Faithful to God – Fruitful in ministry (Exodus 17v1-6)

Between a rock and a hard place’ is a familiar phrase. It speaks of a challenging season in life; and it can be a regular experience in ministry. If this is true for you, I want to offer some hope and encouragement. Our greatest fruitfulness in ministry will often come when being faithful is costly.

Moses was raised up by God to lead His people from slavery to freedom. Having been set free, their joy was short lived as they began to murmur and complain about their living conditions. They struggled with a lack of food, so God made miraculous provision for them in manna and quail.

Now they faced a bigger challenge. No water whilst travelling through a desert. Literally a life and death situation.

We pick up the story at v1. The people of God found themselves in a dry and desperate place. They were here, not because of the inept leadership of Moses, but because of God’s leading of them. Moses led them ‘as the Lord commanded’. Jesus first experience after being filled by the Spirit was to be led by the same Spirit into the wilderness (Luke 4v1). God will at times lead us to difficult places not to punish us, but to remind us of our dependency of Him (2 Corinthians 1v9).

What was Moses reward for his faithfulness to God? The people quarreled with Moses(v2). Sound familiar? To lead people to a place where they have a thirst for something deeper in life, can be challenging. The cost of faithfulness.

What God was doing with the Children of Israel is similar to what He does in many lives today. He leads us to dry and arid places so we might become aware of a greater thirst. A deeper thirst.

On the last and greatest day of the feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink”. (John 7v37) “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst”. (John 4v13-14)

What was Moses to do? He did the only thing he could, he cries out to God(v4). I love Moses words here. He had a love for his people, but as they blamed him for their predicament, Moses describes them as ‘these people’. He looks to distance himself from those he was leading. Ever been there?

It wasn’t that long ago they hailed him as their deliverer, their hero, now they are ready to stone him.

One of the most difficult and challenging times to lead our people, is when those we lead appear to be least deserving of such leadership. When our people become these people.

This is where Moses leads by example for us all. He prioritizes his own walk with God, his own call, and he remains faithful to that call irrespective of how he feels about the people he is leading.

God calls Moses to ‘walk on ahead of the people’(v5). Don’t lead according to how you feel; lead according to what I say. Our faithfulness will lead to fruitfulness.

God instructs Moses to take some of the elders with him and the staff with which he struck the Nile. When remaining faithful is costly, we need to look around for those God has called to stand with us and for us. We also need to remind ourselves of what God has already placed in our hands.

The staff in Moses hand signified the power and the presence of God in his life. It reminded him of who God was and what God had called him to do. ‘The one who calls you is faithful, and He will do it!’ (1 Thessalonians 5v24) God will remind you of the same.

Moses was led to a rock, a hard place in the midst of a dry place, that would become for him the place of miraculous provision(v6). As he struck the rock a river of life would flow that would satisfy the needs of a nation. What he experienced at the Rock of Horeb, is what we experience when we come to the Rock that is Christ. He too was broken, and from Him a river of life flows so that the thirst of all may be quenched. Remember it is He who called you, and as you remain faithful to Him, especially when it costs you, He will prove to be fruitful, both in your life and ministry.

Rev Tommy MacNeil