Posts tagged ‘Rock’

On Pet Rocks

During the Christmas season of 1975, the gift to get was a pet rock. Marketed as “genuine” and “pedigreed,” and sold at $4 a rock, this fad made its originator, Gary Dahl, a millionaire. The fad didn’t last, though, because even though pet rocks are very low maintenance, they don’t do what other real pets do. They won’t purr when you pet them like a cat. They won’t follow you around the house like a dog.

But what if one did?

The apostle Paul summarizes Israel’s journeys through the wilderness when writing to the Corinthians:

For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ. (1 Corinthians 10:1-3)

Wait, a rock followed Israel through the wilderness?

Paul is alluding to two stories that serve as bookends for Israel’s wanderings in the wilderness. In Exodus 17, at the beginning of the Israelites’ journey, Moses strikes a rock at Horeb and water pours out of it for the people to drink. Then, in Numbers 20, Moses also strikes a rock, though God had commanded Moses to speak to the rock this time, and water again pours out.

Paul picks up on these two stories and surmises that there must have been one water-filled rock following Israel around through the wilderness. But the real key comes in his identification of that rock: “the Rock was Christ” (1 Corinthians 10:3). Israel’s rock was much more than just a pet. It was a person – the same person who said:

Let anyone who is thirsty come to Me and drink. Whoever believes in Me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them. (John 7:37-38)

Jesus, Paul declares, followed Israel through the wilderness – providing for them, caring for them, and ultimately, being gracious to them.

When we experience our own wilderness moments – when our souls feel dry and our lives feel difficult – we can rest assured that we have a Rock who follows us into even the driest and most treacherous moments of our lives to water our parched souls and comfort us by His presence.

Our Rock is Christ.

October 17, 2022 at 5:15 am Leave a comment

A Bridegroom of Blood

Credit: “The Circumcision of the Son of Moses” by Jan Baptist Weenix (c. 1640) / Wikimedia

Recently, I received a question about a strange story in Exodus 4. God has just called Moses to be the new leader of the children of Israel and has commissioned him to confront the Pharaoh of Egypt, who is enslaving the Israelites, and demand that he let the people go. While Moses is heading to Egypt to carry out his task:

At a lodging place on the way, the LORD met Moses and was about to kill him. But Zipporah took a flint knife, cut off her son’s foreskin and touched Moses’ feet with it. “Surely you are a bridegroom of blood to me,” she said. So the LORD let him alone. (At that time she said “bridegroom of blood,” referring to circumcision.) (Exodus 4:24-26)

This is indeed an odd story. God, at the very time Moses is traveling to Egypt to do the thing God had just told him to do, tries to murder Moses.

But why?

Moses was on his way to becoming the spiritual leader of Israel. The first spiritual leader of Israel was also the progenitor of Israel – a man named Abraham. How did God mark Abraham as the father of this nation?

This is My covenant with you and your descendants after you, the covenant you are to keep: Every male among you shall be circumcised. You are to undergo circumcision, and it will be the sign of the covenant between Me and you. For the generations to come every male among you who is eight days old must be circumcised. (Genesis 17:10-12)

Moses, as the incoming spiritual leader of Israel, had not even marked his own son with the most basic sign of God’s covenant. He has disobeyed God’s command. And God is not happy. So, God seeks to punish Moses.

In many ways, this story in Exodus 4 and another story in Numbers 20 serve as bookends to Moses’ ministry. In Numbers 20, the community of Israel is in the desert on their way to the Promised Land after their rescue from Israel, but they do not have any water. So, Moses approaches God to discuss the problem, and God offers these instructions:

“Take the staff, and you and your brother Aaron gather the assembly together. Speak to that rock before their eyes and it will pour out its water. You will bring water out of the rock for the community so they and their livestock can drink.” So Moses took the staff from the LORD’s presence, just as He commanded him. He and Aaron gathered the assembly together in front of the rock and Moses said to them, “Listen, you rebels, must we bring you water out of this rock?” Then Moses raised his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff. Water gushed out, and the community and their livestock drank. But the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not trust in Me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them.” (Numbers 20:8-12)

In Numbers 20, Moses disobeys God by striking a rock to get water from it rather than speaking to it. And his punishment is death. In Exodus 4, Moses disobeys God by failing to circumcise his son, and his punishment should have been death. But someone intercedes. Zipporah circumcises their son and touches Moses’ feet with the blood and foreskin to remind him that the same feet that just one chapter earlier stood before God on “holy ground” (Exodus 3:5) as God appeared to Moses famously in the form of a burning bush have now wandered into sin. His feet – and his very self – need covering and cleansing. And this is what they get.

After Zipporah performs the circumcision, she calls Moses “a bridegroom of blood” (Exodus 4:25). We, too, have a bridegroom of blood. But unlike Moses, His feet have never wandered into sin. Instead, they have only staggered to a cross where He shed His blood so that we could have “a bridegroom of blood” who saves us from sin.

Israel needed a greater and better leader than Moses. And so do we. And we have One in Jesus.

February 7, 2022 at 5:15 am Leave a comment

Christ was there. Christ is here.

A couple of weeks ago, I was having lunch with a friend and he shared with me a dark time he had gone through years ago.  He was in the midst of a spiritual crisis, and he decided to move overseas and explore the world.  Unfortunately, his move away from home only precipitated his fall.  He fell in with the wrong crowd, he did the wrong things, and, one night, he found himself at a point of despair.  Walking alone along a dark street, he cried out, “Jesus, if You’re there, I really need You to show up right now.”  After making his way to a phone booth, he fumbled through the phone book inside, deposited his change, and called the first church he could find.  The pastor of the church answered.  The next day, the two of them had lunch.  And thus began my friend’s re-awakening to the glory of God and the grace of Christ.  My friend felt all alone on that dark night.  But he wasn’t.  Christ was there.  In that phone booth.

One of the texts that has long been compelling to me is 1 Corinthians 10:

For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers, that our forefathers were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea.  They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea.  They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ. (1 Corinthians 10:1-4)

Paul is here recounting the history of Israel during the Exodus.  And he uses Israel’s history to warn the Corinthians against the dangers of unrepentance:

Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did.  Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written: “The people sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in pagan revelry.”  We should not commit sexual immorality, as some of them did – and in one day twenty-three thousand of them died.  We should not test the Lord, as some of them did – and were killed by snakes.  And do not grumble, as some of them did – and were killed by the destroying angel. (1 Corinthians 10:6-10)

In the midst of the unrepentance, evil, and rebellion of the Israelites, Paul says, Christ was there.  In that rock.  The same rock which poured forth water in the wilderness for the Israelites to drink (Exodus 17:1-7).  What a strange place for Christ to be!  And yet, Christ was there.

The other day, I was reading an article by a prominent evangelical theologian, who was bemoaning the dangers of inserting Christ recklessly and relentlessly into every page and phrase of Scripture.  He wrote, “Christ cannot be found under every rock.”[1]  I would agree – in part.   It is dangerous to present Christ in ways that the biblical text does not mean present Him.  For instance, the Church Father Origen, famous for his excessive allegorizing of the Bible, reads Exodus 17:9 – “Moses said to Joshua, ‘Choose some of our men and go out to fight’” – as “Moses said to Jesus,” since the Hebrew name for Joshua, Yeshua, comes to us in English as “Jesus.”  Origen comments:

Up to this point the Scripture has never anywhere mentioned the blessed name of Jesus.  Here for the first time the brightness of the name shines forth.  For the first time Moses makes an appeal to Jesus and says to him, “Choose men.”  Moses calls on Jesus; the Law asks Christ to choose strong men from among the people.  Moses cannot choose; it is Jesus alone who can choose strong men; He has said, “You did not choose Me, but I chose you.”[2]

Origen’s words here certainly strain the bounds of responsible biblical exegesis.  To so immediately equate Joshua with Jesus presents a whole host of problems, not the least of which is that Joshua was flawed and fallen (e.g., Joshua 9:1-14), something which Jesus was not.  Thus, we must be careful in how we interpret biblical texts.  However, there is a sense in which, contrary to what this scholar says, we can indeed find Jesus under every rock, for Jesus is the center, focus, and locus of the Scriptures.  Indeed, in 1 Corinthians 10:4, we don’t just find Christ under a rock, He is the rock!  Indeed, this is the very doctrine of the incarnation:  that Christ shows up in the strangest of ways and places – even under rocks.  Christ was there.  In the phone booth of my friend.  Christ was there.  In that rock.  Christ was there.  In the manger.  Christ was there.  On the cross.  And Christ is here.  In the pages of Scripture.  Christ is here.  In the waters of baptism.  Christ is here.  In the bread and wine of Communion.  Christ is here.  In our hearts.

Christ was there.  Christ is here.  This is the mystery and glory of the incarnation – and of Christmas.

Want to learn more? Go to
www.ConcordiaLutheranChurch.com
and check out audio and video from Pastor Tucker’s
message!

 


[1] Ben Witherington III, “Towards a Biblical Theology – Part Two” (11.21.11).

[2] Origen in Sidney Greidanus, Preaching Christ from the Old Testament: A Contemporary Hermeneutical Method (Grand Rapids:  William B. Eerdmans, 1999) 86.

December 26, 2011 at 5:15 am Leave a comment

ABC Extra – How Firm A Foundation

Some of my fondest memories as a child are of our family trips to the beach.  The sun, the white sand, the clear blue water.  Wait, check that.  I grew up in Oregon.  It was always cloudy, the sand was rocky, and the water was murky.  But I loved the beach nonetheless.  And even in the rocky sand, I loved to build sandcastles.  I would always make sure I had my pail and spade in tow, ready to create an impenetrable fortress right there at the base of beach.  Except that, inevitably, my fortress would always be penetrated – and washed away – by the water.  For sand castles, no matter how well you build them, never last.  They always succumb to the relentless pounding of the surf.

This past weekend in worship and ABC, we were introduced to one of history’s most infamous rulers – Herod the Great.  Known for his ruthlessness and megalomania, Herod would stop at nothing to protect and extend his reign and rule as “king of the Jews,” a title bestowed on him by the Roman Senate in 40 BC.  He was married to no fewer than ten women over his life, most of whom he married out of political expediency rather than out of love.  He banished his first wife, Doris, because he wanted to marry his second wife, Miriamne.  He eventually had her executed after they got into a fight.  He also killed his mother-in-law, brother-in-law, as well as three of his sons under suspicion that they were trying to usurp his power.  Herod was a tyrant indeed.

But for all of Herod’s tyranny, he was also a monarch of great skill and vision.  Most notably, Herod was a master builder.  He built a whole city called the Caesarea Maritima, situated on the banks of the Mediterranean Sea, which had a breathtaking manmade harbor spanning more than forty acres.  He built himself a palace which included baths, a pool, a colonnaded garden, and a 600 foot long terrace.  He named it, modestly, the Herodium.  But most famously, Herod rebuilt the temple in Jerusalem bigger and better than ever.  He plastered it in marble and gold.  It ascended higher than a fifteen-story building.  It was truly a monument to Herod’s skill as an artisan.  Herod began his work on the temple in 19 BC.  It was not completely finished until 68 years after his death.  If Herod died, as the German theologian Emil Schürer asserted, in 1 BC, that means the temple was finally finished in AD 67.  In AD 70, the Roman general Titus laid siege to the city of Jerusalem and destroyed its temple.  Herod’s completed temple stood for only three years.

Like my sandcastles on the beach, Herod’s building projects weren’t as enduring as he thought they would be.  His crowing achievement, the Jerusalem temple, was destroyed only a few years after it was completed.  His architecture succumbed to the relentless march of human history.

Jesus once told a story about the fate of building projects:  

Everyone who hears these words of Mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.  The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.  But everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand.  The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash. (Matthew 7:24-27)

Jesus warns that man’s building projects can and do fall.  The only way to make them last is to build them upon a firm foundation – and that firm foundation is Christ.  Herod never learned this.  Indeed, we learn in Matthew 2:16 that he wanted to kill Christ, not build his life and legacy on Him.

What are you building?  And more importantly, on whom are you building?  The things you build to your own fame will inevitably fall.  But what is built on the rock of Christ and to His glory will endure.  Do you build on the rock of Christ at your job, with your family, and throughout your life?  Or, like Herod, are you only building monuments to your own greatness, which are really no sturdier than sandcastles?  As the apostle Paul warns, “If any man builds…his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work” (1 Corinthians 3:12-13).  May our work not be found wanting – not because of our skill, but because of Christ’s foundation.

Want to learn more? Go to
www.ConcordiaLutheranChurch.com
and check out audio and video from Pastor Tucker’s
message or Pastor Zach’s ABC!

December 19, 2011 at 5:15 am Leave a comment

Luther on Romans 12

This morning’s text in worship is Romans 12. Paul opens this chapter, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship.” Luther offers some great context on this verse – what comes before it and what follows it – in his commentary on Romans:

In the preceding chapters, the apostle laid “the true foundation which is Christ” (1 Corinthians 3:11), or “the first rock,” upon which the wise man builds (Matthew 7:24), and he destroyed the false foundation, namely, man’s self-righteousness and merits, which are as “the sand” upon which the foolish man builds (Matthew 7:26). Here now he proceeds to “build upon this foundation gold, silver, and previous stones” (1 Corinthians 3:12). Good works, which are the building, must above all have a sure and dependable foundation on which the heart can purpose to stand and to rely forever, so that, even in the case that the site may not yet have been built upon, the site is ready to do so. The moralists do the opposite of this with their good works. They seek to put their trust in their conscience and, when they have performed many good works, they think they have done enough for themselves, so that they can feel secure. This is nothing else than to build on the sand and to reject Christ. The apostle tries hard to prevent this; this is the purpose of all his letters. To say, as is commonly done, that “sand” means the riches of the world is a superficial and weak exegesis. For Christ speaks here of the people who build (i.e., who do good) and not of misers and worldlings who rather destroy themselves than build up anything.

Hence, it is good works that the apostle calls “sand.” And it is upon this foundation that these people try to build their righteousness in order to obtain a dwelling place for the conscience and peace of mind. But, as a matter of fact, only Christ is this foundation – and before all good works. For even before we think of doing enough or building up, He has given us the foundation as a free gift, namely, a quiet conscience and a trusting heart. Has there ever been a builder stupid enough to lay also the foundation? Do not the builders look for the foundation that is already laid in the earth or do they not accept what is offered to them? So then, just as the earth offers us a foundation without our effort, so Christ offers Himself without us as our righteousness, peace, and security of conscience in order that from then on we can continually build upon Him in doing good. (WA 56)

January 23, 2011 at 7:35 am Leave a comment


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