Tuesday, January 24, 2017

P1 Exploring God as "The Rock" in the Old Testament

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Deuteronomy 32:4 "The Rock! His work is perfect, For all His ways are just; A God of faithfulness and without injustice, Righteous and upright is He."

1 Corinthians 10:4 "and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ."

Today we want to consider a name of God and Christ that evokes images of strength, immovability and shelter - namely, God as our "Rock". The great 19th century commentator C.J. Ellicott notes about this title "Rock":

"No such combination of all the words for uprightness, sincerity, equity, and reliability is to be found elsewhere in all Scripture. This is the character of the Rock." 

Certainly studying any of the names of God overlap considerably with the names we find for Jesus Christ - since Christ is God in human flesh. All three Persons of the God, sharing in the same Divine nature, also share in any title ascribed to the nature and character of God. The title "Rock" is of course assigned to Yahweh in regards to the revelation of His character and being to the Old Testament Jews. It must be understood that any title or name speaks comparatively or metaphorically of God - meaning that the name or title points us to the way in which God's character or activity is pictured by the name. Thus, God is not literally a material, rocky-like Deity, since God by nature is immaterial spirit (see John 4:24). 

With those introductory remarks complete, we will turn our attention today to this title for God and Christ: "The Rock". We will explore this title for God as it is developed in the Old Testament, referencing all the while how the New Testament authors utilize this title to refer to Jesus Christ. 

Surveying the Old Testament Biblical record on the Divine title "Rock"

We first find this title "Rock" mentioned in Deuteronomy 32:4. The law of first mention in Bible study tells us that the first mention of a thing in the Bible will contain the seeds of thought that will develop later into the full-orbed truth of that subject. God as "Rock" is perfect, just, upright, without injustice and faithful. Just as a rock itself is immovable, stable and unchanging as far as rocks go - God has these qualities in His moral character. 

As one surveys the scriptures on this title "Rock", we can begin climbing the mountain of this truth from Deuteronomy 32:4 and discover the following:

1. In Deuteronomy 32:13,15 & 18 we find God as the Rock that provides salvation and Who is the source of life and existence of the people of God. The people of God, using the analogy of quarrying, ought to comparatively bear the same moral qualities as the God that begat them. This of course is speaking of the people in spiritual terms and corresponds to the time when God called them forth out of Egypt and covenanted with them at Sinai.

2. Exodus 17:6 and Numbers 20:8. These two verses specify the miracle of water coming from the rock to quench the thirst of the people during their desert wanderings. As we witnessed in the opening verse of today's post, Jesus Christ is described as somehow being included in this miracle of water from the rock - being designated as the "Rock" from when they drank. Whenever God reveals any name or title about Himself, He will often tie it to an event in Israel's history so that they can be reminded of what He did for them. 

3. In 1 Samuel 2:4 the prophet Samuel writes concerning God as our "Rock" - "There is no one holy like the Lord, Indeed, there is no one besides You, Nor is there any rock like our God." In 2 Samuel 22 we find David referring to God as the Rock of His salvation in various ways (2 Samuel 22:2,3,32 & 47). It is then in 2 Samuel 23:3 that w read this explicit connection of God being "The Rock" - The God of Israel said, The Rock of Israel spoke to me, ‘He who rules over men righteously, Who rules in the fear of God."

4. Nehemiah 9:15 rounds out the historical books in our survey of this title "The Rock", wherein we read: "You provided bread from heaven for them for their hunger, You brought forth water from a rock for them for their thirst, And You told them to enter in order to possess The land which You swore to give them." Nehemiah provides for us the connection between God's provision for the people in the wilderness and His role as their "Rock". Interestingly enough, Nehemiah 9:15 has similarity to what Paul would later write in 1 Corinthians 10:4. 

5. Over 20 times in the Book of Psalms we find this Divine title "Rock" referring to God as the source of salvation, shelter and stability. Psalms is where we find the most mention of the title, with a fine example being in Psalm 18:2 "The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, My God, my rock, in whom I take refuge; My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold." 

Interestingly enough we find a few more allusions to the event where Yahweh had provided water from the rock to quench the people's thirst in the wilderness (Psalm 78:16,20,35; Psalm 105:41). Like what was seen in Nehemiah 9:15, the idea of God as "Rock" is tied very closely to how He provided water for His people to drink, lending to what may had been Paul's thoughts about Christ in 1 Corinthians 10:4. Psalms is the only poetic book that contains any mention of God as Rock and is also the Biblical book containing the most mentions.

6. The prophetic books in the Old Testament give us further rich insights into this title "Rock". Isaiah 44:8 uses this title to point to God's Aseity (i.e self-sufficiency and self-existence) - "Do not tremble and do not be afraid; Have I not long since announced it to you and declared it? And you are My witnesses. Is there any God besides Me, Or is there any other Rock? I know of none.’ Isaiah elsewhere mentions how God as the "Rock" was a refuge forgotten (Isaiah 17:10); an everlasting Rock (Isaiah 26:4); a mighty mountain (Isaiah 30:29) and a quarry from whence the people of God were hewn (Isaiah 51:1). Intriguingly, Isaiah 48:21 rehearses that familiar scene of God providing water from the rock, just as we saw already in Psalm 78:16,20,35; 105:41; Numbers 9:15; Numbers 20:8 and Exodus 17:6. 

Whenever we see the same event repeated throughout the Bible and additional theological meaning assigned to it, we can be sure that we are beholding what scholars call "a scripture echo". Such echoes provide the marvelous insights we find about Jesus in the New Testament (especially 1 Corinthians 10:6).The final mention of the Divine title "Rock" in the prophetic books and the Old Testament is discovered in Habakkuk 1:12 "Are You not from everlasting, O Lord, my God, my Holy One? We will not die. You, O Lord, have appointed them to judge; And You, O Rock, have established them to correct."

More next time....

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