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Living Water from Christ, the Rock

Sermon 1866 Exodus 17.1-7 June 11, 2023

I never knew how good water tasted until I moved to southern Nevada. A big glass of cold water right out of the refrigerator. It doesn’t matter if it is a fancy import, a pedestrian big box brand, gone through charcoal filters or from the Southern Nevada Water Authority. The aaaahhh factor knocks my socks off. I get no kick out of champagne. But I get a kick out of H2O.

And I certainly get a kick out of

Living Water from Christ, the Rock

1. Christ’s forgiveness ends every quarrel.

2. Christ’s forgiveness passes every test.

“The whole Israelite community set out from the Desert of Sin, traveling from place to place as the LORD commanded them. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. So they quarreled with Moses and said, ‘Give us water to drink. Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to make us and our children and livestock die of thirst (1-3)?’”

Not a pretty sight. And remember, there were over two million people with Moses in the desert. It could get pretty ugly pretty quickly. “Then Moses cried out to the LORD, ‘What am I to do with these people? They are almost ready to stone me (4).’”

Throughout the Bible the LORD, and that is his name here, the L-O-R-D, the Savior God who promises forgiveness of sins, works night and day to bring that promise to fulfillment and is that Promised Savior, Jesus, throughout the Bible the LORD compares thirst to sin and faith in the forgiveness of sins Jesus won for all people as water. Remember the Pentecost sermon, two weeks ago? “Whoever believes in me streams of living water will flow from within him (John 7.38).” Or how about the woman at the well. “The water I give will become a spring of water welling up to eternal life (John 4.14).” And conversely, “I thirst for you like a parched land (Psalm 143.6).”

Thirsty people are unhappy people. Unhappy people turn on each other. People who turn on each other quarrel with each other. “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree (Genesis 3.12).” When Moses confronted Aaron about making the Golden Calf Aaron blamed the people. “They gave me the gold, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf (Exodus 32.24)!” Oh no, not me! The culprit is thee! That’s the way sin always works. It turns us against each other. I know that’s true because that’s what always happens on the TV shows. They get the criminals to rat out each other for a plea deal. I know it even better from the Bible. The disciples argue with each other over who is the greatest. They know this is sinful, because when Jesus asks them what they were arguing about on the road they dummy up. Omerta.

Quarrelling shows there is something wrong, but it doesn’t get to the heart of the issue. It’s like having a constant headache. The headache may be a symptom of a brain tumor. You can get back to the symptom later.

Here’s the heart of the issue. The Children of Israel are testing God.

They are at Rephidim because the LORD has led them there. They didn’t go wandering willy-nilly in the desert. They followed the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night. That cloud led them out of Egypt. That cloud kept the Egyptians at bay while they crossed the Red Sea on dry ground. Whenever that cloud settled, they camped and there they stayed. When the cloud rose and started moving, Moses would say, “Rise up, O LORD! May your foes flee before you (Numbers 10.35)!” And they moved.

The Children of Israel knew. The LORD was with them. The LORD was leading them. So if they were at Rephidim, it was because that’s where the LORD wanted them to be. But they were challenging that. “Is the LORD among us or not (7)?” More than a few were answering the LORD had stepped out on them.

Christ was up to the test. Me, I would have said, “Yeah, good luck drinking dust.” Christ was up to the test. He tells Moses to take the leaders of the people along with him. They were to witness the miracle. He tells Moses to take his staff, the same staff he stretched over the waters of the Red Sea when the LORD parted the waters to let the Children of Israel escape and the same staff he stretched over the waters of the Red Sea when the LORD brought the waters back together to drown the Egyptian chariot and horse. The same LORD was with them. The same LORD would perform a miracle.

Moses did as the LORD had commanded him. He struck the rock with his staff. Immediately water flowed out of the rock for the people to drink. Not a trickle. Not a stream. A flood, enough to give water to over two million people and their livestock. Not from a well, not from a brook, from a dry rock. What a powerful miracle. It certainly proved what the LORD had earlier told Moses. “I will stand there before you by the rock at Horeb (6).”

The LORD had given his people water to drink. They didn’t deserve it, but the LORD had given his people water to drink.

Christian symbolism flows from the Bible. We see pictures of churches built on a rock, that rock is Jesus Christ, our confession of him as the Son of God, our Savior. “On this rock I will build my Church,” Jesus told his apostles. David repeatedly stands on the LORD, his Rock and will not stumble or fall. The Apostle Paul says we all drink from the spiritual rock that follows us and that rock is Christ.

“Is the LORD with us or not?” That has always been the question our sinful human nature throws out there. Every time we answer no, we give ourselves free rein to sin. Nobody will see. Nobody will care. Nobody will get hurt. And off we go, hurting everybody including ourselves. Everybody cares. It becomes public knowledge. Scandals, drunken outings, creative writing on some financial deals. The papers report the big boys. Our consciences blow the whistle on our misdeeds.

“Is the LORD with us or not?” After we have been caught, after everything has blown up in our faces and we feel lower than scum on the tub, then the devil tries to convince us the answer is still no. We’re too bad for God. God doesn’t hang with losers like us.

Christ’s forgiveness answers every test. He called Matthew, a godless-toady-for-the-Romans tax collector. He went to the going away party Matthew threw for himself so his friends, also tax collectors and sinners, could meet Jesus, hear him and believe. The sick need a doctor. Jesus makes house calls.

Christ comes to us with his forgiveness. His goodness calls us back from our sins. Yes, repentance is godly sorrow over what we have done, often expressed as a terror of going to hell, but the major part of repentance is faith in the forgiveness of sins Christ won for us on the cross. That’s what gives us the courage to rat ourselves out before God, or as the theologians put it, to confess.

With every confession, with every announcement of forgiveness, Christ’s forgiveness passes the test. We are his and he is ours. He goes with us. There is not a year, a month, a day, a moment when he is not by our side. Nothing can separate us from the love of God which is ours in Christ Jesus. We stand on that rock and nothing can shake our faith.

Now we have treated the disease, sinful unbelief in a loving and forgiving God. Christ’s forgiveness passes every test. Now we can go back and take care of the symptoms. Christ’s forgiveness ends every quarrel.

Since I need Christ’s forgiveness, I know I am not perfect. Since I am not perfect, my point of view on such and such a topic may not match reality. I need to listen to the other person. My way or the highway could very well turn out to be a no way dead end that I alone am taking. No need to tag along with me. You’ll see me coming back this same way in a few hours. I think the Bible calls this humility. We judge ourselves before we judge each other.

Since I have received Christ’s forgiveness, I can be generous. I am generous. Christ’s forgiveness has changed me. The other person might have a better idea than me. The Lord may have the solution and it is a combination of what I am seeing and what they are seeing. We may be seeing the same thing and putting it into different words. It makes a difference whether you are coming or going on a street if a house is “on the left.” I can be generous with my time and take the time to listen. Over the years I’ve noticed generous people listen. I think some guys have won the hearts of some pretty terrific ladies because they were that special someone. What made them that special someone? He listened to her the best. Every songbird needs a listener. I wish I hadn’t cut people off so quickly or completed their sentences for them.

Christ’s forgiveness ends every quarrel. Let’s say, I know this is purely hypothetical and would take place only once every four or five blue moons, but let’s just say you wronged someone. Said a harsh word, were overly critical of them, took something that wasn’t yours to take. They were angry, angry enough to do the right thing and bring it up to you, right in your face. And they were right. You were wrong. And you realized it. It also helped that your conscience was saying you were the worst friend in the world. And you apologized to them. And you went one step further. You asked them to forgive you.

Air would come out of a slashed tire more slowly than the anger subsided in that person. They calmed down. They looked you in the eye. They said, “I forgive you.” And you stayed friends, husband, wife, family, whatever this purely hypothetical and implausible scenario demands.

It happened because it wasn’t their forgiveness at all. It was Christ’s forgiveness. He died on the cross to take that sin, yes, that exact sin away. And since that sin was paid for, all the guilt and shame and “making up for it” was removed. All that was left was to say, “I forgive you.” Forgive those who repent. “Whoever’s sin you forgive, it is forgiven.”

Adam and Eve walk out of the Garden of Eden together. David remains king and the second son of Bathsheba becomes magnificent King Solomon. Jesus turns to Peter on the beach and says, “Feed my lambs,” and Peter takes the early church on his back, performing miracles under the noses of the murderers of Jesus, travelling the world to tell people about the words and deeds of Jesus, the Christ, the Son of the living God. And our friendships, our marriages, our families are stronger. Now we have one more example that they love us more than they love holding a grudge. Now we know they care more for us than they care about bragging about being right.

Like I said, I really get a kick out of

Living Water from Christ, the Rock

1. Christ’s forgiveness ends every quarrel.

2. Christ’s forgiveness passes every test.

In the desert heat, there’s no substitute. Coke makes you fat. The United Blood Services people tell me iced tea makes some people anemic, takes the iron out of your blood. Artificial sweeteners? Where do we begin? No, there’s no substitute for cool, clean, water. And there’s no substitute for the living water that flows from Christ, the Rock.


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