Exodus 17:1-7

A Lesson Unlearned


Verse 1, And all the congregation of the children of Israel journeyed from the wilderness of Sin, after their journeys, according to the commandment of the LORD, and pitched in Rephidim: and there was no water for the people to drink.

I.   All the congregation travel together.

A.     Num. 33:12-14 - There were two places Israel stopped at before coming to Rephidim.  Dophkah and Alush - uneventful stops.

B.     Like before, there was no complaints about moving.

1.       15:22 - Leaving the Red Sea.

2.       15:27 - Leaving the waters of Marah.

3.       16:1 - Leaving Elim.

C.     They were following the commandment of God.

1.       But they still didn't believe God was with them. (verse 7).

2.       Even when we follow the commandments of God, we will have trouble.

3.       II Tim. 3:12 - All that will live Godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.

4.       II Tim. 2:12 - If we suffer, we shall reign with Him.

D.     Before God will test us with spiritual tests, He will test us with material tests.  Remember Nicodemus, John 3:12?


II.   Note the lesson unlearned.

A.     The three places God took Israel in order to show them He could take care of them.

1.       Ex. 15:22 - They traveled three days into the wilderness of Shur and found no water.

2.       Ex. 15:23-26 - They traveled to Marah and found bitter water that God made sweet.

3.       Ex. 15:27 - They came to Elim, where there was plenty of water: twelve wells, and 70 palm trees.

B.     God wanted Israel to understand He was able to take care of them regardless of the circumstance they found themselves in.

1.       They never did learn this lesson, therefore died in the wilderness.

2.       If Israel had learned this lesson about water, they would have listened to the report of the faithful spies, and went on into Canaan to take the land for God.

3.       Instead of learning to trust God, they wandered in the wilderness for 40 years until that entire generation died.


III.   The application of this lesson to us.

A.     When we have a problem, it just may be that God is wanting us to learn to trust Him.

1.       It may be that Satan gives you some difficulties.

2.       Remember, Satan can do nothing God doesn't allow him to do.

3.       The end result is that God is in complete control of our lives.

B.     When we have the same problem over and over again, it just may be that God keeps giving us the same problem so we will learn to trust Him.

1.       Some people have the same problem continually, yet never seem to understand what is happening.

2.       I don't want to be like that.

3.       I want to have different problems!

4.       Having different problems shows I am growing in the Lord.

5.       We will always have problems as long as we are living in this earth.

C.     Philippians 4:11 - Paul stated he had learned to be content in whatever state God put him in.

1.       This is a lesson that doesn't come automatically.

2.       Learning to be content involves thanking God for everything that comes our way.

3.       Thank God for the things we consider good and the things we consider bad.


Verse 2, Wherefore the people did chide with Moses, and said, Give us water that we may drink. And Moses said unto them, Why chide ye with me? wherefore do ye tempt the LORD?

I.   "Chide" with Moses.

A.     Means to strive with - contend with - to argue with.

1.       It is much stronger term than just to complain against.

2.       It carries the meaning not only of physical abuse, but collective physical abuse.

3.       This is why Moses complains to God in verse 4 that Israel is almost ready to stone him.

4.       They have to come to the place of physically attacking Moses, trying to force him to understand they need water.

B.     It is very interesting to note that Moses didn't have any water either!!

1.       It doesn't appear that anybody realized this.

2.       I suppose they thought Moses had a secret supply of water he wasn't sharing with anybody.

3.       The truth is that every servant of God undergoes the exact same trials and tribulations as every other person on this earth.

4.       Every pastor goes through the same problems as the people he pastors.

5.       That is why it seems his preaching is so personal at times.

6.       Remember, a pastor cannot preach what he doesn't know, any more than he can come back from where he hasn't been!

C.     They demanded from Moses as if it was their due.

1.       No mention is made of them trying to find water.

2.       Or digging a well.

3.       Or praying.

4.       Many demand of their pastor what they should do for themselves.

D.     They demanded from Moses, as if he was able (apart from God) to supply water.

1.       They were looking to the man and not to the God of the man.

2.       They accepted the manna from God, but wanted water from Moses.

3.       Many demand from their pastor what they ought to ask of God.

E.      Moses' reply.

1.       He treated them exactly like they treated him. (Note word "chide").

2.       He told them "These things are in God's hands".

3.       He warned them they are in danger of tempting God.

4.       The seriousness of tempting God - Matt. 4:7 - Satan was tempting Jesus Christ.


Verse 3, And the people thirsted there for water; and the people murmured against Moses, and said, Wherefore is this that thou hast brought us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our cattle with thirst?

I.   Things got worse.

A.     As their thirst increased, their chiding changed to murmuring.

1.       Murmuring means to continue or abide all night, to be obstinate - Thus Moses' words did not settle the problem.

2.       Tempting God means:

a.       As in our lesson - saying, acting like, believing there are some things God cannot do.

1)      Matt. 19:26 - With God all things are possible.

2)      Ps. 78:41 - They tempted God and limited the Holy One of Israel.

b.       Matt. 4:7 - Jesus reply to Satan.  It is tempting God to use scripture out of context in order to get something done that is not God's will.

3.       They began to murmur against Moses - even to the point of stoning him. (verse 4).

4.       They didn't heed Moses' warning and pray to God.

B.     They forgot God and His power completely.

1.       In Ex. 2:23 they asked God for deliverance, and He, not Moses, delivered them from Egypt.

2.       They are very unreasonable and Moses doesn't try to reason with them.


Verse 4, And Moses cried unto the LORD, saying, What shall I do unto this people? they be almost ready to stone me.

I.   Moses prays to God.

A.     We can always pray.

1.       When people turn against us, God doesn't.

2.       I Sam. 30:6 - David encouraged himself in the Lord when all his followers thought of stoning him.  (verse 6)

3.       Note: when we pray, God will give a solution.  See the example of the lesson in I Sam. 30:7-31.

B.     Moses asks what he should do.

1.       Even in the day of miracles, done by Moses (the first recorded in the Bible to do miracles) he asks what he should do.

2.       Many times we ask God to do our work.

3.       We should ask for wisdom and strength to do God's work on this earth.

4.       God always works through mankind.


II.   Moses is powerless.

A.     Moses is the leader God has placed over Israel.

1.       There are some things even a very Godly leader can't do.

2.       One of those things is to force the people to listen to the Lord, and obey Him.

3.       He can phrase the words God gives him to give to them, but he can't make them believe.

B.     II Samuel 3:39 - David declared that the sons of Zeruiah were too much for him, even though he was the king of Israel.

1.       David never was able to control the sons of Zeruiah.

2.       He can't control the minds of his subjects, although in some cases, he can control their actions.

3.       A casual study of the sons of Zeruiah will show that David had to constantly rebuke these men.

4.       This doesn't mean the sons of Zeruiah didn't help David, but they also hurt him.

5.       Solomon, David's son, was the one who finally put Joab to death.

C.     It is not always bad to be powerless.

1.       II Cor. 12:7-10 - Paul received a thorn in the flesh from God, from which he learned that when he was weak, then was he strong.

2.       When Samson depended on his own strength, he failed, but when his hair was cut off and his eyes poked out, he looked at his inner weakness, then lifted his "spirit" eyes to God for strength.


Verse 5, And the LORD said unto Moses, Go on before the people, and take with thee of the elders of Israel; and thy rod, wherewith thou smotest the river, take in thine hand, and go.

I.   Moses instructions.

A.     Continue.

1.       "Before the people" (verse 5).  Although they spoke of stoning him.

2.       When God calls us to a certain task, it is our place to "go on" and God's place to:

a.       Give us the grace (courage) to "go on".

b.       To make sure the efforts are successful.

B.     Take the Elders of Israel.

1.       The very ones who were leading the people against him.

2.       The purpose is to show God's power to those unbelieving elders.

3.       If they will not come, Moses is not responsible and God will take care of them.

C.     Take the rod.

1.       Not for punishment, which would have been justified.

2.       But to show them His power in supplying their needs.

3.       At the Red Sea, the rod was used for the deliverance of Israel and the destruction of Egypt.  The rod will be used again for deliverance.


Verse 6, Behold, I will stand before thee 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.

I.   The miracle.

A.     God will stand before Moses.

1.       Therefore Moses will stand behind God.

2.       Remember the saying, "Stand behind the cross and preach Christ and Him crucified".

3.       Nobody could harm Moses because God would protect him.

4.       People can't hurt us when we do what God says.  They may kill us, but God supplies our needs even in that time.

B.     Moses must stand upon the rock for success.

1.       Matt. 7:24-27 - Build our house upon the Rock.

2.       I Cor. 3:11 - The only foundation is God.

3.       Matt. 16:18 - The rock is Christ.

4.       John 1:42 - Peter is a stone, not the rock (Cornerstone).

C.     Smite the rock (Christ).

1.       Is. 53:4 - Christ was smitten of God.

2.       "Smitten" and "Smite" of Is. 53:4 and Ex. 17:6 is the same Hebrew word, "nakah" meaning to beat, to kill, to slaughter, to murder.

D.     Water from the rock (Christ).

1.       John 4:10-14 - Christ offered the woman at the well "living water".

2.       Since Christ is smitten for us, He alone can give living water.

3.       I Cor. 10:4 - Israel drank of the spiritual rock - Christ.

E.      Water from the rock (literal).

1.       God supplies water when it looks impossible and there is plenty for all.

2.       Some believe this water followed them all the forty years of wandering.  The thought is: since we have living water (salvation) continually, then Israel must have had physical water continually.

3.       I don't see any scripture for this.  Num. 21:18 indicates that at one point of the wanderings the princes of Israel dug a well and God supplied water.

4.       We need to remember that types are never perfect.  They never fit in every degree.  Example:

a.       Gen. 14:17-24, Joseph is a type of Christ, but he was a sinner.

b.       Heb. 7:1-10 - Melchisedec is a type of Christ, but he wasn't perfect.

F.      The picture of mercy.

1.       There was no punishment for their murmurings, but blessings.

2.       God is trying to teach that He can supply all their needs, if they will trust Him.

3.       If they don't learn the lesson God is trying to teach them, He will punish them next time.

4.       It would have been enough if God had showed them a pool of water like He did Hagar, Gen. 21:19, but He did more in showing them the forgiving, all gracious Christ, in addition to supplying the necessary water.  (The picture is: Hagar was lost, so only saw the pool of water.  Israel is "saved", therefore they see "the living water from the Living Rock".  I Cor. 10:4)

G.     The miracles performed in the sight of the Elders of Israel.

1.       All will know it is from God.

2.       The Elders can tell the rest of Israel.

3.       This further confirmed Moses as the leader of the people and that God had His hand on him.


Verse 7, And he called the name of the place Massah, and Meribah, because of the chiding of the children of Israel, and because they tempted the LORD, saying, Is the LORD among us, or not?

I.   Names.

A.     Massah meaning temptation - because they tempted God.

1.       This refers to the testing of God by Israel.

2.       If we are going to test God, let us test him by trusting His promises, not by chiding against the leaders He has placed over us.

3.       This included political leaders.

4.       We don't have to agree with all their agenda, but we must pray that God will lead them to lead our nation so we can live a quiet and peaceful life.

B.     Meribah meaning strife because they chided with Moses.

C.     God intended the people to remember the lessons taught (whether learned or not).

1.       They needed to remember their sin so they wouldn't repeat it.

2.       Future generations would need to learn of this sin and abstain from it.

3.       This sin is brought to Israel's remembrance in:

a.       Num. 20:13,24; 27:14;

b.       Deut 6:16; 9:22; 32:51; 33:8;

c.       Ps. 81:7.


II.   Thoughts of the man, Moses.

A.     This is just one of many incidents that Israel performed against God and Moses.

1.       These rebellions accumulated upon Moses to cause him to strike the rock the second time instead of speaking to it.

2.       See Num. 20:4-13.

3.       This is not an excuse for Moses, but it shows what wickedness we are capable of when provoked by people.

B.     God gave Moses no more room for error than anybody else.

1.       God will hold me as responsible for my sins as He does anybody else.

2.       May God help me not to hold bitterness against people and turn against God's commandments.

3.       May I ever realize that rebels are not fighting me, but God and His Holy Word.

4.       May God help me to use the examples laid down in His Word (like Moses) and may His grace keep me from falling.

5.       He is my only refuge.