The Smitten Rock; An Old Testament Picture of Christ
“For I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, 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 were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ.” – 1 Corinthians 10: 1-4
One of the most striking Old Testament pictures of Christ is found in the story of Moses striking the rock at Horeb (Exodus 17:1-7). The people of God had been wandering in the wilderness, and God had intentionally brought them to a desolate place called Rephidim (Exodus 17:1). There, the people of God were filled with the fear of death by dehydration. Yet as Moses struck the rock with his staff, God provided water for the people to drink. Let us ponder together this beautiful Old Testament snapshot of our Savior.
To begin with, striking the rock met a need for the people of God. They were in need of water, and God graciously met their need. They certainly did not deserve this free gift of water; for they had been grumbling against Moses for leading them to such a dry and parched place. Yet as an act of grace, God provided the much needed water. And so it is with Jesus Christ the Rock. Even in the midst of our sinfulness, God graciously gives us His Son, meeting the greatest need we will ever have; the need for a Savior. We certainly do not deserve salvation, yet like the water from the rock, it is a free and unmerited gift from God.
Secondly, as Moses struck the rock at Horeb, he did so with his staff. Throughout the Old Testament, Moses’ staff was an instrument of judgment. It was used in striking the Nile River (Exodus 7:20, Exodus 17:5). It was also used in the plague of frogs (Exodus 8:5), the plague of insects (Exodus 8:16), the plague of hail (Exodus 9:23) and the plague of locusts (Exodus 10:13). Likewise, when God the Father struck Christ the Rock at Calvary, it was an act of an act of judgment against sin (Isaiah 53:5). And as Moses smote the rock, it was God who stood before him, reminding us that it was God the Father who smote God the Son (Exodus 17:6, Isaiah 53:10).
Finally, the rock only had to be struck once (Exodus 17:6). Moses did not have to keep striking it to bring forth water. It was not as if he was priming a pump. Multiple strikes were not needed. One strike was sufficient. And so it is with Christ the Rock. Christ was smitten of God only once (Hebrews 10:14). In Romans 6:9-10 the Apostle Paul wrote, “Knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God.” Likewise, Christ does not have to die all over again every time we sin. His death was sufficient. He only had to die once, just as the rock at Horeb only had to be struck once. This truth is magnified all the more by an event that took place at the same rock forty years later. In Numbers 20, Moses struck the rock twice, but did so out of anger. It was an unnecessary action; for in that particular instance, all Moses had to do to bring forth water from the rock was simply speak the word (Numbers 20:8).
We know the smitten rock is an Old Testament picture of Christ because the apostle Paul said so in 1 Corinthians 10:1-4. Oh what beautiful New Testament truths burst forth from the pages of the Old Testament! My dear Christian friend, as you drink from God’s fountain of grace, find comfort in knowing that your thirst will be satisfied completely. Confidently hold on to the promise our Lord made to the woman at the well when He said, “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life” (John 4:13).
– Pastor Eric