
- "Breath of the Holies: Secrets of Moses' Tabernacle" - DVD by Perry Stone
- "In Search of the Mountain of God" by Robert Cornuke and David Halbrook - Broadman & Holman Publishers
- "Life Application Study Bible" - New Living Translation version - Tyndale House Publishers
- "The Companion Bible" by E. W. Bullinger - Zondervan Publishing House
- "The Mountain of God" - Robert Cornuke and David Halbrook - Broadman & Holman Publishers
- "The NIV Life Application Commentary - Exodus" – Peter Enns – Zondervan™
- "Unger's Bible Dictionary" - Merrill F. Unger