By Rev. Tommy Shepherd,
Stuart United Methodist Church
“Grace upon Grace”
Exodus 17: 1-7
Have you ever felt as if God had abandoned you? Why is it that we tend to believe that if we have no problems in life that God is for us while on the other hand if we are having difficulties, or sickness, or the like we think that God is against us? God cares for us in our difficulties and in the good times. The People of Israel are a prime example of God working in Grace. As a matter of fact, when you study the exodus event what you will find is God displays grace upon grace as I hope we will see.
In Wesleyan circles, this is known as Prevenient grace. Prevenient Grace is grace that “goes before.” It is the work of God to bring people to a place of safety. Spiritually speaking, it is the work of God in bringing us to the point of salvation. We see prevenient grace at work in saving Israel from certain death over and over again.
Sometimes we question God, because we find it hard to trust and keep the faith in difficult situations. I want to encourage you that God is a God of Grace upon Grace! Grace is a word that is thrown around a lot. But what is grace? In its simplest definition it is unmerited and undeserved favor. The Israelite people have been exposed to God’s Grace for some time now and one would think that they would have been getting used to the idea that God wanted what was best for them. It was God’s plan that brought Israel to Egypt during a great famine. Israel was saved, God’s Grace. While there Israel flourished, God’s Grace. Then a pharaoh came along who enslaved Israel. Oh My! Has God forsaken us? No! God’s Grace is at work when we have no idea that God is at work.
By God’s grace they entered Egypt as a small band of people. 70 to be exact according to Genesis 46:27. By God’s grace they grew in numbers until they outnumbered the Egyptians. By God’s grace they were placed into bondage by Egypt. Wait a minute preacher, are you telling me that that was a part of God’s plan? Yes! God was setting the stage just as He had told Abraham many years earlier in Genesis 15: 13-14. God told Abraham that his decedents would be “aliens in a land that is not theirs, and shall be slaves there, and they shall be oppressed for four hundred years; 14 but I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions.”
God’s plan included captivity for 400 years. Why, because sometimes we get comfortable and don’t want to change. God had to see to it that Israel wanted to flee from Egypt. Sometimes we can’t see it at the time but when we look back, we can see that something was happening that we had no control over to bring us where we need to be. That is what God was doing for Israel and that is what God is doing for us.
In Exodus 17:1-7, we see the issue was the lack of water. What do the people do? They complained against Moses. They still haven’t learned that God has grace upon grace. They haven’t learned that God is leading them, and that God will save them. Why is it that when things get difficult, we complain? We need to learn to do what Moses did when he found himself in a tight spot. We need to turn to the Lord, but most of the time – we complain to whoever will listen. I imagine that Moses must have been at his wits end (Exodus 17:4).
When Moses cries out to God for help, God tells him to take his staff and go out with the elders of Israel to a rock. He does and the Lord is standing there on the Rock. Did the elders see the Lord? We aren’t told, but apparently Moses did for God said, “I will be standing there in front of you on the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it, so that the people may drink” (6). There was nothing out there but rock and dirt, but Moses knew which rock to strike. When he strikes the rock God brings forth water from the rock and the people get their water.
It was because of Moses’ obedience to the Lord that Israel drank water from the rock. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 10:4 that “that Rock was Christ.” He also stated that that same spiritual Rock followed them. Jesus said of himself, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, 38 and let the one who believes in me drink” (John 7:37-38). We should know that even when we find ourselves in desperate situations that there is still grace upon grace. Praise the Lord!