~ Rock of Ages ~
There is an old hymn entitled “Rock of Ages” which was a favorite of many generations. This image, or word picture, of God as a rock is a clear concept in both the Old and New Testaments. One of numerous examples from the Old Testament is “He is the Rock, His work is perfect: for all His ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is He” (Deuteronomy 32:4). A New Testament example is “Moreover, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware that all our fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea, all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ. But with most of them God was not well pleased, for their bodies were scattered in the wilderness” (1 Corinthians 10:1-5).
While a rock is certainly a meaningful word picture of Christ, not all references to rocks in the Bible are references to Christ. What does the image of a rock convey? What are some parallels between a rock and Jesus Christ?
Strength & Solidarity ~ This is the reason that a prominent American insurance company uses a logo which features the Rock of Gibraltar—one of the largest visible rocks in the world. The source of strength for the believer is God. “In God is my salvation and my glory; the rock of my strength, and my refuge, is in God” (Psalm 62:7).
Foundational ~ Rocks mixed with sand and concrete make a great foundation, but for an even stronger foundation build your home directly on a solid bed of rock. Jesus Christ is the only foundation of all true Christianity. “Jesus said, ‘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: 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. 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: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall’” (Matthew 7:24-27).
Shelter ~ Notice also that we now live in His house—our new dwelling place—a place of safety and comfort. “Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus Himself as the chief cornerstone. In Him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in Him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by His Spirit” (Ephesians 2:19-22).
Protection ~ Rocks provide a good hiding place. Today American businesses sell outdoor loudspeakers disguised as rocks. Some people hide their house keys under a rock. Since the beginning of time man has used caves as places of hiding and protection. “And it shall come to pass, while My glory passes by, that I will put thee in a cleft of the rock, and will cover thee with My hand while I pass by” (Exodus 33:22). “Be my strong refuge, to which I may resort continually; You have given the commandment to save me, for You are my rock and my fortress” (Psalm 71:3).
A person who is “in Christ” is shielded from the punishment of sin (spiritual death), and He becomes the place of shelter and refuge (Romans 8:1). "The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; the God of my strength, in whom I will trust; my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold and my refuge” (2 Samuel 22:2-3).
Consistent & Unchanging ~ While rocks do slowly change over centuries, they are among the most unchanging physical objects on our planet. God does not change. "For I am the Lord, I do not change” (Malachi 3:6a). “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).
Additional Comments ~ (1) Perhaps the most important New Testament reference to Christ as a rock is when He told Peter that He would build His church. “And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this Rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18). The context of this verse clearly shows the Rock upon which the church will be built is Jesus Christ (see verses 16-18).
(2) A rock, while a symbol of strength, can also be an obstacle. The same is true of the spiritual rock. Again this is both an Old Testament and New Testament truth. “He will be as a sanctuary, but a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense to both the houses of Israel, as a trap and a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. And many among them shall stumble; they shall fall and be broken, be snared and taken" (Isaiah 8:14-15).
“Therefore it is also contained in the Scripture, ‘Behold, I lay in Zion a chief cornerstone, elect, precious, and he who believes on Him will by no means be put to shame.’ Therefore, to you who believe, He is precious; but to those who are disobedient, ‘The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone,’ and ‘a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense.’ They stumble, being disobedient to the word, to which they also were appointed. But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy” (1 Peter 2:6-10).
Is Jesus Christ your rock of ages or a stone of stumbling?