The Smitten Rock!
George Everard, 1885
"He split the rocks in the wilderness, and gave them water as abundant as the seas. He brought streams out of the rock, and made water flow down like rivers!" Psalm 78:15-16
A short time ago I saw a picture of the English forces in Egypt reaching the wells of Abu Klea. Their eagerness in drinking of the water reminded me of the scene when Moses struck the rock at God's bidding, and the streams gushed out abundantly. Never did God more plainly display His mercy and forbearance. The people are full of murmuring and unbelief. Twice, thrice, yes, many times already had He delivered them from danger and supplied their needs. Just before, He had opened the windows of Heaven, and given them food enough and to spare. But they will not trust Him. They have no water, and they declare that they shall die in the wilderness of thirst. But again God quenches their murmurings in the overflowings of His goodness. He gives them water out of the rock, not for a day, but for years. The stream follows them along their course. Thus He showed Himself full of compassion. He forgave their iniquity, and supplied all their needs.
But if in the smitten rock there was mercy to Israel — there was still more to ourselves. If mercy shone forth in the shadow — then how much more in the substance to which it pointed!
Now imagine another scene. Since the supply of water in the desert, fourteen hundred years had passed. It was the last day of the feast of tabernacles, when water was brought in a golden pitcher from the pool and poured out by the Temple in remembrance of the gift of water at Meribah. And Jesus stood among the assembled thousands, and cried, saying, "If any man thirsts — let him come unto Me and drink" (John 7:37). As if He would say, "You remember the streams gushing forth from the rock in the desert. But that rock pointed to Me. Your fathers drank of that water, and they thirsted again, and at last fell in the wilderness. But drink of the water I will give you, and you shall never thirst, but this water shall be in you a well springing up to life eternal!" (compare verse 38, and John 4:13, 14).
"That rock was Christ!" (1 Corinthians 10:4). It was a type and emblem of Him. It pointed to Him as the source and spring of boundless grace and blessing. What a consolation is this, that among the changing circumstances of life, we have a changeless Rock, "Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today, and forever," to whom we shall never turn in vain! He is a strong, enduring Friend and Helper. Though waves beat high, on this Rock you may stand, and they cannot touch you. Though the sun of temptation beats upon you — yet beneath the shadow of this Rock you may abide and cannot be harmed.
But from the rock smitten by the rod of Moses, came forth the living stream. And it is from Christ, smitten and afflicted for our sake, receiving in Himself the terrible stroke and penalty of a broken law — that grace and mercy flow.
Christ, as our substitute and representative, bears in our stead the death and judgment we deserve.
I remember hearing of a young lad at school who had an elder schoolfellow who showed him great kindness. The young lad often broke school rules and got into trouble with the master, but his friend shielded him when he could. On one occasion something had been done amiss, and the master called the offender to receive punishment at the desk. It was the little lad who had done it, but the other bade him sit still, and he would go up as if he were guilty and receive the stripes. In this way he showed his love, and took blame for evil of which he was innocent.
But who can tell the kindness and love of Christ toward us? Who can tell how much He bore for our sake? "He was wounded for our offences, and bruised for our iniquities — the chastisement of our peace was upon Him, and with His stripes we are healed!" (Isaiah 53:5).
But not only does Christ bear our sin — but from Him, the Crucified One, flows the river of living water.
You want happiness. You want a constant source of peace and comfort. Where can you find it? Only in Christ. You may try everything which life has to give — and it will give you many a cup of pleasure, many an hour of gratification, many a delight in the things around you. And as far as these things are innocent and lawful, enjoy them, and thank God for them. But the cup will often be empty, and the little brook dry up, and perhaps pain, and disappointment, and trouble come instead.
All present things are like cisterns dug in the clay, which may hold a little water for a time, but when hot weather comes, there is a crack, and the cistern is drained empty.
But through Jesus you may find lasting comfort. He will pour into your heart an assurance of His love. He will brighten your path when it is dark by giving you patience and hope. He will rejoice in your happiness and remove every hindrance to it, as He met the need of the marriage guests at Cana. He will teach you by His Spirit to find real help in prayer. He will give you power to overcome temptation, and endue you with the graces of meekness, holiness, and love.
Only stoop down and drink of the stream which runs close at your feet. Only be humble and see that you are unworthy of His grace. Only believe that He died for you and that He loves you and will hear your prayer. Only ask Him to give you the living water — and He cannot deny you.
"I hunger and I thirst;
Jesus my manna be;
O living waters burst
Out of the Rock for me.
For still the desert lies
My thirsting soul before;
O living waters rise
Within me evermore."