On a recent Sunday morning, we sang a chorus calling God a rock. That surprised me. I recalled the satisfaction my father expressed at not having to farm around rocks after he moved from Pennsylvania to Iowa. The deep sandy loam soils of Iowa and Illinois where I grew up yielded few rocks. Visits to relatives in the east left me wondering why people tried to farm or garden around the rocky interferences common there. Rocks were what stuck up out of fields making plowing and harvesting difficult. Later, living in southern Michigan, I often found fist-sized rocks, even some basketball sized rocks ground smooth and round and spit out by the retreating glaciers. They were a nuisance to gardening. I built a sifter to remove the rocks/stones from the garden soil. I did enjoy collecting round smooth rocks and took a bucket of rocks with me when we moved to Virginia (as if Virginia needed more rocks). But, calling God a rock, “an impediment to agricultural activity” seemed unworshipful.
I remembered the wise man built his house on the rock and the stories of David hiding in the rock (caves). Of course, I had read about the Dead Sea Scrolls protected and preserved in “the rock”. Maybe I was not understanding the Biblical metaphor, rock.
What images does the phrase “God the rock” suggest to you? A pickup sized chunk of granite with wheels (“buy our truck”, “built like a rock” the ads said)? Jesus the cornerstone? * But Jesus said the wise man built his house on the rock, not on a cornerstone. Can distinguishing between these images expand our perception of God?
A geological map of Palestine, shows the Biblical land to be a jumble of rock between the Mediterranean and the Jordan. Swampy land between the sea and the hill country on the west and the Jordan River swamps to the east and the shifting sands of the Negev to the south contrasted with the solid rock of the central highlands. Several commentaries tracing the origin of the Hebrew for “rock”, show it and “mountain” may be interchangeable.
Then I read:
He said: “The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation. He is my stronghold, my refuge and my savior– from violent men you save me. 2 Samuel 22:2
God, the Rock. God’s people in Palestine did not think of God as an obstruction to farming and gardening or sign of eroded farmland!
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 me. Psalms 31:2, 3
He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave more a firm place to stand. Psalms 40:2
But the LORD has become my fortress, and my God the rock in whom I take refuge. Psalms 94:22
A place of strength, safety, protection, a “firm place to stand”.
He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken. Psalms 62:2
Permanence and security; a cool place in a hot land:
Each man will be like a shelter from the wind and a refuge from the storm, like streams of water in the desert and the shadow of a great rock in a thirsty land. Isaiah 32:2
What God is for us, we are to be for others.
Isaiah encourages us to be a “chip off the Old Rock”:
“Listen to me, you who pursue righteousness and who seek the LORD: Look to the rock from which you were cut and to the quarry from which you were hewn; Isaiah 51:1
They drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ.
(1 Corinthians 10:4)
To learn what the new nature of the Rock is, we turn to Jesus. But not only is he our security, refuge, our strength,
As it is written: “See, I lay in Zion a stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” (Romans 9:33; see Isaiah 8:14; 28:16)
When we turn to God,
They did not thirst when he led them through the deserts; he made water flow for them from the rock; he split the rock and water gushed out. (Isaiah 48:21)
He made him ride on the heights of the land and fed him with the fruit of the fields. He nourished him with honey from the rock, and with oil from the flinty crag, (Deuteronomy 32:13)
Nourishment, refreshing water, security, permanence, refuge. Where do we find these? In the ROCK.
ode to a pet rock
Rough times, rubbings
Sand scoured, wave buffed
Grinding fellow stones
Smooth, polished rock.
*(In an earlier essay I sought to clarify the “cornerstone” image from the world of construction. I pursued that topic when I came across a definition of cornerstone as “a largely ornamental architectural feature”. I will post that essay later.)