We are comforted by the words, “The Lord is my shepherd,” but what about the thought, “The Lord is my rock”?
The word “rock” is used about twenty-four times in the book of Psalms with reference to God. Here is an example.
“Jehovah is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; My God, my rock, in whom I will take refuge; my shield, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower” (Ps. 18:2).
We can appreciate the use of “rock” better when we understand its Old Testament background.
During the wilderness wandering, God caused water to flow from a rock. Moses reflected on this miraculous event with Israel on the shores of the Jordan as they prepared to enter Canaan.
“[God] led thee through the great and terrible wilderness, wherein were fiery serpents and scorpions, and thirsty ground where was no water; who brought thee forth water out of the rock of flint” (Deut. 8:15).
Later, Moses was literally between a rock and a hard place in the wilderness — and for his own good. God hid him in the “cleft of the rock” and covered him with His hand for protection (Ex. 33:22).
With these background experiences, Moses was the first in Scripture to use the word “rock” in a figurative sense in connection with God. “The Rock, his work is perfect; For all his ways are justice” (Deut. 32:4; cf. vv. 13,15,18,30,31,37).
Others in Israel would speak of God in the same figurative way. Hannah prayed, “There is none holy as Jehovah; For there is none besides thee, Neither is there any rock like our God” (1 Sam. 2:2).
David praised God as the Rock in his “royal thanksgiving song” and in his “last song” (2 Sam. 22:2,3,32,47;23:3).
It is no wonder that Psalms — a poetic book — employs this meaningful metaphor.
This term reminds us that God is the source of our physical blessings. As Israel was dramatically shown in the wilderness, God provides for our needs. Relying on the goodness and providence of God, Jesus teaches us to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread” (Mt. 6:11).
As the rock in the wilderness was a miraculous source of water — and therefore life — God symbolized Israel’s miraculous establishment. He raised them up by His mighty power to fulfill a role or service in bringing His son into the world. Today, God is the source of the church, the spiritual Israel, and He is the fountain of our spiritual vitality (Gal. 6:16; 2 Sam. 23:3).
Just as the nation of Israel had a rich miraculous heritage, so does the church. The miracles of Christ, the resurrection, the signs of the apostles, and the spiritual gifts given to first-century Christians provide that heritage. We understand, however, that the age of miracles has ceased (1 Cor. 13:6-8).
The word “rock” is equated with the idea of strength. Rock was used to build walls, fortresses, and towers in Bible times. God is our source of strength in times of distress and danger.
God is also our refuge. Like Moses, we can hide in the cleft of “the Rock.” God will care for us.
“Rock” also typifies something about the nature of God. He is solid as a rock. He is unchangeable in nature — immutable. Moses had this in mind when he spoke of God’s ways and justice (Deut. 32:4).
The “rock” symbolism continues in the New Testament with reference to Christ. He is the foundation, the chief-corner stone. He is the rock of offense to those who reject Him, but the spiritual rock for those who obey Him (Eph. 2:20; Rom. 9:33; 1 Pet. 2:8; 1 Cor. 10:4).
And so we sing, “Rock of Ages.” Let us pray, “Lord, you are our rock. Let us hide ourselves in thee.”