Exodus 15:22 through Exodus 17:7 records for us three instances where the people are grumbling against God after coming out of Egyptian slavery and crossing the sea. The direct message of this text is to not put the Lord to the test by grumbling and complaining against him. We looked at this message in our last lesson. But there is more to this text than the message to not complain against the Lord and put him to the test. We have noticed throughout our study of Exodus that this is God’s picture book for redemption. God is showing through these events in the life of Israel how God was going to save his people when Christ came. These events in the history of Israel are used in the New Testament to show Jesus as the new Moses who has come to rescue the world from slavery to sin. There are two pictures given to us in this passage in Exodus: God provides bread from heaven for the people and God provides water for the people. The apostle Paul indicates to his audience that these are the two facets of salvation we are to look at.
For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ. (1 Corinthians 10:1–4 ESV)
Notice that the apostle Paul says that Israel ate the same spiritual food as us and drank the same spiritual drink as us. So let us consider what God is teaching us about these two miracles and how they relate to our salvation in Jesus.
Bread From Heaven
The place we need to turn to is John 6. John 6 opens with the account of Jesus feeding the crowd bread with the miracle of the feeding of the 5000. Notice the conclusion that is drawn from this miracle in John 6:14.
When the people saw the sign that he had done, they said, “This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!” (John 6:14 ESV)
They see that this is the Prophet that Moses prophesied would come who would be like him. Moses provided bread miraculously and now Jesus is providing bread miraculously. So they make the proper connection. But on the next day crowds come to Jesus, but they do not come to him for the right reasons (6:25-27). They came to have easy food and did not come to him because he is the Prophet that Moses spoke about. Now notice what the people ask in John 6:30.
So they said to him, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform? Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” (John 6:30–31 ESV)
The people are related the scene that we have studied from Exodus 16.
When the people of Israel saw it, they said to one another, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was. And Moses said to them, “It is the bread that the Lord has given you to eat. (Exodus 16:15 ESV)
Jesus reminds them in verses 32-33 that it was God, not Moses, who gave them bread from heaven. But listen carefully to what Jesus says in verse 33. “For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” Notice that Jesus says the true bread that the Father gives from heaven is “he who comes down from heaven.” The people ask to receive this bread (6:34). So Jesus continues in verse 35.
Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” (John 6:35 ESV)
The people understand exactly what Jesus is saying. Look at verse 41.
So the Jews grumbled about him, because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” They said, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” (John 6:41–42 ESV)
Now we need to see the connection that is happening here. In Exodus 16 what happened? The people of Israel grumbled against Moses for bread. What is happening now? The Jews grumbled against Jesus (who is the new Moses) when he is the bread that comes down from heaven. Just as they grumbled against Moses, now they are grumbling against Jesus. Notice that Jesus makes the same connection to the people.
43 Jesus answered them, “Do not grumble among yourselves. 44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. 45 It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me— 46 not that anyone has seen the Father except he who is from God; he has seen the Father. 47 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50 This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” (John 6:43–51 ESV)
Jesus says that their ancestors at the manna in the wilderness and they died. Now stop for a moment and think about why this was. Why did the Israelites die in the wilderness when God provided them bread from heaven? The answer is what we looked at in the last lesson. They died in the wilderness because they did not believe. They did not believe that God would provide. They did not believe that God was taking care of them. Thus, they grumbled and complained against God. Jesus says that if one eats the living bread that comes down from heaven (Jesus), then he will live forever and he will be given life. Notice this is what Jesus says in verse 40.
For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. (John 6:40 ESV)
This is why Jesus gives this answer in verses 43-45.
43 Jesus answered them, “Do not grumble among yourselves. 44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. 45 It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me. (John 6:43–45 ESV)
Jesus tells them not to grumble because the problem is the same. They have not heard and learned from the Father so that they would come to Jesus. No one can come to Jesus unless the Father draws that person. That person is drawn to Jesus by the Father by being taught by God, hearing and learning from him. Israel failed at this in the days of Moses and failed at this in the days of Jesus.
What is being pictured in the days of Moses is that God would provide bread to give the people life, but the people will not believe and they will perish because of their lack of faith. Jesus comes and declares he is the one who gives life but the people do not believe and will perish because of their lack of faith. Thus the words of John 3 resonate strongly.
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. (John 3:16–18 ESV)
Water From The Rock
The other scene that is given to us in Exodus 15-17 is the need for water. In particular, we see God providing water from a rock in the middle of the desert to give the people something to drink, so that they can live (17:1-7). This also has a New Testament implication which is also found in the Gospel of John. The first instance is in John 4. Jesus meets a Samaritan woman at a well.
10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” 11 The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.” 13 Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” 15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.” (John 4:10–15 ESV)
Notice that the water Jesus offers will cause a person to not be thirsty again. In fact, it will become a spring of water welling up in him to eternal life. Jesus offers water that gives life. Jesus uses this image again in John 7.
On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. (John 7:37–39 ESV)
Notice that there are many pictures regarding Jesus as the living waters that flow to bring eternal life to those who come to him. Let’s bring back in what the apostle Paul taught in 1 Corinthians 10.
1 For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, 2 and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, 3 and all ate the same spiritual food, 4 and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ. (1 Corinthians 10:1–4 ESV)
The rock that the Israelites drank from was Christ. Now the idea is not that the physical rock that Moses struck was actually Christ. Nor is the idea that the Israelites wandered in the wilderness carrying this water-giving rock with them. Notice that Paul says that the “spiritual Rock followed them.” What is the point Paul is making? Christ is the provider of life. The Israelites had the provider of life in the wilderness but they rejected him and did not trust him. They grumbled and complained. Remember what the people said in Exodus 17:7 — “Is the Lord among us or not?” What is Paul’s answer? Yes. They had Christ, the giver of life with them. But they did not believe.
They had life offered to them. They had bread from heaven and water from the rock. “Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness” (1 Corinthians 10:5). It is so easy to read about the nation of Israel and be stunned that they had all of these privileges and advantages, yet squandered them and died in the desert. But Paul’s point along with the writers of the New Testament is that we have the same advantages and more, and yet we do the same thing.
We say that they had bread fall from heaven every day. How could they not believe in the Lord and trust in him? But Jesus is the bread from heaven and we have him every day. How can we not trust in the Lord fully? We say that they had water come out of the rock so that they could drink and live. How could they not believe in the Lord and trust in him? But Jesus is the rock from which living water flows to us. How can we not trust in the Lord fully? God is providing for us through this wilderness that we walk on our way to the promised land of Heaven. Will you believe in the Lord and entrust your life to him? Will you serve him so that you will not fall as they did? You are receiving all the same advantages! Will you see the rock that is Christ as nothing? Will you see the spiritual bread he gives you for eternal life as futile?