“The Lord answered Moses, “Go out in front of the people. Take with you some of the elders of Israel and take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. I will stand there before you by the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it for the people to drink.” So Moses did this in the sight of the elders of Israel.” (Exodus 17:5,6)
I used to sing a song in Sunday school about a parable Jesus told, “The wise man built his house upon the rock.” The metaphor was clear, even to my five year old self, if you place your faith in Jesus Christ, you won’t be shaken by the storms of life. The Israelites are clearly facing some storms in the wilderness; first they were hungry, now they are thirsty. They are having a crisis of faith. Moses asks them this question as the water they were asking for came pouring out of the rock, “Is the Lord among us or not?”
Moses recognizes the people have a spiritual problem. They are grumbling and complaining about physical needs, but the issue is a much deeper one. Paul goes into detail explaining for us what was really going on in the wilderness, “They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ.” (1 Cor. 10:3-4)
Last week I wrote about the manna the Israelites were given to eat in the wilderness, which is a picture of Christ, “the bread of life”. Jesus also referred to himself as the “water of life” and the rock is a picture of Him. Moses was told to “strike the rock”. In speaking of the death he would die, Jesus said to his disciples, “strike the shepherd and the sheep will scatter” (Mark 14:27). Notice Moses is given specific instructions to use the very staff with which he struck the Nile; this is a reference to God’s judgment. When Moses strikes the rock with his staff, he is foreshadowing the judgment Jesus endured for us on the cross. “The punishment that brought us peace was upon him” (Isaiah 53:5).
The rock is struck and the waters of life pour out.
Thousands of years after this event, Jesus encountered a Samaritan woman and described Himself as a well of living water. He offered to give her water that would cause her to never thirst again. She was a spiritually thirsty woman. She had gone from man to man looking for satisfaction. She had many questions and doubts that surfaced during their conversation. Her story is our story. We are human beings dependent on God to meet our needs, answer our questions, and give our lives meaning. This world leaves us thirsty. Have you been to the rock to drink the living water?
As the Israelites entered into the desolate wilderness, God made provision for them by sending manna; a white flaky substance with a faint taste of honey to it. God informed Moses the gift of manna would be a test for the people. They were given the following instructions:
This is what the Lord has commanded: ‘Everyone is to gather as much as they need. Take an omer for each person you have in your tent.’ The Israelites did as they were told; some gathered much, some little. And when they measured it by the omer, the one who gathered much did not have too much, and the one who gathered little did not have too little. Everyone had gathered just as much as they needed.
The gift of manna in the wilderness was about provision. God made provision through His grace and the people were given the opportunity to receive from His storehouse. Notice, some gathered much, some little, but an equal amount of food was shared by all. In other words, there were able bodied members of the community who had the ability to collect above and beyond the amount they needed. These individuals were encouraged to demonstrate generosity and share with others who, for whatever reason, were not able to gather all they needed. God ensured this generosity would take place by placing an expiration date on the manna; it rotted 24hrs after it appeared.
The Apostle Paul referenced the provision of manna in his letter to the Corinthians. (2 Cor. 8:13-15) He was encouraging the Corinthian church, a wealthy people, to give generously to the Christians in Jerusalem who were suffering in the midst of persecution.
Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. The goal is equality, 15 as it is written: “The one who gathered much did not have too much, and the one who gathered little did not have too little.”
Paul is of the opinion that the money you and I make is as much a gift from God as was the miraculous provision of manna in the wilderness. In other words, we shouldn’t hoard it for ourselves, pat ourselves on the back because we have accumulated more of it, or think we have the right to spend it on ourselves as we see fit. We have a responsibility to steward this gift to ensure there is equality.
I can hear the objections to such an idea. This all sounds so Un-American. After all, in a world dominated by capitalistic principles, this teaching flies in the face of our cultural principles. But God is far more concerned with the poor than the efficiency of our wealth generating systems. For those of us who have been given the gift of financial opportunity, we ought to heed these words from the Apostle Paul. We are those who have been given the ability to gather much; we have an obligation to share what we have with those who have gathered little.