The Rock

During the construction of a skyscraper, the foundation of these massive structures must be built upon solid rock. If the contractors were to erect these buildings on soil that is too soft, they would not be able to endure the weight and pressure that is placed upon them.

Jesus spoke of the importance of building our house (life) on the Rock.

Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock.“ But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: Matthew 7:24-26

Jesus illustration was meant to point us to Him; the Rock of our Salvation. If we build our life upon the solid foundation of Christ (the Rock), then our house (our life), will survive the storms of life. If we build our lives on the shifting sands of this present world, our house will not endure.

Throughout the Old Testament, whenever we read a story that contains a Rock, the intended meaning, is to illustrate a particular point of the Messiah’s ministry. From the beginning, the prophecies of the Old Testament, describe a Messiah who will be known as: The Rock. This principle came from the Book of Exodus, where the Lord is leading the children of Israel out of Egypt, through the desert, and into Canaan. While in the desert, the Lord give His people, water from “the Rock.”

Exodus 17:3-6 And the people thirsted there for water, and the people complained against Moses, and said, “Why is it you have brought us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?”  So Moses cried out to the LORD, saying, “What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me!” And the LORD said to Moses, “Go on before the people, and take with you some of the elders of Israel. Also take in your hand your rod with which you struck the river, and go. Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock in Horeb; and you shall strike the rock, and water will come out of it, that the people may drink.” And Moses did so in the sight of the elders of Israel.

Paul told the Christians at the church of Corinth that when Israel was drinking water in the desert that came from the rock, that Rock was Jesus Christ.

1 Corinthians 10:1-4 Moreover, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware that all our fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea, all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, all ate the same spiritual food,  and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ.

This is the amazing story of the children of Israel, traveling through the desert for 40 years, on a journey that should have taken just 11 days.

While 2.5 million people were kept every day under God’s care and protection, they still found reason to complain and doubt the goodness of the Lord. As they come to Moses with their desire for water to quench their thirst, Moses approaches God with their request and receives, both strange and wonderful instructions on how God’s people can satisfy their thirst:

Exodus 17:6 “…you shall strike the rock, and water will come out of it, that the people may drink.”

As the Rock is struck, water flows out to quench the thirst of those who drink from it, giving them life.

It is not until we arrive at the New Testament Book of 1 Corinthians that Paul tells us that this rock in the desert which was struck was really Jesus Christ:

For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ.

Jesus would be struck for our sins. Any person who comes to Him in confession of his sins, has the assurance that all his record of wrong has been removed, and a new life has begun.

Hebrews 10:12 But this Man (Jesus Christ), after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God…

The Bible states that Jesus would be struck for our sins, just one time

At the Cross, Jesus took upon Himself the sins of every person who would be born on the earth. As our transgressions were placed upon Jesus, He was struck by the wrath of God, bearing the judgment and punishment that we deserved. As a result of this one sacrifice, all sins have been forgiven for all time. There is no further sacrifice that is necessary.

Hebrews 9:24-26 For Christ has not entered the holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us; not that He should offer Himself often, as the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood of another—He then would have had to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now, once at the end of the ages, He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.

Hebrews 9:28 so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation.


Those who do not learn from history, are destined to repeat it.

Although the Lord miraculously delivered the Israelites from the terrors of Pharaoh, opened the Red Sea, fed and watered—two and one-half million people while they journeyed through the desert, they still complained against the Lord. As a result of their ungratefulness, the Lord allowed this entire generation to die in the desert, never seeing the land that He promised them.

As their children continue in the journey, they repeat the same errors of their parents. The progeny of the complainers, also come to Kadesh, and they are thirsty. Forgetting what happened to their parents, this second generation brings their complaints to Moses. His anger is aroused and he returns to the Lord. Moses is instructed to go back to the rock and simply Speak to it this second time, and water will flow out for the people.

This journey from Egypt to Canaan, should have only taken 11 days. Because the people would not trust the Lord and cease in their complaining, it has taken nearly 40 years. As a new generation of people return to the Rock, they are instructed by Moses to simply speak and water will flow out to quench their thirst.

When we examine Numbers Chapter 20, as Moses returns to the rock this second time, he does not speak, he takes his staff and strikes the Rock twice. As a result of this action, the Lord informs Moses that he will not be allowed to enter into the land that God had promised the children of Israel.

Numbers 20:10-12 And Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly together before the rock; and he said to them, “Hear now, you rebels! Must we bring water for you out of this rock?” Then Moses lifted his hand and struck the rock twice with his rod; and water came out abundantly, and the congregation and their animals drank. Then the LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not believe Me, to hallow Me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land which I have given them.”

The location of the Rock at Horeb, near the campsite of the children of Israel.


A closeup of the Rock at Horeb, showing the split from where the water flowed out and then down into the camp of Israel below.


Moses was angry with the people, but in the process of expressing his anger, he misrepresented the Lord.

The Rock in the desert was a prophetic picture of the coming Messiah. The sacrifice that the Jesus would make for the sins of the world would be made just once. Therefore, the rock that Moses struck twice, distorted the true plan of God. The Messiah would be struck once for the sins of the world—not twice. In this error of Moses we see how important it is to do exactly what the Lord has said, and nothing else. We also understand that correctly representing who Jesus is to other people; salvation, by Grace, through Faith, is of vital importance. Finally, we see that in the mind of God, these prophecies of the Messiah are extremely important and must be fulfilled with great precision.

The Rock in the desert represented Jesus Christ who would be struck only once. By Moses striking the Rock a second time, He misrepresented God before the people.

The people were thirsty and God wanted to quench their thirst. The Lord was not angry because the people need help. In Moses irritability, by striking the Rock twice, when he should have spoken to it, he was representing to the people that when they came to God with their needs, He also was angry. In fact, the Lord loves His people and delights in meeting their needs.

Since our Rock, Jesus Christ, has already been struck for us, all that we have to do today is speak to Him, and the Living Water He longs to give us, will pour forth. God is not angry with us when we ask Him for help. In fact, He delights when we come to Him in humility and ask for any good thing that we need for our life.

This prophecy of Exodus 17, is a vivid and powerful representation of the importance of fulfilled prophecy in the Bible and how God uses prophecy to illustrate who Jesus is and why He came to the earth for us.

The entire purpose of the Old Testament is to give us a basis for understanding the future salvation that God promised through the Messiah. Jesus told the leaders of Israel that what Moses wrote, concerning the scriptures, was all about Him.

John 5:46 For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me. (ESV)

The Rock in the desert typified the coming Messiah. Only once would the Savior of the world be required to atone for our sins. Since Jesus has died once for the sins of every person, there is no further sacrifice or work that is required.

But this Man, (Jesus) after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God… For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified. Hebrews 10:12,14

From Moses error and the penalty that he suffered, we understand how important it is to properly represent the Lord and His plan of salvation to other people. If we imply that a person must perform a certain work or ritual in an effort to make themselves acceptable to God, instead of simply coming through the sacrifice that Jesus has already made for us, this is a misrepresentation of God’s salvation. If we imply that God is impatient, hateful, spiteful, or full of vengeance, instead of loving, patient, and kind towards people, we have misrepresented Him.

As a result of his error, Moses will die in the desert and not be permitted to enter the land that the Lord has promised His people.

Numbers 20:24 Aaron shall be gathered to his people, for Moses shall not enter the land which I have given to the children of Israel, because you rebelled against My word at the water of Meribah.

Later in the New Testament, Paul comments on those who complained against the Lord, as well as Moses who misrepresented the Lord; they could not enter the rest the Lord planned for them because of their disobedience.

Hebrews 3:18 18 And to whom did he swear that they would not enter his rest, but to those who were disobedient? (ESV)

We also learn by this prophecy that the title of “Rock,” as it is attributed to the Messiah, came from this example of this Rock that was struck in the desert.

The importance of believing what God has said and responding to it accordingly, as well as correctly representing Him and the salvation He offers, is of great importance. Despite the error of Moses and the people who came to this rock the second time, if we carefully examine the Old Testament account of these failures we notice the incredible grace of the Lord.

• There is no mention by God of the previous sins which took place when the former generation came to this rock, after much complaining. Even in the midst of all of their failures, the Lord does not bring up their past sins.
• When Jesus forgave you, He buried your sins in the depth of the sea, and they will never be heard from again. This is why we should not dig up our past mistakes, dwell on them, or revisit them, ever again.
• These were God’s chosen people, but they never lived up to their true potential. Let us make sure that we enter into all that the Lord has planned for us by trusting Him.
• We have been called to serve the Lord. If we will not believe what He has said and begin to submit our lives, our time, our family, and our finances to His Lordship, then we are not allowing Jesus to be the Lord of our life.

One of the benefits of studying history is that we can discover the mistakes of former generations and make certain that we do not repeat them. Apparently the children of those who formerly complained against the Lord, after He delivered them from the hands of Pharaoh, were not paying attention. Repeating the same errors of their parents who died in the desert, this new generation also grumbles against the Lord.

These children of those who were formerly disobedient, were too young to remember the hardships that their parents suffered when they lived as slaves in Egypt for 400 years. Apparently, the parents of this new generation did not teach their sons and daughters to trust the Lord and warn them to not to repeat the same mistakes that they had made.

If we fail to teach our children about our past mistakes in serving the Lord and what we have learned from Him through these experiences, then they very well may repeat some of the same errors that we have made. Many parents are ashamed to admit past failures to their children for fear of appearing weak or foolish. In reality, the lessons that we teach our kids from our past mistakes will be treasured reminders that they will never forget.

Numbers 20:6 Moses and Aaron turned away from the people and went to the entrance of the tabernacle, where they fell face down on the ground. then the glorious presence of the Lord appeared to them…

Notice here that on each occasion when the people begin to complain against the Lord, Moses’ response is to fall on his face before God. As he and Aaron lay prostrate, the Glorious presence of the Lord appears. What was it like to see the Lord’s Glory right before their eyes? One of the promises of God is that all of us who love Him will someday see Him in all of His bright shining glory. When we are taken from this earth at the Rapture, we will be gathered before the Lord in our glorified bodies. All around the throne of God in heaven, we will fall on our faces before the Lord in worship. When we look up, we will see Him in all of His resplendent glory. The light of His presence will fill heaven, and we will see even more of God’s glory than Moses saw here in this description, from the Book of Numbers Chapter 20.

The people whom Moses has been leading through the desert have once again failed to trust in the Lord. Moses is sick at heart, and he has grown weary of their constant murmuring. The Lord patiently instructed Moses to go before the Rock and speak to it. Moses’ anger spills over into his actions and he does not speak to the rock, he takes his staff and strikes it twice.

We can never please the Lord when we refuse to trust Him. When we complain about our lives after having surrendered them to Jesus, it is a slap in His face. All of our trials are really intended to bring us to a place where we will choose to trust the Lord. Instead of doubts and complaining, perhaps we should remember that He does love us and always has our best interests at heart. Remember that the Lord is more concerned about developing your character than your comfort. Trials, difficulties and suffering will always benefit us in a positive way—if we view these hardships as a loving part of the Lord’s plan to develop our character.

Character is who we are when under trials

When we are in a time of difficulty, on many occasions we are at our worst. Instead, these moments should allow the inner person—who is becoming more and more like Jesus, to shine forth in patience, grace, and trust—towards the Lord. A good and patient bearing of all life’s’ problems—because we trust in the Lord, is a sure sign that we have fully committed ourselves to His will and believe that He has a good plan intended for us.

One of the ways that we can develop a change in our attitude, when things start to go wrong, is to add up all the wonderful blessings that we presently have in our life. As we realize that the Lord has been faithful to provide all that we have needed in the past, we understand that He will also be there to take care of our future. We should thank and praise the Lord for the people and material blessings that we have already been able to enjoy. When we focus on what God has done, very quickly our attitude towards our present suffering will change—as we consider that the Lord will also take us through our present difficulties and remain faithful.

Moses’ failure at the Rock is intended as an encouragement for us.

Despite Moses’ failure, God will not fail His people. Even though the instruments that the Lord often uses are subject to defect and failure, He still wants to use men and women to serve Him and tell others about His love. Every person who serves the Lord, will, at one time or another—fail Him. I have done so, many times. I have hurt people, disappointed them, and made mistakes which caused suffering for my dear friends. For all those mistakes and the pain that I have caused, I am truly sorry. I am a defective instrument in the hands of a great and merciful God. I am always amazed that He would use a man like me to do anything for Him. The reality is that He does use fallible people and will continue to use us even when we fail Him and others—as long as we recognize our errors, repent from our sins, and come back and serve the Lord—again, with all of our heart.

Numbers 20:12 but the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “because you did not trust me enough to demonstrate my holiness to the people of Israel, you will not lead them into the land I am giving them!”

It is important to notice that although Moses did not follow the Lord’s instructions to speak to the Rock, water still flowed out and met the people’s need. Pastors and Bible teachers are not perfect men and they are not perfect teachers. On some occasions, we fail to teach what we should. On other occasions, we say too much. Other times, we teach things which are more our opinion rather than what God has said. Still the Lord will bless His word as it goes out to the people, and the water of that word will refresh and cause growth in those who come to hear it. Even when the word of God is not perfectly delivered, God will bless the attempts of men who try to do their best. The problem today is not that the word of God is always not delivered perfectly but that it is not delivered at all. Pastors are not teaching the people the full counsel of God’s word—from Genesis to Revelation. Many leaders are teaching positive and motivational sermons, which have very little to do with the word of God. As a result; people do not know what God has to say to them and their spiritual growth is hindered by the famine of God’s word in their life.

Finally, the point of this exercise in Numbers 20: the Rock that Moses struck, when he should have spoken, was intended as a representation of Jesus Christ, the Messiah, as He is revealed in the New Testament.

1 Corinthians 10:1-5 …For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ.

Whatever your need today, because Jesus is the Rock of our salvation, who was struck once for our sins; all that you must do is come and speak to Him. Ask anything of the Lord and you will find that He always has time for you and cares deeply for your life. Jesus will be; as the waters of Meribah which flowed out from the Rock at Horeb. He will fill you, refresh you, and cause your joy to overflow to everyone around you. Jesus is the Rock of the Old Testament.

[1] Graphic Illustration by Rob Robinson
[2] Ibid.