17:1 All the congregation of the sons of Israel moved on within the Sin desert by stages, according to the LORD’s commandment, and camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. 2 So the people protested against Moses and said, “Give us water to drink.” And Moses asked them, “Why are you protesting against me? Why are you testing the LORD?” 3 But the people were thirsty for water there, and the people protested against Moses and asked, “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt, only to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?” 4 So Moses cried out to the LORD, “What should I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me.” 5 And the LORD said to Moses, “Get out in front of the people, taking with you some of the elders of Israel, and take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and walk. 6 See, I will stand in front of you there on the rock at Horeb, and you will strike the rock, and water shall come out of it, and the people will drink.” And Moses did it, in the sight of the elders of Israel. 7 And he called the name of the place Massah and Meribah, because of the protest of the people of Israel, and because they tested the LORD by asking, “Is the LORD among us or not?”
strike the rock
Moses was in trouble again. The sons of Israel had once again been led to a place of testing, a place with no water in sight. They protested against Moses, and were ready to pick up stones and get political. They had even begun to ask if the LORD was even present among them. That was a stupid question. Didn’t they follow a miraculous cloud/fire thing every day? Didn’t they wake up to fresh manna flakes and milk for every breakfast? Of course God was present. But there’s no calmly explaining reality to a mob. These people are out for blood. Somebody was going to pay for this.
So, what does God instruct Moses to do? Get this; it is important:
- First, Moses, I want you to go for a walk, out in front of all the people so they can see you. I want them to see what happens, because it will be significant.
- Take with you a select group of elders. These guys represent the whole community of Israel. By their being there, the people will understand that the action you take will be that of the whole community.
- Take that staff in your hand too. Remember that staff that you used to strike the Nile River with. You had executed my judgment upon the Nile god by striking the Nile with that staff. Now you are going to execute judgment on someone else by striking an object which represents him.
- Keep going, and I will lead you to a rock, at the base of the mountain, here in the Sin desert. The mountain will be the big one here at Sin – Sinai, also called Horeb. Now, watch, because I am going to “stand in front of you there on the rock” (6). In other words, the rock now symbolizes my presence among you.
- OK, strike the rock, and water will flow from it for the people.
I’m not sure that anybody got it at the time. They were probably so delighted to see flowing water again that all they could think about was that miracle. But behind the miracle was a God who was willing to take upon himself the iniquity of his people. Christ was that Rock. He allowed himself to become the substitute for his people’s sin.
LORD, thank you for the Rock, who allowed himself to be struck for us, even while we were rebelling against Him.
 1 Corinthians 10:4.