In a land as dry and hot as the Desert of Sin in the Sinai Peninsula, water is a necessity. To travel in this region a person would need to know exactly where water could be found and if a well ran dry, or an oasis failed, it could be the difference between life and death. So when the Israelites are upset that there is no water in Rephidim, it is natural to assume they feared for their lives, death was pushing in upon them. That is why they cried,
Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to make us and our children and livestock die of thirst? (Exodus 17:3)
In many respects, the Israelites are exactly like modern day believers. As we walk through life, many things are on our doorstep ready to devour us. Metaphorically the desert heat and parched thirst are symbolic of the struggles we face as God seeks to build faith and trust into our lives. In difficult financial times, we cry out, “God why did you bring us here?” But he is with us. When relationships are struggling, we cry out “Lord, what are you doing?” But he is with us. When our prayers don’t seem to be answered, we cry out “Lord, are you paying any attention to what is happening to us?” But he is listening, even interceding for us. Each of these cries is identical to the cry of the Israelites.
But the beauty of the story is that God assures the people they are not alone. He hasn’t abandoned them. He is present among them and will meet their deepest need for the assurance of life. The water that flows from the rock that Moses strikes is a picture of faith in Christ and his presence among the people meeting this need. Christ is among them quenching their thirst and ensuring that the heat, the difficulty, the struggles are not going to take their life; and he is with us in the same way. The Apostle Paul understood this truth when he wrote,
For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers, that our forefathers were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. They were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ. (1 Corinthians 10:1-4)
For those who trust in Christ, God always answers our cry, “Where are you God?”, with the reminder that Christ is always with us,
I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. (John 14:18)
… God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” (Heb. 13:5b)
He is our water of life and the place where our thirst is quenched. He ensures that nothing can ever separate us from the Love of God. This is a sure and certain truth God proclaimed to the patriarchs, Moses, Joshua, the prophets and now to the believer; we can take great comfort that no matter what dire situation besets us, Christ is with us meeting our needs and nourishing us all the way.