God’s Provision And Protection Of Israel


Exodus 17

A. Water from the rock.

1. The congregation of Israel contends with Moses.

‘The whole Israelite community set out from the Desert of Sin, traveling from place to place as the LORD commanded. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. So, they quarrelled with Moses and said, ‘Give us water to drink.’ Moses replied, ‘Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you put the LORD to the test?’ But the people were thirsty for water there, and they grumbled against Moses. They said, ‘Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to make us and our children and livestock die of thirst?’ Then Moses cried out to the LORD,’ What am I to do with these people? They are almost ready to stone me.’ Exodus 17:1-4

a. ‘As the Lord commanded’, but there was no water for the people to drink. At this point, Israel was completely in the will of God, yet there was no water to drink! Just because we are having problems, it doesn’t mean we are out of the will of God.

i. No water for the people to drink, this is not an imaginary problem, the people are right to be concerned. But the people then contended with Moses, showing they responded to the problem in the flesh.

b. Though the people focused their complaint against Moses, Moses understood that their problem was against the Lord. Why do you tempt the Lord?

i. When we have a problem, instead of thinking ‘I’m in a desert, it’s not surprising there isn’t much water here. I need to look to God to meet this need,’ we do what Israel did, we look for someone to blame. But that solved nothing!

c. The lack of water isn’t Moses’ fault, yet as the leader of Israel, he must lead them to the answer. Moses cried out to the Lord.

i. Moses knew the people were being unfair. What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me! but he still had to lead while under the pressure of unfair attack, and he did the right thing in turning to God.

2. God tells Moses how water will be provided.

‘The LORD answered Moses, ‘Go out in front of the people. Take with you some of the elders of Israel and take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. I will stand there before you by the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it for the people to drink.’ So, Moses did this in the sight of the elders of Israel.’ Exodus 17:5-6

a. ‘Go on before the people.’ Moses still had to lead, even in the difficult situation. A leader under attack may find it easy to shrink back from leadership, but God still wants leaders to lead!

b. ‘Take with you some of the elders’. At the same time Moses needed to lead in concert with the men of wisdom the Lord had given Israel.

c. ‘Take in your hand your rod with which you struck the river.’ God had Moses use what had been successful before, this no doubt gave confidence to Moses, to use what had been proven useful.

i. Certainly, Moses couldn’t pick up that rod without remembering the power of God, the confidence he received by picking up the rod was a confidence in God, not himself.

d. ‘Behold, I will stand before you there’. Most importantly, God would be with Moses through this difficult challenge of his leadership Now Moses could lead boldly!

e. ‘Water will come out of it’. The plan made no sense, but Moses had to operate in obedience to God. The wisdom of the plan could only be seen in its ultimate success.

i. God required faith in Moses the leader, to do such a thing in front of the nation and the elders meant Moses had to have a lot of trust in God, think how foolish he would look if it failed!

3. After God provides water, Moses names the place as a rebuke to the children of Israel.

‘And he called the place Massah and Meribah because the Israelites quarrelled and because they tested the LORD saying, ‘Is the LORD among us or not?’ Exodus 17:7

a. Naturally speaking, this rock may have held an artesian spring which God caused to burst forth when Moses struck the rock. To give drink to that many people would have required the Niagara Falls.

b. God remembered the way Israel tested Him at Massah and Meribah, recalling it in Deuteronomy 6:16 ‘Do not put the LORD your God to the test as you did at Massah.’

Deuteronomy 9:22 ‘You also made the LORD angry at Taberah, at Massah and at Kibroth Hattaavah.’

Deuteronomy 33:8 ‘About Levi he said: ‘Your Thummim and Urim belong to your faithful servant. You tested him at Massah; you contended with him at the waters of Meribah’

c. What made this incident so important to God? Because they tempted the Lord saying, ‘Is the Lord among us or not?’ In a time of difficulty, the children of Israel, directly or indirectly, doubted the loving presence and care of God among them

d. Later, when Israel remembered God’s provision in the wilderness at the Feast of Tabernacles, they had a specific ceremony where they recalled this miracle of water from a rock. In that exact context, Jesus said,

‘On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, ‘Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.’ John 7:37-38

i. The living water Jesus spoke of was the Holy Spirit,

John 7:39 ‘By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.’

It is no less miraculous for God to bring the love and power of the Holy Spirit out of our hearts than it is to bring water out of a rock, our hearts can be just as hard!

ii. Jesus was struck with Moses’ rod, the curse of the law, and from Him flows water to satisfy our spiritual thirst.

Let the water and the blood, From Thy riven side which flowed, Be of sin the double cure, Save me from its wrath and power.

B. God brings victory to Israel over the Amalekites.

1. Amalek battles Israel, the power of Moses’ prayer.

‘The Amalekites came and attacked the Israelites at Rephidim. Moses said to Joshua, ‘Choose some of our men and go out to fight the Amalekites. Tomorrow I will stand on top of the hill with the staff of God in my hands.’ So, Joshua fought the Amalekites as Moses had ordered, and Moses, Aaron and Hur went to the top of the hill. As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning.’ Exodus 17:8-11

a. This was an unprovoked attack by Amalek against Israel, Moses calls Joshua to lead the armies of Israel into battle.

i. This is the first mention of Joshua, we find him doing what he does until the time Moses passes from the scene, Joshua is serving Moses Joshua did as Moses said to him.

b. The method of attack used by Amalek was despicable.

Deuteronomy 25:17-18 ‘Remember what the Amalekites did to you along the way when you came out of Egypt. When you were weary and worn out, they met you on your journey and attacked all who were lagging behind; they had no fear of God.’

c. Moses supports the work, behind the scenes, in prayer, the fate of Israel in battle depends on Moses’ intercession.

i. Held up his hand describes the Israelite posture of prayer, as we might bow our heads and fold our hands, when Moses prayed, Israel won, when he stopped praying, Amalek prevailed.

ii. How could this be? How could life or death for Israel depend on the prayers of one man? God wants us to pray with this kind of passion, believing that life and death, perhaps eternally, may depend on our prayer.

iii. In his early days, Moses thought the only way to win a battle was to fight. Now he will let Joshua fight, while he does the more important work, pray for the victory.

2. Moses’ hands are strengthened in prayer.

‘When Moses’ hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up—one on one side, one on the other—so that his hands remained steady till sunset. So, Joshua overcame the Amalekite army with the sword.’ Exodus 17:12-13

a. Aaron and Hur come along side Moses and literally hold his hands up in prayer, they help him and partner with him in intercession.

b. Though this was Moses’ work to do, it was more than he could do, the battle of prayer could not be won by him alone. He needed others to come along side and strengthen him in prayer.

i. Prayer is sometimes easy, other times it is hard work. This is why Paul describes the ministry of Epaphras as always labouring fervently for you in prayers.

Colossians 4:12 ‘Epaphras, who is one of you and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends greetings. He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured.’

And why Paul says we must continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving.

Colossians 4:2 ‘Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful’.

c. Because of this work of prayer, Israel was victorious over Amalek, we are left with no other option than to say if Moses, Aaron, and Hur had not done the work in prayer, the battle would not have been won, and history would have been changed.

i. How much victory is lacking because God’s people will not pray?

d. When Jesus accomplished the greatest victory over Satan, His hands were stretched out.

3. A never-ending battle with Amalek.

‘Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘Write this on a scroll as something to be remembered and make sure that Joshua hears it, because I will completely blot out the name of Amalek from under heaven.’ Moses built an altar and called it The LORD is my Banner. He said, ‘Because hands were lifted up against the throne of the LORD, the LORD will be at war against the Amalekites from generation to generation.’ Exodus 17:14-16

a. Because of God’s strong command to battle against Amalek until they are completely conquered, many see the Amalekites as a picture of our flesh, which constantly battles against the spirit and must be struggled against until completely conquered.

‘For the flesh desires, what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are against each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want.’ Galatians 5:17

b. Though Moses knew his prayer was important, he wasn’t foolish enough to think that he had won the battle, in worship, he builds and altar and praises the name of ‘Yahweh-Nissi, that is to say, The Lord is My Banner.

i. Nissi refers to a flag or a banner, this is idea of God, victorious in battle. The same word is used of the serpent on the pole in Numbers 21:8-9

‘The LORD said to Moses, ‘Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.’ So, Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, they lived.’

ii. Psalm 60:4 ‘But for those who fear you, you have raised a banner to be unfurled against the bow.’

Isaiah 11:10 ‘In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his resting place will be glorious.’

c. Israel was disobedient to the command to constantly war against Amalek in the days of Saul, this was the primary act of disobedience that cost Saul the throne.

1 Samuel 15:2-9 ‘This is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘I will punish the Amalekites for what they did to Israel when they waylaid them as they came up from Egypt. Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy all that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.’ So, Saul summoned the men and mustered them at Telaim—two hundred thousand-foot soldiers and ten thousand from Judah. Saul went to the city of Amalek and set an ambush in the ravine. Then he said to the Kenites, ‘Go away, leave the Amalekites so that I do not destroy you along with them; for you showed kindness to all the Israelites when they came up out of Egypt.’ So, the Kenites moved away from the Amalekites. Then Saul attacked the Amalekites all the way from Havilah to Shur, near the eastern border of Egypt. He took Agag king of the Amalekites alive, and all his people he totally destroyed with the sword. But Saul and the army spared Agag and the best of the sheep and cattle, the fat calves and lambs—everything that was good. These they were unwilling to destroy completely, but everything that was despised and weak they totally destroyed.’

1 Samuel 28:18 ‘Because you did not obey the LORD or carry out his fierce wrath against the Amalekites, the LORD has done this to you today.’



"Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground."

Genesis 1:26