Photo by Pablo Heimplatz on Unsplash
Read Exodus 17:1-7
3 And the people thirsted there for water, and the people complained against
Moses, and said, “Why is it you have brought us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?”
5 And the LORD said to Moses, “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. 6 Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock in Horeb; and you shall strike the rock, and water will come out of it, that the people may drink.”
This familiar story in the travels of the Israelites has some important lessons for us today about what it means when we say that God is in control, and how what that really means to us as we face our own challenges today. I have been hearing a lot of people saying this recently during these chaotic times in our nation. Of course it is true that ultimately God is in control, but the reality for us is far more complicated than that. Let’s explore this a bit shall we?
Leadership is very important when people are engaged in challenges. There is no doubt that leadership is necessary, and we never want to underestimate the importance of a good leader. But we should never forget that EVERYONE is also responsible for their own actions, and that everyone must be held accountable for the things that they do. This is an important sidebar in times of trouble, and particularly in times when we are choosing leaders for the future.
When it come to matters of morality, and in our faith, it is good to take a moment to ask ourselves who are leaders really are. Consider if you will for a moment this very familiar story in Exodus chapter 17. Most of us might say that Moses is the leader here, and he is to a certain degree. But the person who is really in charge is not Moses but God.
Verse 1 tells us that it was God would set the course, and told them where to camp. We might also note the it was God and not Moses who had the incredible idea to go to a rock in order to find water. This small change in thinking can help us to understand something very important about walking with God. God is in control! And because He is in control it is ultimately up to HIM to take care of us. It is God that lead us beside still waters, and restores our souls. However He can only lead us as far as we are willing to follow Him.
The huge assumption here is that all of us, leaders and followers, have to do what God tells us to do in order for this to work. When we get this right, when our leaders are hearing from GOD, and we are following their lead, our needs will be met. God has a responsibility to us as much as we do to Him. There are three elements to success here.
God, leadership, and the people.
Later after the death of Moses when Joshua begins to lead
Israel, God teaches him a similar lesson. ‘I have chosen you to lead the people. I am FOR you, and the people will never lack anything as long as you follow me, and they follow you’.
Joshua 5:13 And it came to pass, when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted up his eyes and looked, and, behold, there stood a man over against him with his sword drawn in his hand: and Joshua went unto him, and said unto him, Art thou for us, or for our adversaries?
Joshua 5:14 And he said, Nay; but as captain of the host of the LORD am I now come. And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and did worship, and said unto him, What saith my lord unto his servant?
Here is a lesson we need to learn early in walking with Jesus. When God comes to you, he does not come to choose sides, He comes to take over. I cannot over emphasize this point. People tend to think that they can choose sides on an issue, then invoke God’s power to help them win a battle. God does not have to choose sides, He is in control.
It is up to you to choose to follow him. However, when you do choose God( all the resources of heaven and earth are at your disposal. (That is, as long as you obey his commands and his voice).
Joshua didn’t recognize that this ‘Angel of the Lord‘ was actually a manifestation of God Himself. (God looked like a man). Joshua being the warrior that he was pulls out his weapon, and asks the man; ‘Who are you? Are you on our side, or the side of our enemy’? Then the Lord says; Neither! But if you are on God’s side, you need to indicate that to me right now. Show me that you are with us by taking off your shoes. You are standing on holy ground’! Of course Joshua bows down to show his intent to follow God’s commandments. Good thing too, because he would have surely lost that battle fighting God.
People love to talk about how God is on OUR side, but we don’t talk nearly enough about whether or not we are on HIS! Remember God chose us.
Matthew 22:14 For many are called, but few are chosen.
There are consequences when God call a people and the people do not answer. Consider Jer. 7:12-15.
Jeremiah 7:12-15 12 “But go now to My place which was in Shiloh, where I set My name at the first, and see what I did to it because of the wickedness of My people Israel. 13 And now, because you have done all these works,” says the LORD, “and I spoke to you, rising up early and speaking, but you did not hear, and I called you, but you did not answer, 14 therefore I will do to the house which is called by My name, in which you trust, and to this place which I gave to you and your fathers, as I have done to Shiloh. 15 And I will cast you out of My sight, as I have cast out all your brethren—the whole posterity of Ephraim.
We used to sing a song that says; ‘What you need, God’s got it. He’s got everything you need’! That is true, but we can’t have access to the things God has for us if we are not willing to do what he asks us to do.
The text scripture in Exodus chapter 17 is a case in point. Hundreds of thousands of people were wandering in the wilderness, on their way to a promised land they had never seen. All they had was a promise, and a leader in Moses. Now they were thirsty and were no longer near water. When panic sets in we humans tend to abandon plans, threaten God given leaders, and forget that it was GOD that set us on the pathway to victory.
Moses fearing for his life goes to God and tells Him what He of course already knows. ‘The people need water and they about to kill ME because they can’t see you’. How soon we forget that God is in control. And because He is in control it is HIS responsibility to meet our needs.
When you need water the LAST place you might look for it is in a rock. This fact was not lost in God, so God placed some rocks, (among other necessities) in their pathway, and gave them special instructions. This extraordinary rock held hundreds of thousands of gallons in it’s core, but it had been instructed not to release a drop until a certain man would access it with a certain key. The key to the water inside was that Moses would strike this rock with his rod. The rock would then respond by hydrating all the people and their livestock! Look at GOD!
Although there were many people there, God only entrusted Moses with the key. So, yes leadership is important, but remember that the miracles come from God. So maybe we can let our leaders off the hook a little, just enough to refocus on God’s responsibilities to all of us. Good leaders may be in front of us, but we should all know that it is God that makes the way when leadership does what He asks them us to do.
But wait! Leaders are not really off the hook at all. We find a similar situation in Numbers 20:10-11. Again, the Israelites were lacking water, but this time Moses doesn’t exactly shine. Perhaps he was grieving the death of his sister Miriam. Perhaps the people were getting on his nerves. Perhaps he was tired from the journey. Whatever the reason, he didn’t do what God told him to do. It’s almost as if Moses was telling God, ‘I got this one. I’ll handle this my way this time’.
This time God instructed Moses to speak to the rock this time. Instead, Moses struck the rock, not once but twice. Sure, the people got their water, but Moses lost his chance to go into the promised land with them. That was a huge price to pay for not following God’s instructions.
So why did God choose a rock to give the people water? And why did He tell Moses to speak to the rock here, and strike it earlier? I believe the answer is found in symbolism. Everyone knows that Jesus is the Rock of our Salvation right?
1 Corinthians 10:4 And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.
Jesus Christ was smitten, (struck, slapped, humiliated), at the cross. His broken body and his shed blood were the price for our redemption. But, he did not have to die twice in order for our salvation to be complete for eternity.
Now in order to access Him, and all the power that He has, all we have to do is speak to Him. If we simply do this, and listen to His voice we will always have what we need. Remember, HE is in control, and that means that He is responsible for giving us what we need on our journey.
Romans 10:13 13 For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.
There is much to unpack here but let me conclude by telling you that the same principles apply today. We are all on a journey. We all have leaders. And the plan of the enemy to knock us ALL off course. Still these lessons learned from the rocks can help us with any of our decisions at OUR times of need.
Lift up your rod!
The rod of Moses represented the authority that he had with God. It represented the Covenant, the Word, and God’s power. All of us have power with God. We need to learn to life up that authority in the Name of Jesus.
Lift up the Word of God. Speak to your situation.
Go to the Rock!
We have to learn to speak the Word. We also have the power of prayer, and supplication. You as a child of God have the right to make your requests known to God. Ultimately it is Him who has the responsibility to you His child.
There may be a few steps, miles, or even countries between your next rock decision, but remember that GOD IS IN CONTROL! Don’t let ‘The Rock’ (that is Jesus Christ), be the LAST place you go when you need life sustaining strength and power! Let’s let Him have His way!
I can Do all things through Christ who Strengthens me.
I am the Head and not the Tail.
He will supply all my need according to His riches by Christ Jesus.
He has given me Power over the enemy.
I am Healed by his Stripes.
I am Made clean and righteous by His Blood. I will overcome by the word of my Testimony and by the blood of the Lamb He will cool the fire just for me. He will stop the mouths of the hungry lions for my sake. I am His child and He is My Father, and He will take care of ME!
Bishop Horace Ransom Jr. is the Senior Pastor and Founder of New Covenant Church International in Detroit, Michigan. He is a Jurisdictional Bishop and serves on the Board of Presbytery for the Jabula International Network, North America. Bishop Ransom is an outstanding teacher of the Word of God with a passion for challenging believers to become the best that they can be. Faith, Purpose and the Kingdom of God are frequently the subject matter of his dissertation.