It happens more often than i’d like to admit: sitting at the kitchen table over breakfast with my kids, reading bible stories from their kid’s bible (stories, so often, sadly gutted of much of their meaning and depth) and God just blows me up with something from His Word! I don’t know why i do that: imagine that God doesn’t have something for me as well as i seek to minister to my kids. But i’m grateful for it none the less.
We were reading the story of Moses and the Israelites after they come out of slavery in Egypt today. In my last post, i talked about how God gives the good gift of the law only after He redeems His people, but He gave them so many other gifts as well. In Exodus 17 (surprise, surprise!) the Israelites are complaining again to Moses and making up all kinds of kooky stories about how “good” they had it back in Egypt as slaves. Right or wrong however, Moses can see this is about to go bad for him, so he prays to God for help. God then instructs him to take some of the elders with him and his staff, and stand before Mount Horeb. Then God says these words,
“Behold, I will stand before you on the rock at Horeb, and you shall strike the rock, and water shall come out of it, and the people will drink.”
The clear and obvious reading of this text shows God’s loving provision, even for a rebellious people such as Israel. But jump ahead to the New Testament and you’ll see a picture of striking resemblance (congratulations to those of you who caught that). In John 19:31-37 we read of the moments immediately after Jesus has given up His spirit and paid the horrible cost for our sins. If you remember, the soldiers are trying to hurry up the crucifixions so that the bodies wont be hanging on the crosses during the Sabbath, and John writes,
“But when they came to Jesus and saw that He was already dead, they did not break His legs. But one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water.”
Now i know there have been all sorts of medical understandings put forward in times past about what’s going on here, and why blood and water come out when Jesus side is pierced. And yes, the surface reading of this text is simply descriptive of the historical events.
It’s like getting sucker-punched by the Holy Spirit when we go a bit further in the NT to 1 Cor. 10:3,4 and read,
“and all [that is Moses and all Israel] ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ.“
Now i know this passage from 1 Cor. 10, and i’m sitting there at the kitchen table reading about Moses and looking at this cartoon picture of Moses striking the rock with his staff, but in my mind and my heart i’m suddenly seeing a soldier ‘striking’ our ‘Rock’ on the cross, out of which life giving Water flows, and i’m struggling to hold it together in front of my kids! They’re both like, ‘What?’ and i’m trying to imagine how to, then, describe this connection to a 5 and 6 year old as i compose myself.
In John 4 Jesus tells a woman at the well, “Everyone who drink of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” Two chapters later in John 6, Jesus says, “For My flesh is true food and My blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him.” And reclining at table just before He is betrayed and crucified, Jesus takes the third cup of the Passover meal and says, “this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.“
How does this all fit together? Why is this so significant? Go back to Exodus 17. There we read that just after the people are given water from the rock, Moses calls the place both Massah (which means ‘testing’) as well as Meribah (which means ‘quarrelling’) and writes, “because of the quarrelling of the people of Israel, and b/c they tested the LORD by saying, ‘Is the LORD among us or not?’“
One of the Names given to the Incarnate Son of God from Isaiah’s prophecy about Him is ‘Emmanuel’, which means’ God with us’. As we look to the cross where our ‘Rock’ was struck by a different ‘staff’, and as we are then fed and nourished by both His broken body and the double-sign of water and blood – i believe, pointing typographically back to the water at Horeb as well as showing presently this life-giving ‘blood of the new covenant’ – the LORD is surely saying to Israel of old, as well as to us today, ‘Yes! I am surely among you!‘