Wednesday after Oculi - Exodus 17.1-7 - March 11,2015

Order of Matins (TLH pg. 32)
Opening Hymn #145 Jesus, Refuge of the Weary
Office Hymn #437 Who Trusts in God, A Strong Abode
Closing Hymn #384 Oh, How Great Is Thy Compassion

1)         The Lord provides water from a rock to His parched people. The Lord shows Moses a rock. The Lord commands Moses to take his staff, strike this rock, and water will flow forth from that rock to save Israel. This is the same staff Moses used to strike the Nile to turn it into undrinkable blood. When the staff hit the Nile so that it became blood, that miracle served as judgment against Pharaoh and the false gods of Egypt. There, the Lord took their river god whom the Egyptians praised as life-giver, and revealed him to be a god of death. In the wilderness, the staff strikes the rock for the sake of God’s people, not for punishment but provision. It strikes the Nile and turns life-giving water into death. Here it strikes a hard, dry rock turns it into live-giving water. This great miracle was done by the Lord to answer the people’s complaint, when they said, “Is the Lord among us or not?” (Exodus 17:7) Water from a rock is the Lord’s response. “Of course I am with you. Not only am I am with you but I am with you as your helper, your redeemer, your savior and your Lord. I was with you in Egypt to punish the Egyptians, turning their sacred stream to blood. But I am with you in this wilderness for your good, your survival, for your life, and I demonstrate this by giving you water from a rock.” It’s one thing to have the Lord among you. What is more important is whether or not He is among you for good or for evil, whether He is for you or against you. In this miracle the Lord proves He is with Israel for good and not ill.

2)         St. Paul uses this episode from Israel’s past to urge them to fight temptation and sin, especially the temptation to believe the Lord was not with them favorably. He writes in 1 Corinthians 10:1-6, “Moreover, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware that all our fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea,  all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, all ate the same spiritual food,  and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ.  But with most of them God was not well pleased, for their bodies were scattered in the wilderness. Now these things became our examples, to the intent that we should not lust after evil things as they also lusted.” Israel enjoyed baptism in the Red Sea. As they walked on dry ground in between two walls of water they were joined to Moses. They were fed with the manna, which looked forward to the true bread from heaven, Christ. And now today we hear how they all drank the same spiritual drink. “For they drank of that spiritual rock that followed them and that Rock was Christ.” As the manna demonstrated the glory of God to be revealed in Christ’s incarnation, so when water burst forth the rock, they were drinking not only water, but water from Christ Himself. In typical fashion, the Lord God embeds types of Christ all throughout this wilderness journey so that by participating in this water from a rock, Israel is participating in Christ by faith. For Christ is the spiritual rock that followed Israel throughout the forty years in the wilderness.

3)         And this striking of the rock with the rod of Moses looks forward to the striking of the rock on the hill of Calvary. In the passion of Christ Jesus, who is that spiritual rock, He is struck by the servant of the High Priest, treated as a blasphemer and liar. Then He is struck by the hands of mocking soldiers as they hail Him and king. (John 19:33) A hammer strikes the heads of three nails that drive into His hands and feet and cleave flesh from bone. Crafting a makeshift crown of thorns, the soldiers place the mangled crown atop Jesus’ head then they “struck Him on the head with a reed and spat on Him; and bowing the knee, they worshiped Him.” (Mark 15:19) After Christ expires, having breathed His last as He hangs from the cross, a soldier “pierced His side with a spear, and immediately blood and water came out.” (John 19:34) The rock which Moses was to strike once is now struck over and over again as payment for the sins of the world. The rock which provided water to the thirsty in the wilderness now endures thirst upon the cross so that He might, with living water, revitalize the souls of those parched by sin and the fear of death. The rock which Moses struck to provide life-giving water to all Israel in the wilderness, is, at the end of the day, struck with a spear. As the rod of the spear strikes the Rock water comes out again.

4)         This is not drinking water for those parched by the desert sun. This is water mingled with blood. This water and blood is shed for the life of the world. Lutheran artists and preachers have always seen this a picture of the Sacraments coming forth from Christ at the cross. Albrect Durer, a German artist during the Reformation, has a specific piece of art that depicts the crucifixion of Christ in which Christ is surrounded by three angels. Each angel has a chalice in hand. Each angel is holding their chalice to one of the wounds of Jesus. What Durer was communicating in this piece was that the blood of Christ on the cross goes directly in the communion chalice to be given to believers for the forgiveness of sins. The water mingled with blood also points us to our baptisms, where we are washed with water and Word of God so that through that holy washing Christ’s work of atonement at the cross is given directly to the sinner. The rock is struck. Water and blood come forth so all who believe in this atonement, all who are baptized in this water that flows from Christ’s side, might survive the desert of this fallen world and enjoy everlasting life.

5)         In the death of Christ, to merit the forgiveness of sins for the whole world, and in the sacraments which issue forth from Christ’s work on the cross, which apply that atoning work of Jesus to sinners, God once for all answers the complaint of Israelites in Exodus 17 and throughout every age. The people tested God and said, “Is the Lord among us or not?” (Exodus 17:7) As we travel through this wilderness of sin, death, and the power of the devil, we are tempted to test God and ask, “Is this Lord among us or not?” As our consciences are vexed because of our sins and sometimes feel no relief, we are tempted to ask, “Is the Lord among us or not?” As we feel sin’s effects in our very bodies, through sickness and the deterioration of age and time we may be tempted to doubt God’s gracious presence among us, and think instead that He is indeed with us, though in judgment and not grace. For it is one thing for God to be among us. It is quite another thing for God to be among us in mercy.

6)         To the doubting heart who has seen too much wickedness in the world, the rock being struck on the cross is the answer. To the despondent conscience who imagines that the Lord has abandoned it or is present only in judgment for its sins, the rock being struck while on the cross is the Lord’s response. To those who are tempted to ask “Is the Lord among us or not?” there is the crucifix, the image of Christ crucified for sinners. He is with you. He has promised to be with you always, even to the end of the age. The Lord is among you, in your midst, through His Word and absolution preached into your ears. Your Lord is physically present with you in His sacraments because He has promised to be in those places, not to judge the penitent sinner but to forgive and restore you. Is the Lord among us? Absolutely. And He is among us as our crucified and resurrected Lord, who has paid for all your sins. He is among us as the same spiritual rock which followed Israel in the wilderness, to provide for your needs and give you the life-giving waters of His Word. He is among you as the rock which was struck so that you might drink freely of His life. For He says in John 4:14, “Whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.” He is your refuge in the day of trouble. He is your fortress against the attacks of the adversary. He is your rock from which flows your life in this desert world, the forgiveness of all your sins and the promise of life everlasting. Amen.

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