Read Exodus 17
Water From the Rock
1 The whole Israelite community set out from the Desert of Sin, traveling from place to place as the Lord commanded. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. 2 So they quarreled with Moses and said, “Give us water to drink.”
Moses replied, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you put the Lord to the test?”
3 But the people were thirsty for water there, and they grumbled against Moses. They said, “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to make us and our children and livestock die of thirst?”
4 Then Moses cried out to the Lord, “What am I to do with these people? They are almost ready to stone me.”
5 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. 6 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. 7 And he called the place Massah and Meribah because the Israelites quarreled and because they tested the Lord saying, “Is the Lord among us or not?”
The Amalekites Defeated
8 The Amalekites came and attacked the Israelites at Rephidim. 9 Moses said to Joshua, “Choose some of our men and go out to fight the Amalekites. Tomorrow I will stand on top of the hill with the staff of God in my hands.”
10 So Joshua fought the Amalekites as Moses had ordered, and Moses, Aaron and Hur went to the top of the hill. 11 As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning. 12 When Moses’ hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up—one on one side, one on the other—so that his hands remained steady till sunset. 13 So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army with the sword.
14 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Write this on a scroll as something to be remembered and make sure that Joshua hears it, because I will completely blot out the name of Amalek from under heaven.”
15 Moses built an altar and called it The Lord is my Banner.16 He said, “Because hands were lifted up against the throne of the Lord, the Lord will be at war against the Amalekites from generation to generation.”
We should realize by now that the story of the Israelites in Exodus is really just a study on our own human condition. The only difference between us and them is that their actions were actually written down! This chapter begins with the people of God complaining about their thirst and doubting God’s goodness…again. These are the people that God miraculously freed from Egypt, and yet Satan is able to attack their faith by making them a little thirsty. How could they so quickly give up on the One who has done so much for them? It’s because their faith is defined by their feelings. Their situation is the number one driver of their attitude in their walk with God. The Israelites have a “What have you done for me lately?” type of relationship both with Moses and with their Savior.
When we read this chapter, it’s hard not to see them as an entitled and fragile bunch. Rather than trusting God in the hard times, they just give up immediately! And yet, if someone was writing the story of your life, how similar would it look to Exodus 17? How often do you fall into temptation because you’re in a bad mood? How often do you distance yourself from God as soon as your situation isn’t to your liking? We probably look like the Israelites more than we’d like to admit. But we don’t have to let Exodus 17 be our story. We can choose to remember God’s faithfulness when we feel thirsty in the desert. We can know that God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5). So today, don’t let your feelings define your faith. Instead, let’s choose to praise God before we see His provision, not just after He has provided it.
Why do you think these two stories are paired together in the same chapter? How do the two stories differ when people become tired?
When have you recently sounded like the Israelites from the first half of this chapter?
Why do you think the Israelites had such fragile faith, while Moses’ faith was much more resilient? What can you do to create a more resilient faith?
Did You Know?
The Amalekites, with whom the Israelites went to battle, were descendants of one of Esau’s grandsons (Genesis 36:12). This is yet another example of tension between Jacob’s and Esau’s descendants.