For the proclamation of the Gospel and the edification of the Body of Christ
What Is His Name?
There are times when the Old and New Testaments seem to telescope together, so that we get the impression that the people of God in ancient times were living in the good of the personal fullness of the Lord Jesus. Take the statement by Paul that the Rock from which living water flowed to the thirsty wilderness wanderers was really Christ (1 Corinthians 10:4). Quite clearly the Holy Spirit wishes us to learn something more about our wonderful Lord Jesus from this part of Old Testament history.
That God is Himself a Rock is everywhere affirmed in the Scriptures. The true believer has always been able to claim that God is his Rock – or even more personally 'My Rock'. The symbolism is full of comfort. For the traveller under the scorching sun, the rock provided shadow (Isaiah 32:2). For the homeless, the rock offered shelter, since to be hidden in the clefts of a rock was a sure dwelling place where one could really be at home with God (S. of Songs 2:14). A great deal is also made of the fact that as rocky elevations made natural fortresses, so perfect security was provided for those who could find a position above their enemies by being hidden in a rock (Psalm 27:5-6).
We who have fled to Jesus for refuge are able to appreciate the spiritual counterpart of these blessings. For us, Christ gives safety, protection and a sure dwelling place. Our world is like the shifting sand of a desert. It offers no reliable security and no lasting home. How gratefully, then, do we declare that the Lord is our Rock of ages.
The particular reference made by the apostle, however, refers to the rock from which flowed life-giving water for the thirsty people of God. One blow from Moses' rod released those pent-up supplies of water which the rock had been holding within itself, so that everybody's thirst was fully satisfied by the mountain stream which God provided for them.
We understand that the striking of the rock was typical of the sufferings of our Saviour on the cross, and may feel that the serious sin of Moses in striking a rock the second time consisted in a typical suggestion that there could ever be the need for a repetition of that unique and sufficient sacrifice which our Lord Jesus made once for all. Whether or not this was the reason for God's severe dealing with him, there is no doubt that the instruction given to Moses on that second occasion was that he was only to speak to the rock and there would be an abundant outflow of refreshing water.
Taking up these two historical experiences, the apostle wrote of "the spiritual rock that followed them", so reminding us that our Lord Jesus is always near at hand, and can be relied on to pour us out refreshing streams of His grace wherever we may find ourselves in our journey through this world's arid wilderness. The Israelites were not camels, able to take in big supplies of life-giving water and then live for days on their portable reservoirs. No, they had no personal reservoirs, and nor have we.
We are in constant need. Thank God that our living Rock is also constant. God smote Him once on the cross, and from that great moment of sacrifice He has become for all believers a boundless source of freely flowing grace. It is enough for us to speak to the Rock, to call on the Lord, to affirm our simple faith as to His "one sacrifice for sins for ever" (Hebrews 10:12); and as we do so, we find that all the characteristics of the Old Testament rock are valid in spiritual reality for us.
It may be that the disciples were not able to express themselves in this way, but how better can we describe their experiences during the gospel years than to say that Jesus was to them a constantly present Rock? He never failed them. Not only in the tumultuous three years of public ministry but through the shattering uncertainty of the last few days before the cross; in the mock trials before the civil and religious rulers; in His journey on the so-called 'Via Dolorosa' as He passed by the weeping daughters of Jerusalem, and even in the dreadful events at Calvary, He maintained an unmoveable dignity which quivered under the blow of divine forsakeness, but recovered for the final shout of triumph at the end. He proved Himself to be the everlasting, unconquerable and life-giving Rock.
The Church is built on this divine Rock (Matthew 16:18), and its members may freely drink of His life-giving streams. And when this [118/119] universe is shaken to its foundations under the final judgments of God's wrath, we who have fled to Jesus will enjoy safety, victory and the satisfying experience of the fountains of living waters which flow from our beloved Rock (Revelation 7:17).
Toward The Mark: Vol. 2, No. 6, Nov. - Dec. 1973.