When the children of Israel were in the wilderness they were tormented by thirst and began to argue with Moses. “‘Why did you bring us out of Egypt? Are you trying to kill us…?’ Then Moses cried out to the Lord, ‘What should I do with these people? They are ready to stone me!’ The Lord said to Moses, ‘Walk out in front of the people. Take your staff, the one you used when you struck the water of the Nile, and call some of the elders of Israel to join you. I will stand before you on the rock at Mount Sinai. Strike the rock, and water will come gushing out. Then the people will be able to drink.’ So Moses struck the rock as he was told, and water gushed out as the elders looked on” (Exodus 17:3-6, NLT).
The details of this scene — and of God’s compassion for the people — is replayed through Jesus’ sacrifice. Christ is the rock that was struck for our transgressions when we were lost and wandering. And He is the living water that sustains us. Paul tells us, “I don’t want you to forget, dear brothers and sisters, about our ancestors in the wilderness long ago… For they drank from the spiritual rock that traveled with them, and that rock was Christ” (1 Corinthians 10:1, 4, NLT).
The scene in the wilderness demonstrates what Jesus does for grumbling people: He takes on their punishment. He declares, “I’ll stand condemned for them; I’ll be scourged; I’ll be nailed to the cross in their place — all so they might receive abundant life.” Some Christians forfeit this awesome gift by holding on to bitterness. Paul goes on to say, “Yet God was not pleased with most of them, and their bodies were scattered in the wilderness. These things happened as a warning to us” (10:5-6).
Our lives can wither away in bitterness, or we can be revived by the beautiful grace God offers us — it is our choice.