And the Lord said to Moses, “Pass on before 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 go. Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb, and you shall strike the rock, and water shall come out of it, and the people will drink.” And Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel.
Exodus 17:5-6 (ESV)
A quick reading of this passage may not give the reader any indication that it’s a picture of the role that the Messiah would play for future generations. But the rock gave up water. A ROCK gave up WATER! That doesn’t happen short of a miracle. A miracle of provision. They were roaming through a dry and weary desert. The people were thirsty. And what did God do? He provided for their deepest needs. God rescued them in a desperate hour. That’s exactly what the Messiah would do. Not necessarily in a physical sense, but for a far greater need.
Check out what God said to Moses when He was giving him instruction. God said, “Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb.” God was in their midst. God was on the rock. In fact, God was pictured in the rock itself because that rock was a picture of the Christ.
For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea,and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea,and all ate the same spiritual food,and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ.
1 Corinthians 10:1-4 (ESV)
The rock from this passage is the same rock from the book of Exodus. If you were thinking that I was stretching it by claiming that a rock pictured the Christ, scripture itself states it. It’s actually a beautiful picture. A rock that gives forth water to a people desperate for it. Have you ever been dreadfully thirsty, like to the point of going crazy and feeling like your mouth is full of sand? That first drink of water is one of the most refreshing and life-giving experiences. That’s a great way to think about the Messiah. His mission is to give life and to refresh the soul. That’s why the Rock of Horeb is such a powerful image of the Messiah. That’s why Jesus Christ is called the Rock that Israel drank from in the desert.
This prophecy is about more than just the rock. It’s about the flowing water. The imagery of water is used repeatedly throughout the Bible to describe the Messiah and a relationship between Him and His followers. Jesus showed this in His conversation with the Samaritan woman at the well. During the course of Jesus’ discussion with her, He pointed out her need for what He came into the world to offer. He did that by helping her to see that where she was looking for meaning was a dead end. Because they were at a well, Jesus used it as a powerful illustration of His purpose and mission.
Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water [from the well] will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
John 4:13-14 (ESV) [my emphasis/addition]
Physical water can only sustain a person for so long, just like the waters from the rock in the wilderness. But that water pointed to a greater water that satisfies an eternal and spiritual thirst. Not only does it satisfy the believer, but it also changes the way they interact in life.
Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’”
John 7:38 (ESV)
The Messiah is an oasis in a dry and wasted land. He is the source of a miracle, the provision we all need. And that’s exactly the climate that Yeshua stepped into. Most of the world was controlled by despotic regimes. Persecution was rampant. True religion had been distorted by human constructs. Corruption was a commonality among all people groups. The world was arid and thirsty for living water. Sounds like our world today doesn’t it?
Many people don’t even realize what they’re thirsty for. We all have an inclination that something is missing. We all have a basic awareness of a need but we are quite sure how to meet it. Just like the woman from the well that we talked about earlier. She looked for it in the opposite sex. Failed relationship after failed relationship couldn’t quench her thirst. It wasn’t until Jesus met her and led her into the discovery of the underlying problem. We need the life-giving water from the Rock. This world is a desert, with nothing to offer for our deepest needs. The Messiah appears in our desert to offer springs of living water, as a gift of God’s grace.
God stood on the Rock of Horeb as a symbol that He was the source and the life-giver. It wasn’t until the rock was struck that the water poured forth for the people to drink. Yeshua, our Rock in the desert, was also struck as He hung upon a cross. It was blood and water that poured out of His body. That death is what provided the spiritual life we all need. The Messiah was God’s gift our the desert. Come and drink!
And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment.
Revelation 21:6 (ESV)