William Flippin Jr.: A Rock and a Hard Place

The children of Israel are now camped in Rephidim with a sea of people following behind a stuttering leader. With all their belongings and livestock they finally arrived at a place of refreshment. Refreshment at last, but they discover there is no water. Present in their midst are wadis - once a place of abundant water is now a barren place. Likewise, as we find in this COVID-19 pandemic, the physical structures are there - baseball and football stadiums. Still, they are dried up. Movie theaters once busting at the seams have dried up.

The psychological realities that they have come to a place known as a source of water, the toiling and the agony of the journey- they have pressed on in the desert heat, lips are parched, barely making it, and come to a place of no water. Am I talking to anyone that has journeyed and pressed on like the woman with the issue of blood for twelve long years, who is Zoomed out? Oh, like the common expression, you are between a rock and a hard place.

In our dry situations, this text can teach us that, in our disappointment and frustration, there is a rock in a hard place.

In this challenging place, they begin to grumble. Can you blame them? We are creatures that are tied to bodies that easily tire, quickly run dry, and are always in need of food. If we don't get sleep, water, food, we can soon change into a being that doesn't resemble our usual selves at all. The Israelites were no different. Their grumble is now expressed to Moses: "Give us water that we may drink!" (a rock and a hard place). So, Moses responded, feeling their ungratefulness to have witnessed the miraculous power of God, leading them from slavery to freedom. Seeing the Red Sea opened he said, "Why do you contend with me? Why do you tempt the Lord?"

Inevitably, of all the afflictions we can face, thirst is one of the worst. Our Lord Jesus was beaten, ripped, and nailed to a tree, but the only agony that he called out as he hung there dying was, "I thirst." And like him, the people are so suffering. Just think about in the 21st Century - in the greatest recorded Empire in human history - that persons in Flint, Michigan have contaminated water; to have lead found in the water supply, the blighted urban dwellings exist today.

So Moses cried out to the Lord saying, "What shall I do with these people? They are almost ready to stone me!" His words to the Lord more accurately say, "Yet a little and they will stone me." He was on the verge of being stoned, and even the slightest amount of time or a single misstep in his interactions with them would result in his death. The people are in a rock and a hard place because of thirst, neglect, and justifiably a lack of faith, and Moses is about to be executed by stoning amid the people.

I am reminded in these situations of the prophet Jeremiah, who urges disgruntled people, anxious about the impending destruction in their midst, to repair the cistern.

In troubled times, the Philippians text says, "Let our minds be in Christ who was humbled and emptied himself to death even on an old rugged cross." Christ, who was not forced to submission in becoming the lowliest of slave, provides the endurance of sacrificial service in our journey in a rock and a hard place.

Moses then sought the Lord and brought with him elders of Israel and followed God's command - with his hand and rod he struck the river. This is the same rod he struck the waters of the river, in the sight of Pharaoh and in the sight of his servants. “And all the waters that were in the river were turned to blood" (Exodus 7:20). The same rod, which brought death to the river when striking the waters, will be used to bring forth a tributary of the water of life for the people when he hits the rock.

God assured Moses that in Horeb, God would provide a rock; this was the rock where revelation would take place. The Lord has already selected the place and the miracle.

How can we receive refreshment during a dry place? It's found in the solution and command of God to Moses, "You shall strike the rock, and water will come out of it that the people may drink."

I am reminded of a movie called 127 Hours. In April 2003, avid mountaineer Aron Ralston went hiking in Utah. He did not tell anyone where he was going. He befriends fellow hikers Kristi and Megan and shows them an underground pool before they head home. After they part ways, Aron continues through a slot canyon. While climbing, he loses his grip and falls, knocking a boulder that traps his right hand and wrist against the wall.

He attempts to move the boulder, but it won't budge. He calls frantically for help but realizes that he is alone. He shortly begins recording a video diary using his camcorder to maintain morale as he chips away parts of the boulder with a pocket knife. So, over the next five days, Aron rations his food and the remaining supply of water and is forced to drink his urine. He also sets up a pulley using his climbing rope in a futile attempt to lift the boulder.

Throughout the days, Aron becomes desperate and depressed and begins hallucinating about escape, relationships, and past experiences, including his former girlfriend, Rana, and his family. During one hallucination, Aron realizes that his mistake was that he did not tell anyone where he was going or for how long, and decides that destiny has trapped him with the boulder. On the sixth day, Aron has a vision of his future son, spurring his will to survive. Oh, like Aron I wonder, do I have some witnesses that, in COVID-19, the way we will get through 2020 and beyond is like the prophet Isaiah who, seven hundred years before Christ came, had a vision of the son in Isaiah chapter 53 that he too would be smitten like that rock.

"Surely, he has born our griefs And carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed him stricken, Smitten by God and afflicted." (Isaiah 53:4)

And from him came the water by which we receive eternal life. As Jesus said to the people in John chapter 7:

"'If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. He who believes in me, as the scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.' But this he spoke concerning the Spirit _whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given because Jesus was not yet glorified." (John 7:37-39)

This was the final cause. The water from the rock is the giving of the Spirit. It is the granting of eternal life and the glory yet revealed to us. "Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him, will never thirst."

Out of the dry place, Horeb, came the living waters through a rock and a hard place. Through a rock and a hard place is through our declaration, and that Rock is Christ. Oh, I hear the sweet singer of Israel saying, "The Lord is my Rock, and my Fortress, and my Deliverer" (2 Sam. 22:2). Then he says, "Make a joyful noise to the Rock of our salvation" (95:1). We stand on the rock of Christ, the solid foundation. We stand! All other ground is sinking sand.

Oh, I declare today that he is my Rock when I am facing a foundation in a hard place. Out from the smitten rock flowed the water, which is the same yesterday and forever more. The only way to increase our supply of living water is to invite others in to take the drink.

The disciples drank straight from the source.

The first-century church gulped from the cupped hands of witnesses.

After Constantine, it was shipped out in cases down all the major roadways.

During the Reformation, it was shaken up and sprayed out over the church like champagne fizz.

The Age of Enlightenment thoughtfully sipped it.

Hippies served it in paper cups at rock concerts.

And the next generation - they may need the living waters zapped to them via "virtual reality" sessions on the Internet. Who knows? The delivery system is not essential - the cargo itself is.

Thank you, Lord for this living water! Thank you for your grace and your mercy in those times that I have been in a rock and a hard place.

Rock of Ages, cleft for me:

let me hide myself in thee;

let the water and the blood,

from thy wounded side which flowed,

be of sin the double cure;

save from wrath and make me pure.