Christ – The Smitten Rock

| by | Scripture: Exodus 17:1-7 | Series:

When Moses was commanded by God to smite the Rock to bring forth streams of water for the thirsty Israelites, God was enacting a divine drama. He was illustrating the truth that Christ, our Rock, would be smitten by God on the cross to bring forth the Holy Spirit, who is the rivers of the water of life!

Christ – The Smitten Rock

Exodus 17:1-6


This morning we rejoin the children of Israel as they are journeying through the wilderness on to the Promised Land.  They have been redeemed by the blood of the lamb, so that God’s judgment has passed over them. They have been delivered from their enemies by God’s mighty right hand and outstretched arm. They are being led by the pillar of cloud by day and fire by night. God has sweetened the bitter waters at Marah, and rained down bread from heaven to feed this vast multitude day by day. And, of course, all of these historical experiences mirror our spiritual experience as children of God.  We have been redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ. We have been delivered from our spiritual enemies of sin, Satan, and death by the mighty power of God. We have been led on our spiritual journey by the ministry of the Holy Spirit. The Lord has provided all our spiritual needs. He has fed us day by day on the Person and Work of Jesus Christ.


However, all of this just brings us to Rephidim.  Verse 1 says they journeyed by stages from the wilderness of Sin, and camped at Rephidim.  Notice that they journeyed according to the command of the Lord. The Lord was leading them with the pillar of cloud and fire. He took them to Rephidim. And when they got there, what did they find? No water!  This sounds almost like an instant replay of what we have in Exodus 15:22, about six weeks earlier. You will recall that at that time the people grumbled at Moses. We were told in Exodus 15:25 that God was testing them. Well, the children of Israel flunked that pop quiz. They didn’t trust God. Instead they grumbled in unbelief.  In spite of their sinful reaction, God had mercy upon them, and directed Moses to throw a tree into the waters at Marah, and those waters changed from bitter to sweet. Now all the people could drink freely.


So, did the children of Israel learn their lesson once and for all about not grumbling, but trusting the Lord when things were difficult? Not hardly! The very next chapter tells us that they came to the wilderness of Sin, and the whole congregation grumbled against Moses and Aaron (16:2). But again, God had mercy on them, and instead of raining fire and brimstone down upon them, rained down bread from heaven to feed them.  Remember, that God was giving enough manna every day to fill 10 trains, each carrying 30 cars, each car carrying 15 tons of food!  God’s lavish grace is amazing!


So, when we come to Exodus 17, we assume that surely the sons of Israel had finally learned their lesson about not grumbling, but instead trusting the Lord. Right? Wrong! Notice Exodus 17:2-4, “Therefore the people quarreled with Moses and said, “Give us water that we may drink.” And Moses said to them, ‘Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the Lord?’ But the people thirsted there for water; and they grumbled against Moses and said, ‘Why, now, have you brought us up from Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?’ So Moses cried out to the Lord, saying, ‘What shall I do to this people? A little more and they will stone me.”  It seems that the children of Israel went further in their murmurings this time than ever before. They were so angry and frustrated that they were threatening to stone Moses. Of course we can understand their frustration. Here they are, two to three million of them, out in the wilderness and there is no water to be had anywhere. Unless they found water soon, they would all die slow agonizing deaths.  Verse 7 says, “He named the place Massah (test) and Meribah (quarrel) because of the quarrel of the sons of Israel, and because they tested the Lord, saying, ‘Is the Lord among us, or not?’”  Their faith seems to be at an all time low!  When troubles came, their faith went out the window. They are wondering whether God is even with them, because of this trial. Hadn’t God already proved time and time again that He was with them?  He had brought the plagues on Egypt. He had parted the Red Sea and destroyed their enemies. He had led them with a pillar of cloud and fire. He had sweetened the bitter waters. He had provided 4,500 tons of manna every day for the people. God had proven Himself faithful. But still they grumbled against Moses and the Lord.


Now, we read these stories and we scratch our heads! How could they commit the same sin of unbelief and ingratitude again and again? Why aren’t they learning their lesson? Why haven’t they passed the test by now? But just ask yourself whether you haven’t committed the same sin many times. Have you learned your lesson? Have you passed all your tests? Of course you haven’t! None of us have. But the Lord is so patient, and faithful and kind.


This morning we are going to look at The Rock, then the Smitten Rock, and then the Water From the Smitten Rock.


1. The Rock


As in so many of the people and events in the Old Testament, this one was a type, a picture of Christ. We know that because the apostle Paul tells us that in no uncertain terms in 1 Corinthians 10:1-4, “For I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, 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 were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ.”  The first thing we should observe is that the rock was Christ.


The Rock Is A Title for Jehovah.  Often in Scripture Jehovah is referred to as the Rock.


Deut. 32:3-4, “For I proclaim the name of the Lord; ascribe greatness to our God! The Rock! His work is perfect, for all His ways are just; a God of faithfulness and without injustice, righteous and upright is He.”


Deuteronomy 32:18, “You neglected the Rock who begot you, And forgot the God who gave you birth.”


Hannah prayed in 1 Samuel 2:2,  “There is no one holy like the LORD, Indeed, there is no one besides You, Nor is there any rock like our God.”


David composed a song in 2 Samuel 22:2-3, “The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; My God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold and my refuge; My savior, You save me from violence.”


Psalms 19:14,  “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart Be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, my rock and my Redeemer.”


The New Testament tells us that Christ is a Rock. Romans 9:33 says, “Behold, I lay in Zion a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense, and he who believes in Him will not be disappointed.”


And on and on we could go quoting one passage after another where God is called a Rock.  Now, why would Jehovah be referred to as a Rock?


A Rock Provides Safety.  Isaiah 33:16 speaks of “the impregnable rock”, referring to the protection a massive rock provides from enemies.  Listen to how David speaks of the Lord in Psalm 18:2, “The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, My God, my rock, in whom I take refuge; My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.”  David lumps “rock”, “fortress”, “refuge”, “shield”, and “fortress” all together to describe the Lord.  This imagery reminds me of the rock castles in England and Ireland in medieval times. There was the towering castle made of thick rock, and the tower to spy out the enemies, and the surrounding wall, and the moat, all of which to protect the people from invaders. The Lord is an impregnable Rock. Satan can’t get to us without going through the Lord first. No trial, or suffering, or temptation can come against us unless the Lord permits it for His glory and our good.  He is a Rock of protection.


A Rock Provides Stability.  Jesus said that those who hear His words and acts on them will be like a man who built his house on the rock. When the rain fell and the floods came and the winds blew and slammed against that house, it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. If you want to build your life on something that is absolutely stable and immovable, then build your life on Jesus Christ!  The old hymn said it well, “On Christ the Solid Rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand. All other ground is sinking sand!”


2. The Smitten Rock


God’s command to Moses in Exodus 17:6 was, “you shall strike the rock.”


When?  Did God tell Moses to strike the rock while all the children of Israel were bowed low in worship of Jehovah? Was it when they were fully trusting Him?  Was it when they were praising Him for His abundant mercies? No! It was when they were grumbling and murmuring, and about to stone Moses! In Jamieson, Fausset, Brown’s commentary they add this note: “God told Moses to smite the rock, not the rebels; not to bring a stream of blood from the breast of the offenders, but a stream of water from the granite cliffs.”  My friends, Christ did not die for you when you were righteous! He didn’t suffer for you once you had finally got it all together. Listen to Romans 5:6-8, “For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”


What Does It Picture?  The Rock being smitten is intended to show us a picture of Jesus Christ, the Rock, being smitten of God on the cross.  Exodus 16 is a picture of Christ in His incarnation. Just as God rained down the bread from heaven, so He sent His Son from heaven to become a man.  Exodus 17, on the other hand pictures Christ in His crucifixion. Isaiah 53:10 says, “But the Lord was pleased to crush Him, putting Him to grief.” Just as Moses smote the Rock, so God smote His Son. God crushed Him. God put Him to grief. The crucifixion of Christ was not just the result of the actions of wicked men. It was the deliberate purpose of God Almighty. Just as the Israelites were perishing in the wilderness for lack of water, so mankind is perishing in their sin. The only way for the Israelites to be saved was for the Rock to be smitten. The only way for mankind to be saved from sin, death, and hell, was for Christ to be crucified. My friends, that is why none of the other world religions can provide salvation. Jesus Christ is the only Savior for sinners. His is the only name under heaven, given among men, whereby we must be saved. Mere human morality can’t save. Following the rules and laws of religion can’t save. Only Christ can save!  Without the shedding of blood, there is no remission of sin (Heb. 9:22).


3. The Water From The Smitten Rock                                                                                               


Abundance of Water.  The entire congregation of Israel were in danger of perishing. But when  Moses smote the Rock, God brought forth life giving waters for all the people. Remember that there are 2-3 million people who need water. That is roughly the amount of people in this entire Greater Sacramento Area! If each person needs a gallon of water per day to drink and wash with, then God needed to produce 2-3 gallons of water every day from that rock!  That’s why Psalm 75:15-16 says, “He split the rocks in the wilderness and gave them abundant drink like the ocean depths. He brought forth streams also from the rock and caused waters to run down like rivers.”  There were streams and rivers that flowed from that Rock!


Meaning of Water.  What is the spiritual meaning of the water which flowed from the Rock?  Well, let’s let Jesus Himself answer that question.


John 4:10, “Jesus answered and said to her, ‘If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.”


John 4:13-14, “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give Him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.”


John 7:37-38, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’”


So, what does the water from the rock typify?  It typifies the living water that Jesus gives. When Jesus gives this living water it becomes a well in him that springs up to eternal life. From his innermost being rivers of living water flow.


But, what exactly was Jesus talking about?  Read John 7:39. “But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.”  There you have the answer!  The living water that Jesus gives, that becomes a well that springs up to eternal life is the Holy Spirit. He is the rives of living water that flow out of our innermost being. First Jesus had to be smitten, crucified. The He must be resurrected and ascended and glorified, and then He would pour out the Holy Spirit upon His people.


My friend, have you ever drank this living water? Have you experienced a well of water inside you that springs up to eternal life. Have you found that from your innermost being flow rivers of living water? The only way you can experience this is through the ministry of the Holy Spirit.


When you have come to Jesus Christ, and trusted in His death and resurrection as the ground for your eternal salvation, the Holy Spirit takes up residence inside of you. You can’t be saved apart from the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. Romans 8:9 says, “if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.” So folks, you can’t be a Christian if you don’t have the Holy Spirit.  If you do have the Holy Spirit, then you have a well of water springing up to eternal life. From your innermost being flow rivers of living water.  What a blessing this is! You may be walking through a very dry place, but inside you have a well of water springing up! Your outer man may be weak and sick, but from your innermost being flow rivers of living water! The indwelling Holy Spirit quenches our spiritual thirsts. He ministers to us the grace of God. He exalts the Lord Jesus Christ, and causes us to see and taste His glory and supremacy!  Oh, thank God for the ministry of the Holy Spirit!




  1. We Must Learn To Trust God In Our Trials. The children of Israel give us a negative example here. Let’s learn from their example of how not to live! They murmured and grumbled against Moses and the Lord when there was no water. Instead of reflecting on how faithful God had been to them in parting the Red Sea, drowning their enemies, sweetening the bitter waters, leading them in the cloud and fire, and providing bread from heaven, they immediately started grumbling. My friend, what do you do when you face troubles?  Do you grumble? Do you complain? Do you start fretting?  I want to challenge you to trust God. Instead of fretting, exercise your faith in Him. Instead of grumbling, praise Him. If you are convinced that the Lord will provide and bring you through these trials, then let His praise be on your lips.
  2. We Must Learn to Go To Christ for the Water of Life. Is anyone here not yet saved? Do you feel a sense of unrest in your soul? Do you feel a sense of emptiness?  Jesus said that whoever drinks from this water will thirst again.  The only way you will find true satisfaction and fulfillment is by coming to Jesus Christ. He was smitten for you. He died for you. He rose for you. He has ascended for you. He will pour out the Holy Spirit in your life. But, you must first come to the Rock and trust Him with your life.
  3. We Must Accurately Represent the Lord. 40 years later, there was a repeat of this story. It is found in Numbers 20:8-13, the Lord commands Moses to take the rod and speak to the rock to bring forth water for the congregation of Israel. However, Moses was angry with the Israelites. He had just about had it with them. He was done! Instead of speaking to the rock, he struck the rock twice in anger and frustration. Now, God in His great mercy, brought forth water for the thirsty people. But He told Moses that he could not lead the people into the promised land because he had not treated Him holy in his sight. Now, what is the big deal here?  The rock had been smitten to bring forth water 40 years earlier. God didn’t want Moses to smite the rock again, because that would spoil the type. You see, the Bible says that  Christ died once for all. Hebrews 10:11-12 says, “Every priest stands daily ministering and offering time after time the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins; but He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, sat down at the right hand of God.”  That’s why God didn’t want Moses to strike the rock again. Christ suffered and died once, and His death is sufficient for all time. He never needs to suffer again. Once He has died, all we have to do is speak to the rock to receive the waters of life. We simply call on the name of the Lord and are saved. God had appointed Moses to be His representative. The Lord said that He would stand on the rock, while Moses smote it. The Lord was present invisibly, but Moses was present visibly. God designated Moses to be His visible representative to the people. However, Moses did not accurately represent the Lord. Instead of speaking to the rock, He struck the rock. Moses represented God as being angry and frustrated with the people, when God was merciful and kind and patient with the people.  Folks, this has huge ramifications for our lives. Our you accurately representing the Lord to others in your daily life? Are you angry at what He is angry at? Are you merciful towards those He is merciful toward? Do you walk in holiness, as He is holy? It is a very serious thing to misrepresent God. Moses was deprived of entering the promised land. If we misrepresent God we may find ourselves being severely chastised by the Lord. Instead of being overly concerned with obeying rules and laws, be concerned with properly representing your Lord. You are His representative – His ambassador.  Seek to do those things which are pleasing in His sight.


Let’s pray.










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