In this passage, the Israelites are asking, “is the Lord among us?” God shows that he is among us in at least three ways.
I. We Accuse Him (vv. 1-4)
The first exhibit we can enter into evidence that God is among us is that we accuse him.
Knowing: The very fact we bring accusations against him, proves we believe he is there. What prompted the Israelites’ anger is another occasion of thirst. This is no small problem. Dehydration in the desert is a constant threat. They needed water constantly.
Being: As great a problem as the water shortage was, the greater problem was their inability to remember the Lord’s miraculous provision just days before. Instead of going to God and asking for his provision, they go to God and accuse him.
Doing: Is your reflex in times of need to express frustration to God or to ask for his provision? If you have grown to a place where you quickly ask for provision, how has God strengthened your faith to enable you to do this?
II. He Condemns Our Sin (v. 5)
God also makes his presence known among the Israelites, and us, by condemning sin.
Knowing: Moses also grows frustrated with God and complains about the people. On this occasion, God does not rebuke Moses but rather tells him to pick up his staff as his gavel of justice and gather his elders as a jury.
Being: God’s directives to Moses clearly pronounce his condemnation of their sin. He does not apologize for failing to have bottled waters waiting for them at a place whose name (Rephidim) meant “rest.” The Bible says not only does the creation testify everywhere to God’s presence among us condemning sin, but our consciences being imprinted with God’s law secretly affirm we deserve it.
Doing: Think about the last time you found yourself “putting God on trial.” What sin was God revealing in your heart through that experience?
III. He Takes Our Punishment (vv. 6-7)
God proves most convincingly that he is among us through Jesus.
Knowing: God puts himself on trial. We know this from two prepositions in this passage: “before” and “on.” First, God says he will stand “before” Moses and the people. This is the position of the guilty offender. God voluntarily makes himself the accused. Secondly, he says he will place himself “on” (‘al) the rock. By doing so, he fully identifies with the rock.
Being: Paul plainly explained “the rock was Christ” (1 Co. 10:4). So while the Israelites’ sin is condemned, God becomes the guilty party in Christ and allows himself to be struck with the rod of his judgment so that justice was upheld but the people were spared.
Doing: Meditate on the implications this has for who you are in Christ. How does this image of the rock being struck in judgment and bringing forth water have significance for your union with Christ?