Look! You can see them there. The ancient Israelis are wandering in the wilderness. It’s the desert. It’s hot. They’re tired. They’re thirsty. They even feel like they’re dying of thirst. They’re complaining against Moses their leader. They’re even close to stoning him. “Why did you lead us out of Egypt, where we were eating and drinking all the time? And here, and now, we’re dying of thirst.” Moses prays to God, and God tells him to take his rod and go to the rock where He will be standing. God tells him to strike the rock with his rod, and water will come forth from the rock for the people to drink. Moses strikes the rock. The water comes forth. And all the people drink and are satisfied (Exodus 17:1-7).
This amazing physical scene has profound spiritual significance. The New Testament tells us the meaning—the rock was a spiritual rock. The ancient Israelis drank from a spiritual rock, and the rock was the Messiah (1 Corinthians 10:4). The rock is the Tanach-promised Messiah, and the whole scene reveals the central truth of the whole Bible.
The Tanach indicates repeatedly that the promised Messiah is not merely a man but also God—a God-man. In one place, the Tanach indicates the Messiah is a human child born of a virgin, but at the same time He is “God with us” (Isaiah 7:14). In another place, the Messiah is the human child born to us as a descendant of David, but at the same time He is “the mighty God” (Isaiah 9:6-7). And in another place, the Messiah is the human child born in Bethlehem, but at the same time He is the eternal God, “whose goings forth are from the days of eternity” (Micah 5:2). And the record of the New Testament makes it clear that Jesus fulfilled all three Tanach prophecies—He was born of a virgin; He was a descendant of David; and He was born in Bethlehem. And the New Testament record repeatedly makes it clear that Jesus was also God come in the flesh.
So, the Tanach-promised God-man Messiah is the rock struck in the wilderness. This signifies the crucifixion of the Messiah. Moses signifies the law, and his rod is the authority of the law. According to the law, everyone who sins must die for his sin. But the Messiah was struck for all of us. He lived a sinless life, and thus He did not have to die for His own sin. He was qualified to die for someone else. And because He was God, He could die as a man for the sins of all men for all time. The significance of this part of the picture is confirmed by Isaiah 53, one of the most detailed portions in the whole Bible revealing the crucifixion of the Messiah. There it says the Messiah was smitten by God and received the stroke that would have otherwise been required by the law to fall upon us (Isaiah 53:4, 8). These verses provide strong support for the understanding that the struck rock in Exodus 17 signifies the Messiah crucified for our sins.
The most amazing part of the Exodus story relates to the significance of the water flowing out from the smitten rock. As we have already seen, the New Testament tells us that the rock was a spiritual rock, that the people drank from that spiritual rock, and that the rock was the Messiah. So, they were drinking from the Messiah. But what does this mean? The New Testament also tells us: “the last Adam became a life-giving Spirit” (1 Corinthians 15:45). The last Adam refers to the crucified Messiah, and the life-giving Spirit refers to the Messiah in resurrection. This is the most important point of the gospel. The last Adam became a life-giving Spirit. As the last Adam, the Messiah died for our sins. But He did not stay in death. Three days later He resurrected, and in resurrection this God-man Messiah became the life-giving Spirit. Through His death and resurrection, He changed His form, from physical to spiritual. He is the same God-man person, in two different forms. But, as the Spirit, amazingly, He can enter into us and become one with the deepest part of our being. We can drink of Him as the Spirit within us. He can satisfy all our needs. He gives us Himself as the divine life. This is what we need in order to live as God intended us to. We are actually meant to live in a way that expresses God—God living in us and through us. We also become God-men. This is what God created us for. Anything else is not what we are here for. God as the God-man-Spirit Messiah becomes so experiential and enjoyable to us. This is the meaning of human life. This is God’s salvation for man, and this is the gospel.
May this scene be televised into our being. The rock being struck—this is the Messiah being crucified for our sins. The water flowing out from the smitten rock—this is the Messiah in resurrection having become the life-giving Spirit. Now He can get into us. Now we can drink Him. Now all our thirst can be satisfied. Now we can be filled with God and live God. There is nothing higher or better. This is why we are still breathing. May we be blessed to enter into the great salvation and destiny that God has prepared for all who are willing.