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Exodus 17 & Numbers 20 - Overcoming Obstacles by Faith

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Thomas S. Myers

OVERCOMING OBSTACLES BY FAITH

Exodus 17 & Numbers 20

            In 1969 our nation performed an incredible task.  It sent a group of men to walk on the moon.  It takes a great deal of energy to creak the barrier of gravity and to send a space ship to the moon and back.  There is also a barrier that every believer must break, it the barrier of unbelief. To crack the barrier of gravity, it took a great deal of speed.  But to break the barrier of unbelief it does not require speed, but simply standing still.  There is no work, no movement involved at all, trusting the Lord.  We have a place of strength, a place stability, a place of power that is ours by faith.  No matter what happens, no matter how difficult the circumstances, not matter how great the pressure, we can have "the peace of God that surpasses  all understanding (Philippians 4:7).  It is possible to have inner peace in the presence of outer tabulation. 

            As we come to Exodus 17, the children of Israel have an opportunity to trust God.  God has promised to take the Jews into the promised land.  But in stead of trusting God their hearts are bent on grumbling.  

FIRST -- THE TEST OF FAITH.

            The test of faith is this:  Will we trust God in the time of adversity, or will we grumble.

A.  THE SOURCE OF GRUMBLING

Philippians 2:14

14 Do everything without complaining or arguing, (NIV)

            The source of grumbling is the devil himself.  He is the author of all sin.      

B.  THE RESULT OF GRUMBLING

            The result of grumbling often leads to illness.

1 Corinthians 10:10

10 And do not grumble, as some of them did -- and were killed by the destroying angel. (NIV)

James 5:9

9 Don't grumble against each other, brothers, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door! (NIV)

Ephesians 4:31-32

31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. (NIV)

C.  THE PURPOSE OF TRIALS.

Deuteronomy 8:2-3

2 Remember how the LORD your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years, to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. 3 He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD. (NIV)

  

            In Exodus 17, we come to a crisis that the children of Israel experienced.  They came to a place where there were very thirsty and there was absolutely no water. The question is, will they believe that God will meet their need, or will they grumble?  Now remember God has met their every need.  They have been miraculously delivered from slavery.  God opened the path  through the Red Sea.  But in Exodus chapter 17, the children of Israel face an issue which every believer must sooner or later face in their life.  

            If you as a believer, have trusted Jesus Christ for salvation, can you trust God to deliver you as you enter the difficulties in life?  Can you trust God to meet your problems, and the difficulties in life?  As we enter Exodus 17, the children of Israel have come to what appears to be a problem that seems to be to overwhelming.  Lets take a look at it. 

EXODUS 17:1

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. (NIV)

            Notice that from VERSE 17, it says, "AS THE LORD COMMANDED."  That is, God led them into the desert where there was not a drop of water.  Can you imagine, 2 million plus people and not a drop of water?  And yet they were in God's perfect will.  Have you ever heard someone say, "Once you accept Jesus Christ you will never have trouble again?"  Nothing could be farther from the truth.  The fact is that when you accept Christ, although you possess eternal life you will still have trouble, but you will also have the means of meeting every problem and every difficulty.  Sooner or later, God bring every believer into a desert.  And every believer must face a set of circumstances where the situation is bleak and hopeless, where there is no human solution.  That is exactly what God did with the Children of Israel. 

            The Hebrew word for "WILDERNESS" is desert, meaning just wasteland, barren land, dry sand and yet God led them into this dry desert place.  Now God permitted this for one purpose.  God was saying to Moses generation as He is saying to us, "Will you trust me?" 

            You have trusted Jesus Christ for salvation.  You have believed in Jesus Christ and have received Him as your Savior.  That was the greatest thing that God has ever done for you, for it cost Him His Son.  The Bible puts it this way:

 

Romans 8:32

32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all -- how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? (NIV)

            The point is this, If God did the most for you when you did not even know Him in a personal way, now that you do know God in a personal way, God will do even more to meet your needs.  There is only one thing that God requires from you right now.  Will you trust Him?  For this very purpose God has given us promises in writing.  He has given us promises which will stabilize us in the time of the desert.  

            Now in Exodus chapter 17, I wish we would read, "So the children of Israel knelt down and prayed asking God to abundantly supply water."  That would have been wonderful if they had prayed such a prayer.  However, instead of praying, they hit the panic button.  Look at verse 2. 

Exodus 17:2

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?" (NIV)

            How often do we get upset and fall apart and get disturbed when things do not go our way?  Just as these are God's people, so are we.  If there are any people on the face of the earth who ought to exhibit peace, joy and strength in the time of adversity it is the believer.  But just the opposite happens.  Notice the word "quarreled" in verse 2.   The word means to gripe, to complain or to criticize.  They hit the panic button.  They cried out, "Give us water to drink."  What did they think Moses was going to do?  Pull a lake out of a hat?  When things are going great, Moses never received any credit.  But when things were going wrong, Moses always was blamed.  Our old sin nature must have a scapegoat.  Moses is now that scapegoat.  Look at verse 3.

Exodus 17:3

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?" (NIV)

            The people thirsted for water.  It was a very real problem.  After all, in a dessert where do you find enough water to quench the thirst for 2 million plus people?  However when we complain and when we criticize in the time of crisis we are demonstrating a lack of faith and our failure to trust the living God.  Now what is amazing here is that God will demonstrate His grace.  In spite of their grumbling and fault finding, God will provide them a stream of water that will more than quench their thirst.  While everyone is grumbling, notice in verses 4 & 5 what God does.

 

Exodus 17:4-5

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, "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. (NIV)

            Now here is the picture of a great leader.  Moses did not give back any rebuttal.  Moses did not enter into the argument.  Moses didn't even try to justify himself.  But he did go to the Lord.  And look at what God commanded Moses to do?  Verse 5

5 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.

            God told Moses to stand in front of the people.  Here are the people, they are about to put Moses 6 feet under by rocking him to sleep.  And yet God says, "Walk in front of the people."  That is the sign of a leader.  While others would criticize and complain, they did not have that stable and strong quality as their leader Moses did.  You see, Moses was not standing in front of the people in his own strength.  He was believing and trusting God.  Notice in verse 6 God gives a promise.  

Exodus 17:6

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. (NIV)

            God told Moses to take his rod and strike a rock and water will flow out of the rock.  What is interesting is that the Hebrew word for rock means a rock with a flat surface.  You see here is a picture of Christ the Rock, being smitten for us on Calvary's cross (1 Cor. 10:4).  For just as Moses would take the staff in his hand and would strike the large flat rock, so God the Father smote God the Son on Calvary's cross for you and me, and as a result, from Christ comes the water of life. 

THIRD -- THE RETEST.   NUMBERS 20

            When you come to Numbers chapter twenty, 40 years have passed by and the children of Israel are back at the exact same location of Exodus 17.  However, the generation that grumbled in Exodus chapter 17 have all died.  So here in Numbers 20 a new generation of the children of Israel is being tested in the exact same place with no water.  Will they repeat the same mistake as their parents?  Will they grumble when things do not go their way?  Look at:

NUMBERS 20:1-2

1 In the first month the whole Israelite community arrived at the Desert of Zin, and they stayed at Kadesh. There Miriam died and was buried. 2 Now there was no water for the community, and the people gathered in opposition to Moses and Aaron. (NIV)

            When you come to Numbers chapter 20, 40 years have gone by.  And during that entire time, God has graciously and faithfully provided every need that was needed in for the children of Israel.  If they needed water, God provided it.  If they needed help to fight their enemies, God provided it.  If they needed food, God provided it.  God has graciously and faithfully provided every need for 40 years. 

            I want this to be very practical for you.  Look again at verse 2.  It says, "THERE WAS NO WATER."  Put in the place of "NO WATER," whatever your problem is right now.  No what? No money?  No friends?  No happiness?  No husband?  No wife?  What is it?  There is a "no something" in everyone life.  If there isn't now there will be.  But that "no something" has a propose.  God has a reason for it.  And the question that God wants to ask you, is will you trust Him?  God has given an unlimited number of promises in His Word.  The Bible says,

1 Peter 1:23

23 For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. (NIV)

            God, who is Sovereign, who is omnipotent is there to supply your needs.  There are promises for eternity:

 

Philippians 3:21

21 who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body. (NIV)

There is a promise of a home in heaven: 

JOHN 14:2

2 In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. (NIV)

            But right now the children of Israel are dealing with a "no water" problem.  And right you may be dealing with a problem.  The question is, will you pass the faith test?  Will you trust God, or will you grumble?  Look at:

Numbers 20:3

3 They quarreled with Moses and said, "If only we had died when our brothers fell dead before the LORD! (NIV)

            Does that complaint sound familiar to you.  It is exactly the same complain of the last congregation of Israel.  Look at VERSE 4 & 5:

Numbers 20:4-5

4 Why did you bring the LORD's community into this desert, that we and our livestock should die here? 5 Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to this terrible place? It has no grain or figs, grapevines or pomegranates. And there is no water to drink!" (NIV)

            How many of us have come to some experience in life and said, "This is horrible?"  Or, "I have never seen anything like this before."  "Why, before everything used to be so smooth."  Here is a group of people that, instead of trusting the Lord, fell into the same pattern as their fathers.  They long to go back to the old days.  Let me ask you a question, but give your answer to God.  Have you thanked God for the "no water" problem you have in your life?  Everyone has some problem?  Have you thanked God for it? 

1 Thessalonians 5:18

18 give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus. (NIV)

            Do you wake up and say:

Psalm 118:24

24  This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. (NIV)

            Are you thankful for:

Romans 8:28

28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (NIV)

            Let me tell you something, the weakest individual that has ever lived is the individual that grumbles.  Do you know why?  Because that individual does not live by faith.  That individual does not claim the promises of God. 

            Now notice what God has Moses do in VERSE 6-8. 

 

Numbers 20:6-8

6 Moses and Aaron went from the assembly to the entrance to the Tent of Meeting and fell facedown, and the glory of the LORD appeared to them. 7 The LORD said to Moses, 8 "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. You will bring water out of the rock for the community so they and their livestock can drink." (NIV)

            Notice the word "ROCK" in verse 8.  This is a different Hebrew word for rock from that found in Exodus 17:6.  This word means a elevated rock, and is a picture of Christ in resurrection.  And will you notice that he is to hold the rod and speak to the rock.  Just as Christ is smitten once for sin, now we speak to the resurrected Christ.  Notice what happens next in verse 9-11

 

Numbers 20:9-11

9 So Moses took the staff from the LORD's presence, just as he commanded him. 10 He and Aaron gathered the assembly together in front of the rock and Moses said to them, "Listen, you rebels, must we bring you water out of this rock?"

11 Then Moses raised his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff. Water gushed out, and the community and their livestock drank. (NIV)

            At one time God called the children of Israel a stiff-necked rebels.  But this time God wanted to teach the children of Israel His grace.  The children of Israel grumbled but God in His grace still provided water.  Moses, disobey the command of God, he hit the rock, instead of just speaking to the rock, but God in His grace still provided water.  That is the grace of God.  

THIRD -- THE ADVANTAGES OF TRUSTING CLAIMING THE PROMISES OF GOD.

Hebrews 4:12

12 For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. (NIV)

A.  THE WORD OF GOD IS ALIVE.  

            The Bible is a book that is alive.  It speaks to every generation in every century.  You can translate it into different languages, and it is still alive.  The Bible is a book that speaks to your heart, you would think that has a heart beat. 

B.  IT IS A POWERFUL BOOK.

            The Greek word that is used is our word "energy."  In order to use power you must somehow tap into that power.  In order to use the power of God's word you must take hold of it and claim it. 

C.  IT IS A HELPFUL BOOK. 

            The word picture here is very interesting.  It is a picture of a two edged sword.  Not just any sword.  It is a picture of a sword that was used to change the world.  The words "double- edged" refers to the sword that the Roman army used. 

            It a short sword, so that when you swung it, you were not caught off balance.  When you claim the promises of God, you will not get caught off balance with anger, grumbling or pouting.  Also, sense it was a short sword, anyone could you it.  You don't have to have a Bible School degree to use the word of God.  Anybody can use it.  

            The Roman Sword, had a sharp point.  You could not only attack to the right or the left, you could charge the enemy.  When you claim the promises of God, you do not have to retreat, you can move forward attacking the onslaughts of Satan. 

            As a result of this incredible sword, the Roman army defeated all their enemies.  As a matter of fact, the only thing that defeated the Roman Empire, was internal bickering and sin.  They had the best weapon in the world.  And folks, we have the best weapon in the world.  The only thing can defeat Christians is internal bickering and sin.        

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