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The "Rock"

Genesis 49:24
But his bow remained in strength, And the arms of his hands were made strong By the hands of the Mighty God of Jacob (From there is the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel) his bow remained in strength, And the arms of his hands were made strong By the hands of the Mighty God of Jacob (From there is the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel)

Depending upon our perspective, we will envision different objects when we think of rocks. Some see smaller objects lying around a yard or playground. Some think of the miscellaneous collections filling the pockets of children. If, however, you are into mountain climbing, rocks may represent huge boulders, cliffs, or mountains. And, for the construction worker digging in the hard ground, a rock is an object in-between the cliff and the pebble.

In Scripture God is the Rock. In the Old Testament, God the Rock is

A review of these verses shows that "God" generally means Elohim, God the Father.

In the New Testament, it becomes clear that Christ is the specific Rock of God. It is upon this Rock that Christ builds His church (Matt 16:18). As we review the rest of Scripture we may properly see that this passage refers to Jesus as the Rock, and not to Peter. For example, Jesus is the cornerstone of the church (Eph 2:20) and the Rock from whom flows the Spirit (John 4:13-14; 1 Cor 10:4).

As may be seen from a review of the Old Testament passages, God is the Rock of refuge and strength (Isa 32:2; 33:16). Job speaks in figurative terms of shaking the world by removing the Rock (Job 18:4). The Rock is the unmovable foundation (Ps 40:2). This unmovable foundation gives security to Israel, the people of God (2 Sam 22:32). This is, of course, only one of the pictures of God provided in the Old Testament, but when we think of mountains and cliffs, the idea of a Rock provides a strong picture of refuge and strength and protection.

For example, in 1 Samuel , David retreats to the fortress. Many believe this to be the cliff fortress upon which Herod the Great built Messada, a high mountain top refuge almost impregnable from foreign armies in the days of the Kings. After he died, Jews that were trying to break away from roman rule took over Messada for 9 years. The Romans were told to capture the city and take the Jews as slaves. It took 10,000 Jewish slaves and 900 days and a dirt ramp (below) to finally take the city. When the Romans entered the city, they found the Jews had taken their lives and burned their belongings in order to stay free from slavery.

We all know that stones are but small rocks. In Scripture, however, stone and rock are frequently alternated as pictures of Jesus. While there appears to be little practical difference between the two, the picture of a Rock as refuge shows a powerful, strong picture of God, while a stone for stumbling (Isa 8:14; 26:16) shows the power of a small rock at work. God is powerful and the insignificant, in man’s eyes, is actually the power of God at work. The stone of stumbling becomes the cornerstone of God's true Temple.

Psalm 118:22
The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief cornerstone.

In my opinion, the most powerful picture of the Rock is found in the Exodus. Early on, the people are thirsty after several days in the wilderness. They come to the Rock at Meribah, where Moses is directed to strike the stone (Exod 17:6). Living water flows forth from the Rock, a picture reminding us of the Holy Spirit flowing forth with life for all who believe (John 4:13-14). At the end of the wilderness journey, the people again come to the same Rock. God now tells Moses to speak to the Rock. Pictured in these two actions are the power of God and the graciousness and love of God.

In New Testament terms, there are no actions required for life. We do not have to work ("striking the rock") to receive eternal life. We merely need to exercise faith ("speaking to the rock") in order to be saved (Rom 3: 21-28; 10:9-10, 13). Those who disobey God’s directions will not find God. While an imperfect picture, Moses failed to enter the promised land because he disobeyed God and struck the Rock rather than speaking to it (Num 20:8-11). God was still gracious to the people, but Moses suffered the consequences of his disobedience.

The one place of distinction some make between stone and rock comes in the passage of Matthew (16:13-20). Here, in response to a question of Christ, Peter confesses Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. This is an acknowledgment that Jesus is the Messiah. In the Greek, Christ’s statement about building His church upon the "rock" is a word play. Peter is petros or stone, a piece or rock or detached stone, while rock is petra, meaning a rock such as a rocky ledge, a large solid rock. Thus, Christ says, Peter, you are really a small stone but upon a huge rock I will build my church. When one looks to Ephesians 2:20 we find that Christ is the chief cornerstone of the Church.

having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner stone,

Jesus is also spoken of as the Rock in 1 Corinthians 10:4:

and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ.

It is interesting to note the figurative picture of the Rock following the Israelites. Looking at the entire sentence of 1 Corinthians places even more emphasis on Jesus as the Rock.

1 Corinthians 10:1-4
1 Moreover, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware that all our fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea, 2 all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, 3 all ate the same spiritual food, 4 and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ.

The Shekinah glory followed the Jews through the wilderness (Exod 40:34-38). This cloud of glory is God and Paul likens the cloud to the Rock and equates the Rock to Jesus. It is interesting to note that Peter refers to the Christ as a Stone twice, Acts 4:11-2 and 1 Peter 2:4-8. Peter never refers to himself as the foundation of the church. And, if you review these stone references, we find that Jesus is called the chief capstone or head of the corner, not the foundation.

One way to view Jesus is that He is the foundation and head and glue of the church. This takes into account all of the uses of Stone and Rock in the New Testament. The Jews fell over the Jesus in not accepting Him as the Messiah, the point made in Peter’s confession.

The building of the church upon a strong Rock also finds its symbolism in the Sermon on the Mount and the picture of the foundations of one’s house.

Matthew 7:24-27
24 "Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: 25 and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: 27 and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall."

Jesus applies the picture of Himself as the Rock and Foundation of the true Temple in Mark 12:10 and Luke 20:18.

Above, in Romans 9:32-33; 10:11, Paul puts to work the stumbling of the Jews over the Rock. The reference to Jesus as a Stone involves the use of the Old Testament passages quoted by Paul. The idea of the Rock being a weapon of punishment reflects Daniel 2:34-35 and 44-45.

34 You watched while a stone was cut out without hands, which struck the image on its feet of iron and clay, and broke them in pieces. 35 Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver, and the gold were crushed together, and became like chaff from the summer threshing floors; the wind carried them away so that no trace of them was found. And the stone that struck the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth. . . . 44 And in the days of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever. 45 Inasmuch as you saw that the stone was cut out of the mountain without hands, and that it broke in pieces the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver, and the gold--the great God has made known to the king what will come to pass after this. The dream is certain, and its interpretation is sure."

Just as Nebuchadnezzar understood the power of God and the analogy of the Rock, so, too, will the Jews find the power of God at work. In the days of the Tribulation, the Jewish nation will recognize the true God and come to a repentance that will save the nation. In the meanwhile, individual Jews will recognize that Jesus is the Son of the living God, just as did Peter.




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