Friday, March 25, 2022

2022.03.25 Hopewell @Home ▫ Exodus 17:1–7

Read Exodus 17:1–7

Questions from the Scripture text: Who set out in Exodus 17:1? From where? According to what? Where did they camp? What did they lack? With whom did the people contend (Exodus 17:2)? What did they say? What does Moses first ask? Then what? What do the people do there (Exodus 17:3a)? Against whom do they complain (verse 3b)? What do they accuse him of doing (verse 3c)? to whom? What does Moses do in Exodus 17:4? What does he say? Who speaks to whom in Exodus 17:5? Where does He say to go? Whom does He say to take? What does He say to take in his hand? What would Yahweh do where (Exodus 17:6)? What shall Moses do to that rock? What will come out of it? For the people to do what? What specific part of the plan is repeated at the end of v6? What two things does Moses call the place (Exodus 17:7)? Because of what Meribah/contention? And what Massah/testing?

God had turned Nile-fed Egypt into a place of death for the Egyptians. Now, He uses the same servant and the same rod to exert the same power in turning the dry wilderness into a place of life for Israel.

The first four verses are not particularly promising. The children of Israel are camped at Rephidim, and they have a very serious problem for a group of millions: there’s no water (Exodus 17:1). And Israel responds in a familiar way. They grumble. For the fourth time (cf. Exodus 14:11–12; Exodus 15:24; Exodus 16:2), they grumble. In fact, the word “contended” in Exodus 17:2 is quite strong; they quarreled with Moses. In fact, the end of Exodus 17:4 literally translated, reads “a little more, and they will stone me!” God’s servant is crying out to Him, not quarreling as Israel were, but rather a plea for help in the midst of great danger.

So, it doesn’t seem like a promising start, but such a start is a perfect occasion for a display of the grace of God. And we have a marvelous display of it here! Israel deserves the same fate as Egypt. The “Is Yahweh among us” of Exodus 17:7 sounds all too similar to Pharaoh’s “I do not know Yahweh nor will I let Israel go” (cf. Exodus 5:2). And the rod and the striking of the Nile (Exodus 17:5) remind us exactly what that deserves (cf. Exodus 7:17, Exodus 7:20).

The Lord builds the suspense by the command in Exodus 17:5, “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.” What will happen to this wicked, quarreling people? There’s no river here to strike? What will God command to be struck with the rod in response to the people’s sin?

Himself. God commands to strike Himself. “Behold, I will stand before you there upon the rock at Horeb. And you will strike on the rock.” Horeb was where Moses had first met Yahweh (cf. Exodus 3:1ff), and this is now the second mention of it in Exodus 17:6. It will be called Sinai in upcoming chapters, but here, the point is clear: the “I Am that I Am” of chapter 3 will be struck with His own rod in order to give life to His people instead of death!

If that sounds to you very much like what happened on the cross, you’re onto what the Spirit Himself says in 1 Corinthians 10:4, “and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ.” 

God commands that He Himself be struck by the rod that had turned Egypt’s river of life into a fountain of death in order to turn Israel’s wilderness of death into a place of life. The name of the place reminds them of the greatness of their sin (Exodus 17:7), but the event that took place proclaims the greater-ness of God’s grace. 

What does your sin deserve? What are the two options for who will receive that? Whose idea was it to give you the option of having life instead? What has He done in order to make that happen?

Sample prayer:  Lord, You have been perfectly merciful and faithful to us. Forgive us for our grumbling and even acting as if You were not with us. Grant that we would rejoice over Your taking upon Yourself that wrath that our sin deserved, and make us to trust that You are always taking care of us, we ask through Jesus Christ, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP51A “God Be Merciful to Me” or TPH435 “Not What My Hands Have Done”

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