"And the Lord said unto Moses, Go on be ore the people, and take with thee of the elders of Israel; and thy rod, wherewith thou smotest the river, take a thine hand, and go. Behold, I will stand before the there upon the rock in Horeb; and thou shalt smite the rock, and there shall come water out of it, that the people may drink. And Moses did so in the sight of the elders of Israel."—Exo_17:5, Exo_17:6.
The passage refers to a very striking event in the history of the Israelites; the occasion of which, with all the circumstances, are fully detailed in the verses in connection with the text. The whole, however, had a typical allusion; and the apostle, referring to it, observes: "And did all (that is, our fathers) drink the same spiritual drink; for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ." 1Co_10:4.
Observe, I. The Circumstances of the People. II. The Divine Directions given. And, III. The Results which followed.
I. The Circumstances of the People.
They were travelling through the desert, and were ready to perish of thirst. Their situation may be considered,
1. As extremely painful and dangerous.
Body scorched with feverish heat; tongue parched; food impassable for want of necessary moisture; then, if not allayed, anxiety, restlessness, delirium, and certain death. It is enough to mark that the agony of the lost is thus represented in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, Luk_16:24. Their situation was,
2. Apparently hopeless.
Indeed, so far as human help was concerned, who could assist them? Who could unlock the clouds, or open the springs of the earth? Or, who could find an equivalent for the liquid of life? How applicable these thoughts to man's natural condition! Wretched, and without peace; far from God, and far from happiness; to what anxiety, restlessness, and peril is the sinner exposed! How equally helpless his state by human device, or by created energy! No arm, but his who first fashioned him, can renew in him that likeness, and restore that happiness, which sin has detroyed. Notice,
II. The Divine Directions given.
"And the Lord said unto Moses, Go on before the people," &c. Here three things are specified: the rock, the rod; and the smiting.
1. The rock.
"Get thee there upon the rock in Horeb," &c. How unlikely, to bring the soft flowing liquid from the flinty rock! This rock was typical of the Saviour, and was a striking emblem,
(1) Of the Redeemer's lowly appearance. As the rock was barren, rugged and unsightly; so Christ, in his external appearance, was as a root out of a dry ground. "There was no beauty nor comeliness in him, that men should desire him." His birthplace, parentage, poverty, and disciples, all rendered him, to the Jews, a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence The rock was emblematical,
(2) Of his strength and stability. What is so strong and unyielding as the rock? How unlike the gliding sand or the yielding earth! How it stands firm before the tempest's roughest blasts; and bears upon its rugged front the storm's most awful fury, unaffected and unmoved! Jesus possessed almighty power. His very word contained omnific energy, and silenced the winds, and hushed the storm to instant peace. Mat_8:25, &c. It was emblematical,
(3) Of his distinguished greatness and elevation. The rock is elevated above that which surrounds it. So Christ is higher, more majestic, than the sons of men. Heaven's celestial Prince. Over all, in his nature, titles, and works, God blessed for evermore. Rom_9:5; Heb i. The directions of Jehovah referred,
2. To the rod.
"And the rod, wherewith thou smotest the river," &c. History of the rod is wonderful and interesting. Same rod that was changed into a serpent before the burning bush; that smote the waters of the Nile; and that was stretched over the Red Sea, when they divided &c. The direction to take the rod was intended,
(1) For his encouragement. To remind him of former miracles and mercies; to inspire his hope, &c.
(2) To express God's approbation of means. Rod not essentially necessary; God could easily have produced the event by different means, or without any means at all. But his wisdom suggested this How applicable to all divine institutions &c.
(3) To prefigure the plan of human redemption. As the rock typified Christ, so the rod was an emblem of that heavy load of suffering which Christ should bear as the Saviour of the world. This leads us,
3. To the smiting.
"And thou shalt smite the rock," &c.
(1) The rod was to smite the rock. Not to wave over it, but to smite it. So was Christ smitten, not only typically, but really and truly, by men, by devils, and by the hand of divine justice. He was smitten in his name, in his reputation, in his body, and in his soul. Isa_53:3-10; Luk_22:63, &c.
(2) The rod smote by divine authority. "So it pleased the Father to bruise him," &c. His Father cried: "Awake, O sword, against my shepherd," &c. "Smite the shepherd," &c. Zec_13:7.
(3) The rock was to be smitten before the elders. "And take with thee of the elders of Israel." How applicable to the sufferings of Christ! The elders were concerned in the price paid to his apostate disciple; in his trial, condemnation, death, &c.
(4) It was smitten for the benefit of the people. So Christ was delivered for our sins; and suffered, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God.
(5) The smiting was immediately followed by the gushing stream. So Christ's sufferings terminated with the piercing of his side, from whence flowed blood and water; the emblems of the medium and price of our redemption.
This leads us to consider,
III. The Results which followed.
A crystal stream burst forth from the rock, which satisfied their thirst, and thus preserved them from perishing. The supply thus provided was,
No connection between the means and the end; between the rod, the rock, and the smiting, with the miraculous effects produced. Redemption, from first to last, from its origin to its consummation, is a miracle of wisdom, power, and grace. The supply was,
Enough for all the people. So, salvation's streams are sufficient for the world; for every creature. The supply was,
It never failed them; but they drank of the stream which followed them, until they entered the promised land. So the blessings of the grace of Christ meet all the need of God's people here; and shall never fail until the desert is exchanged for that happy land.
"Where rocks, and hills, and brooks, and vales
With milk and honey flow."
From this subject we see,
(1) Our naturally miserable state.
(2) The provisions made for us. And,
(3) The application necessary to then enjoyment.
"If any man thirst," says the blessed Redeemer, "let him come to me, and drink." &c.