Special to The Guardian
“Strike the rock...” (Exodus 17:6)
Augustus Toplady’s most famous hymn is "Rock of Ages". Its theology is sound and glorious: “Rock of Ages, cleft for me/Let me hide myself in Thee/Let the water and the blood, From Thy riven side which flowed/Be of sin the double cure/Save me from its guilt and power.”
On the one hand it’s an odd image – a bleeding rock. But, what Toplady was aiming at was just what Moses describes for us in Exodus.
The Israelites, while on their way to Canaan, were without water for some time and were thinking of killing Moses if matters didn’t improve.
Rather than trusting in God who had brought them out of Egypt, they chose to rebel. When God would have been within his rights to judge the people, he chose a different path.
He tells Moses to strike a rock, after which there will be enough water to supply the people. But God does more than this. He himself goes and identifies with the rock. “Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock.”
What is the significance of this? God is putting himself in the place of judgment rather than letting it fall upon the people. God takes the place of the accused, standing in the dock.
Amazingly, we’re told in 1 Corinthians 10: 4 that “they drank from the spiritual rock that followed them, and the rock was Christ".
When Jesus was struck with a sword on the cross, “at once there came out blood and water.” (John 19:34)
Later, after the resurrection, Paul explains what the death of Jesus means for us: “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us (Galatians 3:13) This is what happened on the cross.
Friends, this is important because we, like ancient Israel, need a salvation that goes beyond bread and water; one that only God can provide. But like them, God in Christ takes the place of judgment on our behalf, so that if we put our trust in him, we too will drink and live.
The Psalms tell us: “He split rocks in the wilderness and gave them drink abundantly as from the deep. He made streams come out of the rock and caused waters to flow down like rivers.(Psalms 78:15-16)
Just like them, grace and mercy toward us as sinners flows abundantly into our lives. We don’t have to deny our sin but own up to it and let the blood of Jesus cleanse it away.
Centuries later, Jesus said to a woman who led a devastatingly sinful life, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that says to you, give me to drink; you would have asked of him, and he would have given living water...the water I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life. (John 4:10). Later Jesus stood and cried, “If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink.”
Is it any wonder David cried, “Oh come, let us sing to the Lord! Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation.” (Psalms 95:1)
Since our rock was struck on the cross, God’s just anger against sin has been satisfied. Now grace and mercy flows to and follows you all the days of your life. (Ps 23:6)
Don’t delay. Come to the water. Come to the rock that was struck for lost sinners and live. “let him that is thirsty come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely. (Revelations 22:17)
Rev. Kent Compton is the minister of the Free Church of Scotland, Desable and Cape Traverse. A guest sermon runs regularly in Saturday’s Guardian and is provided through Christian Communications.