December 3, 2023 | Doug Sauder
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In part 13 of the Book of Exodus, we’ll study Exodus 17 as the Lord not only provides water from a rock for the people in the desert, but also brings them victory in battle. Discover how obedience to Him and His call on your life enables you to see victory in your life!
Below, you’ll find some key discussion points to consider, questions to personally reflect on and/or discuss in your small group, with your family, or in your circle of friends, and some action points for the week.
Memory Verse of the Week: Exodus 17:5–6 (NIV, emphasis added)
“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.”
READ: Exodus 17:1–3
In these first two sections, we’re going to focus on four words that begin with the letter “C.”
As a refresher, we’re following the nation of Israel’s massive migration from Egypt to the new homeland God promised to them. He had a very deliberate way of doing this; He didn’t give them the endpoint and tell them He’d just meet up with them there. For as the rest of Exodus (and in fact the next three books in the Bible) will reveal, the Lord wanted to lead His people through this process via many twists and turns. It wasn’t going to be a straight line, but a series of personal instructions.
The commandment in the proceeding passage to come to Rephidim is an example of this. Understand that God had a deliberate reason for having them do this, a reason that will become clear as the story unfolds. But before we get to that, we need to underscore the fact that what we’re about to get into is based on God’s commandment. It’s His doing, not Moses’ and not man’s. That’s a critical point, because we’re about to see how this commandment leads to our next word, which is complaint.
Wouldn’t you know the place the Lord commanded His people to go was without water! How could an all-knowing God overlook something so basic like this? How can you expect approximately two million people, not to mention all their livestock, to survive out in the open wilderness without any water? They would all be dead within a few days!
The masses began to think these thoughts and, even though the command that led them to this place of thirst came from God, the people focused their frustrated thirst at Moses and start complaining about the inexcusable absence of water. If you’re Moses, you’re thinking to yourself, I was just following God’s orders, what do you want from me?
A lot of life can be like that. In many instances just doing the right thing, the thing you know God wants you to do, leads to new challenges and even complaints from others. The natural tendency when this happens is to regret the decision to obey God’s command. But that’s a mistake, because the complaints of others don’t supersede the need to follow the command of God.
Here’s an absolute truth you can always depend on: If God has commanded something, obeying Him is always the right decision, despite the way people react to it. His concerns will always be more important than people’s, even if there’s a couple million of them!
Discussion Question 1: What spiritual truth can be derived from the words “commandment” and “complaint”?
Discussion Question 2: How can we ensure we remain faithful, obedient, and grateful and avoid the natural tendency to grumble and complain?
READ: Exodus 17:4–7
In all actuality, crying out to God is really the only thing Moses could have done at that point. Here he was in the middle of nowhere with millions of thirsty, angry, desperate people looking for a scapegoat and he’s it! He can’t call the police, the paramedics, or any kind of rescue squad. He just has the Lord to cry out to, which is what he does.
We need to take a cue from Moses here. When we’re faced with something formidable as Moses was (when we feel like there’s no way out, around, or over the obstacle), the best thing we can do is cry out to the Lord! In fact, we shouldn’t wait for a moment of desperation to do so, but our lives should be in a perpetual position of calling out to Him. Why? Because such a state is an acknowledgment of how completely dependent we are on Him. God is not a resource reserved for the really big problems of life, but the one we run to in all things and at all times. That’s what He wants, and it’s what Jesus reminds us of in John 15:5 as He tells us we can do “nothing” apart from Him. Translation: We need to live in total dependence on God, continually calling and crying out to Him.
What happens when God gives a commandment that leads to a complaint that causes Moses to cry out to Him? We see that God brings about a conclusion, a miraculous conclusion where water flows from the most unlikely source—a rock. And amazingly, there was plenty of water to go around for all. It was the perfect conclusion to their dilemma that only God could orchestrate.
The Lord wanted to provide His people with the water they needed all along, but He wanted to teach them (and us) a few things first. He wanted them to see that obeying His commandments isn’t always easy but that it’s always the right decision regardless of how other’s feel about it. He wanted them to understand the importance and power of crying out to Him. He wanted them to see that His conclusions to their problems are all they need. And finally, He wanted them to know they can trust in His conclusions as they obey His commands and cry out to Him.
Discussion Question 3: What do you usually do when facing a difficult situation or struggle? What’s your default, your go-to? Do you cry out to the Lord or seek to handle it yourself?
Discussion Question 4: What would it look like to intentionally become more dependent upon God? What steps do you need to take to walk more deeply in faith and not on your own strength?
READ: Exodus 17:8–16
Did you know this is Israel’s first true taste of war? And this first battle was fought dirty. Deuteronomy 25:17–18 (NIV) says, “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 attacked all who were lagging behind; they had no fear of God.”
As Bible scholar Adam Clarke wrote, “In the most treacherous and dastardly manner; for they came at the rear of the camp. . . . The baggage, no doubt, was the object of their avarice; but finding the women, children, aged and infirm persons, behind with the baggage, they smote them and took away their spoils.”
They came from behind and attacked the vulnerable! What a perfect picture of how the enemy comes for us: when we’re vulnerable and experiencing our weakest moments in our weakest spots. So, what can we do in these moments?
What did Moses do? He sends Joshua to assemble an army to fight while Moses himself (who brought Aaron and Hur with him) did something familiar: “I will stand on top of the hill with the staff of God in my hands” (Exodus 17:9 NIV). He went back to what he was commanded to do at the Red Sea.
This is an important lesson: Moses went back to what God had already commanded him to do in the past. We can follow this example! How so? In the Word, we are given timeless instructions of what to do when the enemy attacks, when we come face-to-face with trials, struggles, and difficult circumstances: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. . . . I can do all this through him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:6–7, 13 NIV).
But we also see that we’re not meant to face trials in isolation. As Moses grew weary, Aaron and Hur provided him a place to sit and held his arms up! And Exodus 17:12 (NIV) says, “his hands remained steady” and the battle was won!
Whatever trial you face is not meant to be faced alone. Whatever struggle you fight against is not meant to be fought in isolation. Whatever work God has called you to is one He’s called you to in community!
Your brothers and sisters are called to bear your burdens along with you and so “fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2 NIV), and you’re called to do the same for them! In this, by the “grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit” (2 Corinthians 13:14 NIV), in community with other faithful believers, we can stand firm when the enemy attacks and lift one another up in times of need.
And in all of this, our lives will—just like the monument Moses built—remind our brothers and sisters in their own battles and display to the watching world “Jehovah-nissi” . . . The Lord is my banner! He is with us, He is fighting our battles, He is providing and guiding, and regardless of what circumstance or attack we face, “in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Romans 8:37 NIV).
Discussion Question 5: Why is it so important that we live in community?
Discussion Question 6: How does your life display to others that the Lord is your banner?
Read Romans 8:28–39 and reflect on it. Try to memorize this passage over the next few days.
In our next study, we’ll explore Exodus 18 as we see Moses meet with his father-in-law and get some great counsel. Discover the importance of mentorship and surrounding yourself with great community!
Danny Saavedra is a licensed minister who has served on staff at Calvary since 2012, managing the Calvary Devotional and digital discipleship resources. He has a Master of Arts in Pastoral Counseling and Master of Divinity in Pastoral Ministry from Liberty Theological Seminary. His wife Stephanie, son Jude, and daughter Zoe share a love of Star Wars, good food, having friends over for dinner, and studying the Word together as a family.