This is a most interesting Chapter, and when explained to us by the gospel as it is in the outlines of it by one of the apostles, serves to show how much redemption work occupied the divine mind, when in so many ages before its accomplishment, Christ was held forth to the Church in type and figure. Here therefore, let the Reader particularly keep in view, that Moses wrote of Jesus. The children of Israel in their journeying through the wilderness, depart from Sin and arrive at Rephidim. Murmurings again break forth in the camp from the want of water. Moses cries to God. God causeth water to issue from the rock. After this the host of Amalek comes forth to obstruct Israel; but is defeated. God commands Moses to record this event in a book. These are the contents of this Chapter.
Reader! Keep in view, that this journeying of Israel was according to the commandment of the Lord, and under the direction of the pillar of cloud: and yet they wanted water. So is it in our spiritual warfare; the very path the Lord appoints may be a thorny path. Psalms 107:4-6.
Sad instance of renewed rebellion. Reader! do not overlook what Paul saith of this: 1 Corinthians 10:6-11. The expression of tempting the Lord is a strong one. It should seem by the impious question which is mentioned in Exodus 17:7, but they questioned whether the Lord was with them or not. Reader! pause over this account and say, is it possible that they could so question after experiencing such a series of mercies, and being still under the light of the cloudy pillar by day, and surrounded by the fiery pillar by night? But while looking at Israel, look also within, and see whether traces of the same rebellion and unbelief be not there? 1 Corinthians 10:9; 1Co_10:12.
Peter explains to us, how such conduct towards God's servants comes under the sin of tempting the Lord. Acts 5:3-9.
Observe the plan of Moses; he seeks relief in prayer. Reader! may you and I imitate him in the provocations of life. When men reproach God will comfort; and if they will not hear, God will. Psalms 55:22.
Reader! observe with due meditation and thankfulness, the forbearance and long-suffering of the Lord. Remark also his kindness to his servant Moses. So God always will protect his people. Ezekiel 2:6; Jeremiah 1:8; Acts 18:9-10. Observe also, that in the mercy God intended the people, the elders were to be witnesses by whose power it was wrought.
Here opens to our view the Lord Jesus, in his manifestations to his church and people. Paul's authority under the Holy Ghost is enough to certify the point, This rock he tells us expressly was Christ. 1 Corinthians 10:4. And here we behold the first openings of that river, whose streams ever since hath made glad the city of God. Psalms 46:4. With what rapture is this event spoken of and referred to, in the after ages of the church? Psalms 78:15-16; Psa_114:8; Deuteronomy 32:13; Isaiah 43:19-20. But how sweet is this blessed subject spiritually considered. God our Father hath given us this rock, Christ Jesus: and it hath pleased him that in him should all fulness dwell. And are not all the graces of the Holy Ghost like rivers of living water, flowing to us in and through Christ Jesus? John 7:38-39; Joh_4:14. Historians tell us that this rock in Rephidim still remains in the valley. No doubt the Israelites contrived, that the streams flowing from this rock should have channels to run in. For it is said to have followed them wherever they went in the wilderness.
Massah means temptation, and Meribah strife. Monuments of mercy should be set up accompanied with monuments of our unworthiness. Psalms 81:7. David refers to this: Psalms 95:8-9.
The origin of Amalek we find in Genesis 14:7. Observe Amalek is the first of the nations to oppose God's people, and remark his latter end; Numbers 24:20. Is not this also to be spiritually considered? Amalek is of the seed of Esau, in whom there is a natural hatred. Galatians 4:29.
Is not Joshua a type of the Lord Jesus and particularly in this instance?
Perhaps Moses displayed this wonder-working rod in the sight of the people to animate them; as if he had called to Israel to look at it, and be strong. Psalms 20:3.
Moses was both a standard bearer and an intercessor for Israel, and as such represented the Lord Jesus. Isaiah 55:4.
If we consider this in a spiritual sense, it will teach us how faint and frail our nature is in all its best soul exercises. Joshua was not faint that we read of in fighting, but yet Moses was, in holding up his hands in prayer. Reader! what an encouraging thought is that of God our Father? Isaiah 40:28-31. And what a precious thought is that respecting the Lord Jesus Christ? Hebrews 7:24-25. Doth not Aaron and Hur suggest to us, how Jesus by his support, and the Holy Ghost by his reviving influences, stay up the drooping minds of the Lord's people?
Observe how victory is ascribed to Joshua. Perhaps eminently upon this consideration, that he was a type of our spiritual Joshua, who fights all our battles, and makes us more than conquerors through his grace helping us. Revelation 12:11.
This is the first memorial commanded to be made of God's dealing, with his people; and a most memorable one it is. I wish that every child of God would keep it in remembrance, for what doth it express but this, that God's promise is confirmed by God's oath. He will finally destroy our spiritual Amalek, that is the devil; with whom his church shall have war from generation to generation. Hebrews 6:17-19.
Jehovah nissi means, the Lord my banner. Song of Solomon 2:4.
See this prediction fulfilled in the historical sense of it. 1 Samuel 15:2-3 compared with 1 Samuel 30:1-17, and again: 2 Samuel 8:12. And it is worthy remark, that after this period we never read so much as the name of Amalek, in the word of God, as a nation then existing.
Reader! while you and I pause over the relation of Israel's unaccountable conduct, and from the part we bear in this wonderful history, feeling the same sources of unbelief, disobedience and murmuring, in ourselves, as we behold in them, which are the sad consequences of a fallen nature; may we seek grace to avoid their sin, that we may not come under their reproaches. But as we have authority to conclude that all these things happened unto them for our example, may a gracious God afford us these improvements from them, lest while we think we stand we are found to fall.
But above all other improvements from the perusal of this chapter, oh! let me leave everything to contemplate the view it gives me of the Lord Jesus Christ. In the smitten rock, may my soul lose sight of everything but Jesus. May my eye gaze with wonder and delight on what I there discover, until the ever-flowing, over-flowing stream fills my ravished heart. Dearest and ever-blessed Jesus! do thou both supply me now, and follow me through the whole of this wilderness state, as thou didst the church of old; making glad the city of our God in all ages. May I behold thee as the stone smitten by the rod of Moses, answering all the demands of God's righteous laws for me, and flowing both in atoning and regenerating supplies for all the wants of my soul. And oh! do thou, who alone canst smite the rocky heart of sinners, and convert the flinty stone into a fountain of waters, subdue all the stubbornness of my nature. Conquer and subdue in me and for me all the Amalekites of my salvation. Work in me both to will and to do of thy good pleasure, until grace comes to be consummated in glory, and my poor faculties are all brought into a state suited to the everlasting employment, of singing praises to God and the Lamb.
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Exodus 17". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany