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Salvation Stories in the OT: God – Our Source of Living Water

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.

1 Corinthians 10:3-4 NLT

The Israelites rescued from Egypt

Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt. God directed their path along the desert road toward the Red Sea. Then God miraculously divided the sea so they could walk on dry ground before destroying the Egyptian army chasing them. Their next steps took them into the desert, where the water was bitter. They grumbled, and God told Moses how to sweeten the water to make it safe for them to drink. Next, they settled in an area that had no food. The Israelites grumbled again, preferring Egypt’s hard labor but rich foods to freedom in the desert. God again provided for their needs, quail and manna.

Grumbling because they had no water

Once again, the nation traveled to Rephidim, their last stop before reaching Sinai, but again had no water. The Israelites, forgetting how God had provided for them, grumbled again, judging Moses and possibly judging God. Moses seeks help from God. Notice the instructions.

The Lord answered Moses, “Go on ahead of the people and take some of the elders of Israel with you. Take the staff you struck the Nile with in your hand and go. I am going to stand there in front of you on the rock at Horeb; when you hit the rock, water will come out of it and the people will drink.” Moses did this in the sight of the elders of Israel. 

Exodus 17:5-6 CSB

God says to take the staff. This is the shepherd’s crook in Moses’ hand when God called him to lead the nation of Israel. That same staff became a snake when thrown on the ground. This is the instrument of judgment that Moses’ used in the plagues. The staff represents authority and is used to inflict pain, the penalty executed in judgment.

The Rock that Followed

Then God says He will stand in front of Moses on the rock. The rock and surrounding area have become a courtroom. It is as if God is on trial. The elders are present with Moses. Moses is instructed to strike the rock where God is standing. Obviously, God is not guilty, but He stands there to receive the blow from the staff. Water flows from the rock – the water of life!

What does water gushing from the rock mean

We use scripture to interpret scripture. God is the Rock of Israel:

  • “the Shepherd, the Rock of Israel” Genesis 49:24
  • “He is the Rock; his deeds are perfect.” Deuteronomy 32:4
  • “The Lord is my rock, my fortress” Psalm 18:2a
  • “my God is my rock, in whom I find protection” Psalm 18:2b
  • “Then they remembered that God was their rock” Psalm 78:35
  • “You are my Father, my God, and the Rock of my salvation.” Psalm 89:26
  • “Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation.” Psalm 95:1

In the New Testament, Paul sheds more light on this rock, explaining in 1 Corinthians 10:3 – 5 that they drank from a spiritual rock, and that Rock was Jesus.

“In keeping with this imagery, the rock that Moses struck with his rod was a symbol of God and his salvation. In particular, it showed how God would submit to the blow of his own justice so that out of him would flow life for his people.”

Philip Graham Ryken and R. Kent Hughes, Exodus: Saved for God’s Glory (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2005), 455–456.

Jesus takes the rod of judgment for all of us. Isaiah 53 says this: “Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted.”

The Gospel

When Moses strikes the rock, life-giving water flows into the desert. We hear the echo from John’s gospel where Jesus tells the woman at the well, “‘Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.'” Like that woman, we exclaim, “Sir, give us that water that we may never be thirsty again!” Jesus teaches later that one evidence of our salvation is the living water overflowing in us, meaning the Spirit of God. As the Spirit of God is watering our life, our lives will produce the fruit of the Spirit, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

The imagery of Moses striking the rock and water gushing forth is a picture of God’s mercy towards a grumbling people and His grace in providing for them not just water to drink but “living” water as they put their faith in Him!

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