"The shadow of a great rock
in a thirsty land."
Rock of Ages
The Image of God as Rock
The lands of the Bible tend to be wilderness and desert, hot and dry.
With few trees for shade and few streams for refreshment, shelter
often comes in the form of rocks. That may be the reason the image
of a rock is so often used for God. Its use symbolizes several
characteristics of our Heavenly Father.
First, there's protection. God as Rock offers protectionâ€”from
God himself, from enemies and from the storms of life. We see it
during the period of the Exodus, when the Israelites are in the
When Moses asked to see God, God hid him in the cleft of the
rock and covered him with his hand, because â€œno one may see
me and liveâ€� (Exodus 33:18-22).
God is a fortified rock. Early fortifications were built on the tops of
rocks which commanded a view of the land below. One famous
fortified rock in the Holy Land is Masada, where a handful of Israeli
defenders held off the Roman army for months until an assault ramp
was constructed. By the time the Romans reached them, the people
on Masada had burned the buildings and committed suicide to avoid
slavery or defeat.
Second, God offers refreshment and spiritual sustenance.
When the Israelites grew thirsty in the wilderness, God told Moses to
take his staff and speak to the rock. Water poured from it to sustain
them (Numbers 20:6-8).
â€œI will proclaim the name of the Lord,â€� Moses sings in
Deuteronomy 32:3-4. â€œHe is the Rock, his works are perfect,
and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright
and just is he.â€�
Moses goes on to say that the people had forsaken God, but still he
cared for them. â€œIn a desert land he found him, in a barren and
howling waste. He shielded him and cared for him; he guarded
him as the apple of his eye, like an eagle that stirs up its nest and
hovers over its young, that spreads its wings to catch them and
carries them on its pinions.â€� (Deuteronomy 32:10-11).
â€œHe nourished him with honey from the rock, and with oil from
the flinty crag,â€� (Deuteronomy 32:13). But â€œJeshurun grew fat
and kicked; filled with food, he became heavy and sleek. He
abandoned the God who made him and rejected the Rock, his
Savior" (Deuteronomy 32:15).
â€œYou deserted the Rock who fathered you; you forgot the God
who gave you birth" (Deuteronomy 32:18).
Finally, God gave them up. â€œThey are a nation without sense,
there is no discernment in them. If only they were wise and would
understand this and discern what their end will be! How could one
man chase a thousand, or two put ten thousand to flight unless their
Rock had sold them, unless the Lord had given them up?â€�
In the time of the kings, Hannah prays, â€œThere is no one holy like
the Lord; there is no one besides you; there is no Rock like our
Godâ€� (1 Samuel 2:2).
We see the image repeatedly in the Psalms. â€œThe Lord is my
rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in
whom I take refuge. He is my shield and the horn of my salvation,
my strongholdâ€� (Psalm 18:2). And again, â€œFor who is God
besides the Lord? And who is the Rock except our God?â€�
God is protection in time of trouble. â€œFor in the day of trouble he
will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his
tabernacle and set me high upon a rockâ€� (Psalm 27:5).
The psalmist, like so many people since, called out to God. â€œTo
you I call, O Lord my Rock; do not turn a deaf ear to me,â€�
(Psalm 28:1). And again, â€œTurn your ear to me, come quickly to
my rescue; be my rock of refuge, a strong fortress to save me. Since
you are my rock and my fortress, for the sake of your name lead and
guide meâ€� (Psalm 31:2-3).
â€œFind rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not
be shaken. My salvation and my honor depend on God; he is my
mighty rock, my refuge. Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out
your hearts to him, for God is our refugeâ€� (Psalm 62:1-2, 5-6).
Eventually, God's people did return to him. â€œThey remembered
that God was their Rock, that God Most High was their
Redeemer" (Psalm 78:35).
Even the prophets use the image when speaking of a day to come: â
€œSee, a king will reign in righteousness and rulers will rule with
justice. Each man will be like a shelter from the wind and a refuge
from the storm, and streams of water in the desert and the shadow
of a great rock in a thirsty landâ€� (Isaiah 32:2).
However, God as rock isnâ€™t solely an Old Testament image. In
his Parable of the Wise and Foolish Builders (Matthew 7:24-27),
Jesus used it to teach the sort of foundation we should build our lives
on. The wise man built his house on the rock, and it stood firm in
the storms of life. But the foolish man built his house on sand, and â
€œit fell with a great crash.â€�
Paul in his first letter to the church in Corinth, explained the water that
flowed from the rock during the Exodus. â€œFor they drank from
the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was
Christâ€� (1 Cor. 10:4).
God is our shelter. He protects us from being overwhelmed by his
majesty and overcome by despair. Our refuge and strength, he
protects us from our enemies. We can cry out to him when things are
difficult, knowing that he always hears and rescues. We can look to
him for protection, guidance and refuge. He provides shadow and
refreshment. He is a firm foundation to build our lives on.
"I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my
hand." --Exodus 33:22