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In Exodus chapter 17, God continues to demonstrate undeserved mercy throughout the pre-Sinai wilderness experience. It is uniform, the people disobey, and God blesses them. The lesson is not, “It’s okey to disobey God. It’s no big deal.” That is not the lesson.
God is testing them to prepare them to be worshippers. He’ pressing the issue of their trust of His providence. He’s teaching them to obey Him. He’s teaching them to trust Him despite all the evidence to the contrary.
Through this Exodus experience, He’s giving us negative lessons about how not to respond in the trials of life. But one of the things He’s nearly and unmistakably doing is making it clear that we do not save ourselves and that our own goodness is not the determining factor in God’s showing mercy to us. If it was so, we’d be dead in the wilderness.
A right understanding of the dynamic going on in these stories leading up to Sinai will banish forever that Sinai set-up a salvation by works mechanism. It did not. Even the words of introduction of the Ten Commandments reminds us of that: “I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt.” It’s not, “Here are your Ten Commandments. Do this and then I’ll bring you out of Egypt.” It is, “I’m the Lord your God who already brought you out of the land of Egypt.”
5.29.2022 – Life & Times of Moses, “It Happened on the Way to Sinai – Teaching Grace,” part 3 – Rick Bickel
Water in the Rock – ‘1 Then all the congregation of the sons of Israel journeyed by stages from the wilderness of Sin, according to the command of the Lord, and camped at Rephidim, and there was no water for the people to drink. 2 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?” 3 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?” 4 So Moses cried out to the Lord, saying, “What shall I do to this people? A little more and they will stone me.” 5 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Pass before the people and take with you some of the elders of Israel; and take in your hand your staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. 6 Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb; and you shall strike the rock, and water will come out of it, that the people may drink.” And Moses did so in the sight of the elders of Israel. 7 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?” Exodus 17:1-7 NASB