Through the Bible with Les Feldick
LESSON 1 * PART 1 * BOOK 78
CHRIST AS THE ROCK OF SCRIPTURE
Okay, it’s good to see everybody in this afternoon. For those of you joining us on television, again we want to thank you for joining us. We have just come back from a rather long trip. And you know, the thing that just rings in our ears when we get home is the word “every.” They all say the same thing – we watch you every morning. Well, you know we love to hear that. And a couple right here just told us the same thing. That tells us that there’s a hunger. You’re not watching it just to kill half an hour from time-to-time, but to really get hooked on the Word of God.
And as one of my listeners I was talking to last night said, “I never had an interest in this before, but now I just can’t get enough.” Well, that’s as it should be. You know, just as soon as that new baby is born, it starts crying. What triggers the cry? Hunger. They want to be fed. And that’s the way it should be with a new believer. So those of you out in television, again, we just thank you for your response. We thank you for your kind letters and your financial help and everything that makes this possible.
All right, we’re going to start a new book today. It is book number 78. We finished our review of Genesis to Revelation in the last taping. I’m going to be looking at something new today. We’re going to look at the many times in Scripture that Jesus Christ is referred to as the Rock or the Stone. And there’s a lot of confusion of that simply because of one verse. The studio audience already has it, so those of you in television go with us to Matthew chapter 16. We’re going to drop in at verse 13. These are verses that we’ve used many times, but we’re going to comment when we get down to verse 18.
“When Jesus came into the borders of Caesarea Philippi, (up there in Northern Israel) he asked his disciples (the Twelve), saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am? 14. And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elijah; and others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets. 15. He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? 16. And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. 17. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father who is in heaven.” Which, of course, is the normal way of enlightening people. Peter isn’t the first nor the last. Now here it comes in verse 18. Jesus is speaking.
“And I say unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; (And remember, the word is always ecclesia, so it was a called-out assembly. Not necessarily the Body of Christ Church, but it would be a Jewish called-out assembly.) and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”
I’m not a Greek scholar, but I went into some of my Greek dictionaries and I didn’t find anything that I hadn’t heard before. And that is that there’s a play on words here. They’re pretty much the same—the Rock or Stone. One of the Hebrew words, or the Greek, is Cephas—from which we get Peter’s other name—which is the word for rock or stone. The only difference is that when He says, “Thou art Peter,” it’s in the feminine, if I’ve got it right. But when He speaks of the other, “upon this rock,” then it’s masculine. Then I went to a couple of the other commentaries and they both maintain that, yes, indeed, He was speaking to Peter as the “little stone,” but upon Himself as “the Rock, I will build my church.”
And then I was really shocked when I got into Augustine. You know I’ve been rather critical of Augustine, because after all he became the father of Roman Catholicism. Yet even Augustine maintained that the Rock on which Christ was speaking was Himself—not Peter, but Himself.
Of course, we are all aware that Roman Catholicism stresses the fact that that’s why Peter became the first pope, because of this statement right here. But the Roman Catholics aren’t alone. There are a lot of other Protestant groups that adhere to the same thing. That when Jesus said “upon this rock,” He was speaking of Peter. And I’m going to show, hopefully from Scripture, contrary to the tradition of Christendom, that the Rock in Scripture is always Jesus Christ. He is the Rock. He is the Stone! We’re going to chase them down and see if we can make sense.
Now, before we go back and look up our Old Testament reference to that, I want you to go ahead with me to Romans chapter 15. I think it’s either verse 3 or 4—verse 4. This is the basis for our study today. We’re going to go back to the Old Testament, and we’re going to look at these terms concerning Christ as the Rock or the Stone, because Paul writes and tells us that:
“For whatsoever thing were written aforetime (in other words, back in the Old Testament) were written for our learning,…”
And you know I’m always stressing there’s a big difference between learning and doctrine. Doctrine is that which influences our behavior. Doctrine is what brings us to salvation. But learning is just simply background. So all these Old Testament Scriptures are for background more than they are for our doctrine. In the Old Testament we get a good understanding of how God has worked from the very onset of the human experience. All right, reading on:
“…were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.” Now, we’re going to go back to Exodus. As you turn back to Exodus, I want you to be thinking of one or two instances in the Old Testament where that is so apropos.
The first one that always comes to my mind is Joseph. Now there was Joseph, the favored son, hated by the brethren. And because of their hatred, they sold him into slavery, and where did he end up? Down in Egypt! And another unfortunate situation was in the house of Potiphar when Potiphar’s wife accused Joseph of trying to assault her, and he was consequently thrown into prison. And if I’ve got my timing right, the poor guy must have been in prison about 10 years. Did God ever give up on him? Did God forget about him? Why, no! So it tells us—no matter how tough things may get, no matter how deep the valley we’re going through—God is there. And in His own time He’s going to bring us out of it, even as He did Joseph.
Well, I think that’s what Paul refers to then. That we study and learn from these Old Testament Scriptures so that we, too, may have the patience to wait on God—knowing that in His own time He’s going to bring us through to the fruition of everything.
All right, now one of the first instances in Scripture where we have Christ as the Rock is here in Exodus chapter 17. Of course, Israel is out there on the desert. Not a very pleasant place to be in the Middle East. And how much of our everyday resources are on the desert? None. There’s nothing. You know, the best time I can picture the desert is, if any of you went with us, when we went down to Petra. From Amman all the way down to Petra is an all day drive in that bus, and it’s just nothing but flat gravel, nothing even for an animal to eat. There were a few camels out there. I don’t know whether they eat rocks or what! But that was the perfect picture of the desert. There’s nothing!
Well, that’s where these Israelites are. They’re out there on the desert. You know, it just happened that Iris was going through some of her stuff yesterday and she came up with a little internet article that somebody sent me several years ago. I’m sure you’ve all seen it—where someone in our American Army took the time one day to put together the logistics that were necessary for Israel out there on the desert. I’m sure most of you have read it and seen it. And they were looking at the same figure that I have used over the years—three million people. I remember the first time I taught this, I used Dallas-Fort Worth as an example. Because in the 1990 census, if I remember right, in Dallas-Fort Worth there were a little over three million people.
So I used the example: can you imagine Dallas and Fort Worth moving out in mass and then ending out there on the desert with nothing of natural provision. They were totally dependent on God. Totally! But they were human, so what did they do? They griped. And they complained. And sometimes it got worse than others. And Moses said, “God, these are not my people. I didn’t conceive them. You can have them.” And God said, “No, they’re not Mine. They’re yours.”
But nevertheless, get the picture? The poor people were out there on that flat desert living in their tents. I don’t image they even had the wherewithal for a pick-up basketball game or a softball game. What did the poor people do for diversion? And that’s why things got pretty difficult. But nevertheless, the Nation of Israel is out there completely dependent on their God.
Now what are we to learn from that? Well, that’s where we are. We are totally dependent. We can’t do anything on our own, because as soon as a believer thinks he can do it on his own, he’s in trouble. So here’s one of the lessons that we learn from this – that as Israel was totally dependent on their miracle-working God, so we have to be dependent day by day.
Now, when I say miracle-working—as I was going over all this the last few weeks—has there ever been a greater miracle than God moving a Nation of three to five million people out of Egypt, across the Red Sea, out onto the desert, and taking care of them for forty years? What a miracle!
But anyway, imagine how many millions of gallons of water it took every day just for their routine use? Cooking and bathing and what have you. And the car loads of wood that it would take for their fires! And we know they cooked the manna. They fried it. They boiled it and everything, so they had to have fires. This article, that I forgot to bring today, went through all the humongous amounts of material that those three million people needed—not just for a day or two, not just for a week of campout, but for forty years. And yet God provided.
Well, that brings us all the way up to Exodus 17. Again, I’m going to start at verse 1, because we’ve got plenty of time.
“And all the congregation of the children of Israel journeyed from the wilderness of Sin, after their journeys, according to the commandment of the LORD, (See, this is all under the Lord’s direction day-by-day.) and pitched in Rephidim: and there was no water for the people to drink. 2. Wherefore the people did chide (or began to complain) with Moses, and said, Give us water that we may drink. And Moses said unto them, Why chide ye with me? wherefore do ye tempt (test) the LORD?” Well, I don’t know what Moses expected them to do. You sure don’t get water on the desert.
“And the people thirsted there for water; and the people murmured against Moses, and said, Wherefore is this that thou hast brought us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our cattle with thirst?” That’s the other thing I think a lot of time we forget. They didn’t just move out with humanity, but they had all their livestock. And it must have been tremendous numbers of it. Everything had to eat and drink. Now what I’m building on is the miraculousness of it all, and how God constantly supplied their need.
All right, now just to show you how they complained, I think it’s in Numbers 11. Turn there with me. Numbers 11 and jump down to verse 4. Now, this was the attitude of these Israelites, I imagine, during the whole 40 years out there on that sandy desert.
“And the mixed multitude that was among them (Now, that was probably non-Israelites—maybe a few of the Egyptians. We don’t know.) fell a lusting: and the children of Israel also wept again, and said, Who shall give us flesh to eat?” Well, what have they been eating? Manna. The provided food, but they were getting sick and tired of manna. They cooked it. They boiled it. They fried it. They baked it. And it was still manna. All right, so now they want flesh. Now look at verse 5.
Now all we think of these Israelites is that they had been in absolute slavery. And slavery, we know, is never a very pleasant experience. That meant that from the time the sun came up in the morning until it set at night they were under the slave masters. But on the other hand, it wasn’t all bad, because look at the next verse.
“We remember the fish, which we did eat in Egypt freely; the cucumbers, and the melons, and the leaks, and the onions, and the garlick:” Isn’t that amazing? And you know what? That’s the favorite diet of a Jew today.
My, our breakfasts over there when we go to Israel, that’s what it is. It is cucumbers and fish and you name it. It hasn’t changed. So, you see, we don’t want to blot out certain parts of these things and be overcome by this. Along with their slavery and the horrors of it, they still had the good things they were willing to eat. They had their fish and their vegetables, and they had plenty of water. They were up there in the richest area of Egypt.
Now you want to remember, Goshen was the most productive part, agriculturally, of Egypt. So we know that these are not just so many empty words. They had the wherewithal to produce a lot of food. Now, as they’re out there on the desert, I think we can appreciate the fact that they were reminiscing. My goodness, back in Egypt, even though we did work all day, at least we could sit down and have a meal when we got home at night. We were always with plenty of water to drink, and here we are with nothing to eat except this manna and nothing to drink. There’s no water. Okay, now let’s move on.
“And Moses cried unto the LORD, saying, What shall I do unto this people? they be almost ready to stone me. 5. And the LORD said unto Moses, go on before the people, and take with thee of the elders of Israel; and thy rod,…” Now remember, that’s been an important thing from day one when Moses went back to Egypt with that shepherd’s rod. All right, He said to be sure you take your rod.
“…take the rod, wherewith thou smotest the river, (Back there when he was in Egypt and he smote the Nile—and all the things that would happen when he would use that shepherd’s rod.) take in thine hand, and go. 6. Behold, I will stand before thee there upon the rock (There’s your word.) in Horeb;…” Now remember, that’s just the other name for Mount Sinai.
“…and thou shalt smite the rock, and there shall come water out of it, that the people may drink. And Moses did so in the sight of the elders of Israel. 7. And he called the name of the place Massah and Meribah, because of the chiding of the children of Israel, and because they tempted (or tested) the LORD, saying, Is the LORD among us, or not?”
Now it doesn’t say here, but in another account we have what came out—a dribble or a river? A river! A river of water coming out there on the blank desert out of this rock, which was sufficient for these millions of Israelites plus all their livestock. And what does that tell us? God provided all their needs. Well, what’s the lesson for us? We’re going to see it more distinctly when we get back up into Matthew, when the woman at the well said, “Give me of this water.” Well, what was Jesus talking about? The water of Life! And this was a picture of it. This was simply a symbolic picture of what Christ would be to His own of any period of time. So out came this river of water with which they were all satisfied. Now the next verse is the next step after salvation, for us even today. Things never change. Verse 8:
“Then came Amalek,…” Amalek, you remember, was one of the sons or grandsons of Esau, and they were arch-enemies of the Jews. They were their constant torment. So these tribes of these Amalekites, when they saw this river of water out there in the desert, what do you suppose they did? Well, hey, they’re going to come and take their part. And as they did, of course, it caused a fight. So we have a war between these Israelites and the Amalekites.
But what’s the spiritual lesson? Well, it’s the same way in the spiritual. Just as soon as we feast on salvation, what’s the first thing that comes in? Opposition from the devil and the evil part of the world. They taunt and they torment. So here’s the lesson. But when you go on, of course, then we see that Israel prevailed.
But anyway, here is a perfect illustration. Now we’re going to go back to the New Testament for confirmation. Come back up to I Corinthians chapter 10, and see what Paul says concerning this Rock out there on the desert. This is where we learn – when you compare Scripture with Scripture. Otherwise you would never stop to think that just because Moses struck that rock that it was something special. But it was. And I’m going to let the Scripture tell you rather than myself.
I Corinthians 10:1a
“Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers (In other words, all of those Israelites that had come out of Egypt—three to five million of them.) were under the cloud,…” In other words, it was their shade for that desert heat during the day and it became a pillar of fire at night that protected them as well as gave them the light that they needed.
I Corinthians 10:1b-2
“…they were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; (the Red Sea experience) 2. And were all baptized (Not the water baptism that Christendom thinks of, but they were placed by an act of God–) unto Moses (Or under Moses, or into Moses; however you want to put it. They were all placed.) in the cloud and in the sea;” As they came through—they were under God’s protective care.
I Corinthians 10:3-4
“And did all eat the same spiritual food; (The manna. And then the experience that we just covered.) 4. And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them:(And now here it is.) and that Rock was (Who?) Christ.”
Now, you see, that’s hard for our feeble little human minds to comprehend. That piece of rock out there on the desert, over there on the other side of the Red Sea—that was Christ? It’s what The Book says. And what did Moses do? He smote it. Well, what was the smiting a picture of? The Cross!
When Christ was smitten for mankind, what did He become? He became that river of life-giving water. All the pictures and symbolisms fit. Everything from Genesis to Revelation fits. Here we have it as clear as language can make it. When Moses struck that rock with his rod, he was smiting the Christ of eternity, and out came the water.
So here is another perfect example of how Christ is the all-sufficient Rock. He is the One that gives eternal life. He supplies all the needs of not only Israel, but the whole human race. It’s just a beautiful picture of symbolism, again, how that all these things are teaching us and preparing the Nation of Israel.
Now, the point I want to make before we go any further, is that Israel is the primary recipient of the work and miraculousness of the Rock. We’re going to come later this afternoon to when Paul speaks of the foundation of the Church. But it won’t be a rock; it’s just going to be a foundation. But for Israel, all these references to the Rock as being Jesus Christ were predominately between God and Israel.
Now maybe I can make one point on that. Turn ahead with me a little bit to I Peter chapter 2. I’m going to come to it a little later. But for now, just turn to I Peter chapter 2 and see how this is such an affinity between God and Israel—this role of the Rock and the Stone. I Peter chapter 2 and dropping all the way down to verse 8.
I Peter 2:8-9a
“And a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them who stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed. (But now verse 9, here’s where I really want to come in.) 9. But ye (These Jews to whom Peter is writing. And remember, Peter is writing to Jews. He’s writing to those who are scattered. All right, he says–) are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy (or set apart) nation,…”
You see, none of that applies to the Church like most people like to think. This is Jewish language. They are the chosen Nation. They are the favored ones. They’re the peculiar people. They are the priestly nation.
I Peter 2:9b
“…that ye should show forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light:” Well, yes, in a degree that applies to us as believers, but this is all primarily God dealing with His chosen people. They were the ones who were the Holy Priesthood. Remember way back in Exodus, we used it over and over, “and you shall be unto me a kingdom of priests.” Well, you see, the Scripture never tells you and me that in the Body of Christ. But Christendom as a whole can’t separate all this and makes the mistake of telling us this all belongs to us.