The Message of Exodus – Chapters 17

Jesus our Rock and the battle with Amalek!

 

By I Gordon

 

The book of exodus really is amazing. Everywhere you turn there is a new picture of the Lord Jesus and His work on our behalf. This study, looking at the rock at Horeb and Israel’s battle with Amalek, is definitely no exception. Now let me say straight away that the framework for this study is not exactly original! Many authors have pointed out how Christ is pictured in this chapter of Exodus[1]. If you have not seen the pictures and types of Christ in this chapter however, then I hope they will be as exciting for you as they were for me, when I first learnt of them.

 

How badly do you need a drink?

 

Exodus 17:1-4 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.  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?” 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?” Then Moses cried out to the LORD, “What am I to do with these people? They are almost ready to stone me.”

 

So we start off with the grumbling of the Israelites as this time they have no water. I think we all know our own propensity to grumble as I have written about in other studies, so I won’t say another word about that! But let’s just look at their need for a second. In a nutshell… water! Unless you are a camel reading this, I think you would agree that this is a very common daily need for us all. You don’t have to be Einstein to know that water is an essential element to life. So what does water represent in the Bible? Can you think if any verses?[2]

 

Exodus 17:5-7 The LORD answered Moses, “Walk on ahead 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. 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?”

 

Now here is a strange thing indeed. The people need water… ok, nothing strange about that! But where does God tell Moses that he will find the water? Well, obviously, it is from the place that water is usually found – from inside a rock of course! Now you can be sure that when God does really strange things, He is doing it for a reason! And that reason is given to us in 1 Corinthians 10:4 where it says that the Israelites ‘drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ.’

 

The rock is Christ![3] So, a few questions come to mind from this passage…

Why did the rock have to be struck?

Why was it Moses that had to do it?

What occurred once the rock was struck?

 

As a type of Christ, the striking of the rock pictured Christ being struck and crucified when He came to earth 2000 years ago. Moses, the lawgiver, was the one to strike the rock (Christ) as it was God’s justice that demanded that sin be atoned for through the death of an innocent sacrifice. And what occurred after the rock was struck?[4] Jesus Himself said what would happen in John 7:37-39. He clearly said that the water of the Holy Spirit would be given, but not until He was glorified (His death and resurrection – see John 12:23-24). What an awesome picture God has given to us in Exodus 17!

 

Strike once, speak many times.

 

Num 20:7-13 ‘The LORD said to Moses,   “Take the staff, and you and your brother Aaron gather the assembly together. Speak to that rock before their eyes and it will pour out its water… Then Moses raised his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff. Water gushed out, and the community and their livestock drank. But the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them.”

 

Now, while we are on this current topic of bashing rocks, I will draw your attention to Numbers 20:7-13 mentioned above. You would do well to read and meditate on the whole passage. This incident occurred 40 years after Israel left Egypt. Again we are presented with a scene in which Israel needs water. Read the passage above and tell me what God commands Moses to do. Now look at what Moses does do. The rock that gives water (Jesus) is only to ever be struck once![5] Simply speaking to the rock will now give forth water. The challenge is this - If you know that Christ died for your sins (striking the rock), do you also know that He is alive and wanting to live through you now?

 

Major Ian Thomas writes ‘In the language of the illustration, he (Moses) was a man with only half a message. He declared the crucified Christ, but not the risen Lord! And a man with only half a message does only half a job! He got them out (of Egypt) but he did not get them in! (Promised Land)… It is our solemn responsibility, not only to present the Lord Jesus Christ as the one who died historically to redeem sinners through His atoning sacrifice, but as a contemporary experience NOW – as the living Rock.”[6]

 

Not a long wait for Amalek now is it?

 

Exodus 17 8-9 The Amalekites came and attacked the Israelites at Rephidim.  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.”

 

Back to the story in Exodus we find that as soon as the people drank from the living waters that came from the rock, that the Amalekites came and attacked God’s people. A.B Simpson writes ‘Amalek was a type of the flesh. He was descended from Esau; and Esau represented the carnal nature.’ CHM writes ‘Amalek represents the hinderance to their walk with God through the wilderness… Amalek stands before us as a type of the flesh.’[7] CHM goes on to correctly point out that this is the first battle that Israel is called to fight in. Before now, the message had been ‘stand still and see the salvation of the Lord.’ (Exodus 14:13). Now the message is ‘choose some of the men and go and fight the Amalekites.’

 

Have you found that to be true in your Christian life? The work of salvation is free and has been provided to us by God. But have you found that there is an internal battle going on within you that begins the moment you receive the living waters of the Holy Spirit at salvation?

 

Exodus 17:10-11 So Joshua fought the Amalekites as Moses had ordered, and Moses, Aaron and Hur went to the top of the hill. As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning.

 

The first point that comes out of this battle is that it is no ordinary fight! It is not won through having great skill or great forces. While Joshua and his men had to fight in the battle, the outcome didn’t rest on their strength or weakness. Victory, the word tells us rested in Moses lifting his hands! In other words, victory was received as Moses lifted his hands to Heaven in a symbolic act of prayer and surrender.[8]

 

I get by with a little help from my friends…

 

Exodus 17:12-13 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. So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army with the sword. 

 

Just a further quick note in this battle with Amalek (the sinful nature)... Look out and help other Christians that are struggling. It is quite encouraging to me that we read above that Aaron and Hur held Moses hands up. They did this for a long time! It shows that in this battle we also need each other. In another passage concerning Amalek we read ‘Remember what the Amalekites did to you along the way when you came out of Egypt.  When you were weary and worn out, they met you on your journey and cut off all who were lagging behind; they had no fear of God. (Deut 25:17-18)

 

Yes, the flesh is good at picking us off when we are ‘weary and worn out’! Look out for one another. Encourage one another. And pray for one another.

Eph 6:18 ‘With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.’

 

Conclusion - Two great promises concerning Amalek!

 

Exodus 17:14-16 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 memory of Amalek from under heaven.” Moses built an altar and called it The LORD is my Banner. He said, “For hands were lifted up to the throne of the LORD. The LORD will be at war against the Amalekites from generation to generation.”

 

Finally, we see two great promises of God. The first is that He will completely blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven. Considering that Amalek is a type of the flesh, this provides a great reminder of the day when the sinful nature will be no more. Our full salvation purchased for us at the cross involves a new body. That which is corruptible shall put on the incorruptible.  That which is mortal shall put on immortality. No more selfishness, no more sinfulness, no more Amalek! All traces of Amalek blotted out! What a day that will be.[9]

 

Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. (1 john 3:2) 

 

The second promise is with us until that day… a promise that the Lord will be at war with Amalek from generation to generation. As we have seen earlier, while we fight in this battle, victory is God given. Keep your eyes on Him. How terrible it would be if God just left us to try and clean ourselves up and gain victory over the flesh. But victory over the flesh, by the power of the flesh, is an absolute contradiction and impossibility! No, the Lord is at war with Amalek. In faith, start thanking the Lord for what He has done, what He is doing, and what He will do in your life. Look to, and thank again, the living rock that still gives forth the water of the Holy Spirit!

 

 



[1] For those interested, Major Ian Thomas’ book ‘The saving life of Christ’ is excellent on this section to do with the rock and Amalek. Go buy his book if you can. It will be far better than this study. CHM in his ‘Notes on Exodus’ also is very good. A.B Simpson in his ‘Christ in the Bible Commentary’ also has a little section on this passage and the types involved.

 

[2] Water in the Bible is a picture of the Holy Spirit. I won’t insult you by thinking that I have said something you didn’t already know. But I will insult you now in saying that you didn’t think of a verse did you? Jesus announced that if anyone was thirsty they should come to Him and drink. (John 7:37-39) He also explained that this water was the Holy Spirit. Jesus also told the Samaritan woman at the well that the waters He gives spring up to eternal life. (John 4:14). We are encouraged to ‘draw waters from the wells of salvation’ (Isa 12:3) and we know that these waters are a free gift to those who thirst (Rev 22:17). As water is essential to all life for nourishment, fertility, and growth, so the Holy Spirit is equally essential for our spiritual lives. And we have a great promise in Psalm 1:3 that as we abide in the word of God we will be like a tree planted by streams of water, and very fruitful.

 

[3] A rock is solid, secure, and a sure foundation (Matt 7:24-27). It pictures the Lord as our redeemer and deliverer (Psalm 62, 95:1, 78:35) God is a rock (Deut 32:30-31). Many will stumble on this rock but those that believe in Him will never be disappointed! (Romans 9:32-33)

 

[4] It’s funny that when we think of the rock being struck and water coming out, we tend to picture water trickling out in small quantities… kind of like coming out of a tap or a hose. Well, I used to anyway. But remember that there was 2-3 million Israelites that came out of Egypt! It was going to take more than a small dribble here! Psalm 78:15-16 comes to our rescue and puts things into a much better perspective! ‘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.’ Now that is better! I have a feeling that when Jesus spoke John 7:38 he was alluding to this event in Exodus.

 

[5] Unfortunately many, such as the official teachings of the Catholic Church concerning its unholy ‘Mass’, still try to strike Christ multiple times not knowing that the rock is only ever to be struck once. Jesus paid the entire price for sin when He was crucified, and it is never to be repeated (Heb 7:27; 9:28; 10:10). We now speak to the rock for the water that we need for He is alive and seated at the right hand of God!

 

[6] The Saving life of Christ p120,121.

 

[7] CHM in his ‘Notes on Exodus’ page 213,214. 

 

[8] Ok, a long note, but a goodie! In the saving life of Christ, Ian Thomas writes ‘There are countless Christians fighting a battle that is already lost, trying in their own strength to overcome the subtleties of sin. That is a battle you can fight all your days, but I tell you now, you can never win! It is a battle already lost, lost in the first Adam… Victory over the flesh is not attained but received. “Walk in the Spirit and you will not fulfil the lusts of the flesh” Gal 5:16. Now the devil loves to invert truth and turn it into a lie, and probably what he has been saying to you is this: “Try not to fulfil the lusts of the flesh, and then you will walk in the Spirit” as though the latter was a reward for the former. He knows that in this way, he will keep you preoccupied with yourself, instead of being preoccupied with Christ. There is nothing quite so nauseating or pathetic as the flesh trying to be holy!... Is that what you have been trying to do? You have been trying not to fulfil the lust of the flesh, in order to walk in the Spirit – fighting a battle already lost. What God has said to you is “Walk in the Spirit” in an attitude of total dependence upon Him, exposing everything to Him, “and you will not fulfil the lusts of the flesh” – for you will then be enjoying through Him the victory that Christ has already won.

 

[9] It is useful to remember that God sees us today as holy and righteous because of the cross. So in this sense, from God’s view, the memory of Amalek has already been blotted out.