As we continue to walk through the book of Exodus, we continue to see the character of God, His working out of an eternal plan, as well as His personal interaction with humanity. While walking through Genesis, we discovered that all of us have been born with a sin nature and that sin nature wants to master us. God’s plan is to rescue us from our sin nature so that we can master it. In Exodus 17, we are going to discover that God is our victory over our sin nature. God reveals this character trait to us through His Name, Jehovah-Nissi. The Lord is our banner of victory. Victory over our sin nature is already ours, we simply must choose to walk in that victory. God shows this to us with His interaction with the children of Israel in the wilderness. Sin nature is never satisfied, ever. The more that it is fed, the more it wants. The children of Israel were hungry, so, by grace, the Lord fed them manna from heaven. They then wanted meat. God gave them meat until it spewed from their nostrils. In Exodus 17, now they are thirsty. Let’s take a look at how their sin nature manifests itself when squeezed.
I. Complaining and Grumbling against leadership
Our sin nature is ugly. When we are squeezed by life’s circumstances, our sin nature manifests itself.
1 Then all the congregation of the sons of Israel journeyed by stages from the wilderness of Sin, according to the command of the LORD, and camped at Rephidim, and there was no water for the people to drink.
2 Therefore the people quarreled with Moses and said, “Give us water that we may drink.” And Moses said to them, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the LORD?”
3 But the people thirsted there for water; and they grumbled against Moses and said, “Why, now, have you brought us up from Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?” (Exodus 17)
The people are being squeezed by thirst. They should have immediately run to the Lord because He had been constantly providing for them. Instead, they were upset with Moses, their spiritual leader. They quarrel with Moses. They grumble against Moses. The word quarrel literally means to complain against. The people want to complain against God but they fear Him because of His abilities. Instead, they attack Him indirectly by attacking the leader whom He placed in authority. Does this sound familiar? We are the same today. Our natural inclination is to lash out at the spiritual leadership whom God places as an authority figure over us. We become very critical of every decision. By doing this, we are actually attempting to manipulate God to act according to our desires. God is aware of this and is not fooled. A good leader confronts this attitude and Moses is a good leader and this is exactly what He does. Sin nature is like a game of wack a mole. It retreats in one area and redirects to another. The people begin to grumble. The idea of grumbling in this verse is taking up residence with our complaint and stewing over it. Not only that, but, we share that complaint with anyone who will listen and hopefully join us (in our misery). This attitude spreads quickly. In fact, the children of Israel were stewing over their complaints to the point where they were ready to murder Moses with stones. We may not pick up stones to fling at our spiritual leaders today but, we can throw some nasty words around. The Bible does teach us that the power of life and death is in the tongue and with it, we can build up a person or destroy a person. Sin nature only wants to destroy. How do you view the leadership whom God has placed as a spiritual authority in your life? Do you criticize every decision made and complain about it to anyone who will listen. Do you stew over your complaints until you are mad enough to spit nails?
As bad as all this is, God has a solution for Moses and He also has a solution for us today.
II. God’s Solution
The people did not turn to the Lord in the midst of a difficult circumstance. Instead, they gave in to their sin nature. Moses, on the other hand, immediately runs to the Lord. He had good reason to run to the Lord because the people were so worked up, they were ready to kill Moses with stones.
So Moses cried out to the LORD, saying, “What shall I do to this people? A little more and they will stone me.” (Exodus 17:4)
God has a plan to intervene and help Moses. We see the mercy of God as well as the grace of God in this interaction. The people deserved to be punished for doubting God and rebelling against God’s appointed leader. Instead, God does not give the people what they deserve. He shows them grace by giving them what they do not deserve.
5 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Pass before the people and take with you some of the elders of Israel; and take in your hand your staff with which you struck the Nile, and go.
6 “Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb; and you shall strike the rock, and water will come out of it, that the people may drink.” And Moses did so in the sight of the elders of Israel. (Exodus 17)
The people are complaining and criticizing Moses’ decisions. God brings Moses front and center and continues to work through him to accomplish His will. The people want to rebel against spiritual authority. God continues to assert His authority through His spiritual leader. God’s solution is to have spiritual leaders who depend upon the Lord totally, continue to lead the people. According to the Apostle Paul, all of this was pointing to some important spiritual truths.
1 For I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, 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 were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ. (I Corinthians 10)
This is a spiritual picture of what we are like as people before we encounter and accept Christ. We are slaves to our sin nature and live our lives led by our sin nature. Once we encounter and accept Christ, we are set free from the power of our sin nature and we are able to walk in obedience to the Lord. The victory is ours yet, we have to walk in that victory.
III. The Daily Battle with our sin nature
Mankind’s sin nature is manifested in the person of Amalek. The enemy is ready to attack when we are weak. Amalek waited until the people were overcome by thirst and fatigue and that is when he attacked. In the story, the people were victorious when they trusted in the Lord. The moment that they began to trust in themselves, Amalek began to be victorious. The same is true for us today. When we trust in the Lord moment by moment, day by day, we are guaranteed victory over our sin nature. The moment that we begin to trust in ourselves, our sin nature is victorious over us. We will either manifest obedience or contention based on the one to whom we submit (trust). When we submit to the Lord, we walk in victory. When we submit to our sin nature, we begin to complain and grumble. If you were to analyze your attitude over the past couple of days, what does your attitude manifest, submission to the Lord or to your sin nature? Do you complain and grumble? Are you surrounded by people who complain and grumble? What is your attitude toward your spiritual leader like? Keep in mind, Christ is the head of the Church and He is the One who ordained a spiritual leader in your life when He sent out disciples to make more disciples. It is difficult to claim Christ as your spiritual leader and not have a human spiritual leader in your life. God is Jehovah-Nissi, our banner of victory over our sin nature. Victory is guaranteed but, we do have to walk in that victory moment by moment, day by day. Are you walking in that victory?