The Hebrews continued to journey according to the commandment of the Lord. They were led by the pillar of cloud and fire; and yet they came to a place called Rephidim, where there was no water for them to drink. Sometimes we may be in the way of our duty, and yet we may still meet with troubles. The Lord’s Providence brings us into these troubles for the strengthening of our faith, and in order that He may be glorified in our deliverance.
When the people found themselves without water for the second time on their trip, they began to question whether or not the Lord was really with them. This was later referred to as “tempting God,” which signified distrust of Him after they had already received such amazing proofs of His power and goodness (Ps. 95:8, 9). Nevertheless, He mercifully and graciously helped the people, despite their complaining and murmuring against Him and His servant Moses. How wonderful is the patience and forbearance of God toward sinners who provoke Him! In order to show His power as well as His pity, and in order to make this a miracle of mercy, He gave the thirsty Hebrews water out of a rock. He can open fountains of water anywhere for us – even in the desert, where we least expect them. Those who follow His way in the wilderness of this world may trust Him to provide for them.
This miracle teaches us that we must always depend upon Christ’s grace. The Apostle says, “That Rock was Christ” (1 Cor. 10:4). It was a picture or a foreshadowing of Him. We richly deserved to have the curse of God executed upon our guilty souls, and yet we behold the Son of God being smitten for us! And out of Him, there is a constant and abundant supply of the water of life. Let us ask for this water, and we shall surely receive it. As numerous as believers are, the supply of grace in Christ is enough for them all. The water flowed from the rock in streams, to refresh the Hebrews in the wilderness; and this water of grace flows from Christ, through His ordinances, into the barren wilderness of this world, to refresh our souls until we come home to glory!
While the Hebrews were encamped at Rephidim, the Amalekites came and attacked them, making it necessary for them to engage in battle for their own self-defense. Joshua led the men and fought with the enemy, while Moses prayed; but both services were necessary. Moses’ rod was held up as the banner to encourage the Hebrew defenders; and it was also held up to God, in an appeal to Him. But Moses grew tired. Interestingly, we do not find that Joshua’s hands grew weary in fighting, but Moses’ hands did grow weary in praying; for the more spiritual any service is, the more inclined we are to slacken in it. To convince the people that the hand and rod of Moses (whom they had just recently been chiding) did more for their safety than their own hands and swords, their success in battle rose and fell in accordance with Moses lifting up or letting down his praying hands. In the same way, the Church’s cause is more or less successful, in accordance with the faithfulness and fervor of her people in prayer.
Aaron and Hur assisted Moses in holding up his hands in prayer to God, and then they were steady until the sundown. It was a great encouragement for the people to see Joshua before them in the field of battle, and Moses above them on the hill. But Christ fills the place of both characters to us! He is our Joshua – the Captain of our salvation, Who fights our battles. And He is also our Moses – Who always makes intercession for us above, and keeps our faith from failing.
The Lord caused the battle to end that day in the favor of His own people. Weapons formed against His children cannot and will not prosper for very long, and they shall be broken at last. God told Moses to write down what Amalek had done against Israel. These things were never to be forgotten, nor were the things that God had done for Israel in saving them. Amalek’s destruction was a picture of the fall of all of the enemies of Christ and His Church.
The Lord swore that He would have war with Amalek from generation to generation. It is interesting to fast forward through the Old Testament history and take note of the fact that 400 years after this battle, the Lord sent Saul on a mission to execute Divine vengeance upon the Amalekites; but it was on this assignment that Saul disobeyed the Lord and spared the best of the Amalekites’ animals. His failure to exterminate the Amalekites nearly resulted in the annihilation of the Jewish nation in general, but the Lord’s Providence saved the day. For it was an Amalekite by the name of Haman who proposed to wipe out the entire offspring of Abraham in the days of the Persian king Ahasuerus – not merely because he had a personal grudge against Mordecai; but chiefly because the deep-seated hatred of the prince of darkness rested in Haman’s heart, and so he endeavored to deal out the final blow of revenge that would crush the people of God once and for all. If Haman’s plot had succeeded, this would also have ultimately prevented the birth of Messiah – the Promised Seed of the Woman – which would have left the whole world without hope of salvation forever! But thanks be to God, He Providentially raised up Esther and Mordecai to counteract the schemes of wicked Haman, to execute His justice upon the Amalekites (even though it was 1000 years in coming in its full measure), and to bring His purposes to victorious completion!
Lord Jesus, You are the smitten rock to our souls; may our eyes gaze with wonder and delight as we behold Your ever-flowing, over-flowing stream of grace! We beseech You to pour out the water of life upon us throughout me the entirety of our journey through the wilderness of this world. Amen.
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painting by John Everett Millais, 1871