Historically, the people of the Ancient Near East put the rocky terrain of their homeland to good use. Stones were plentiful and everywhere so they were frequently used as foundation stones, memorial stones, altar stones, and building stones. These stones were strong, solid, and long-lasting, and it’s easy to see why throughout the Old Testament we find the Israelites likening their God to a rock. For the psalmists, a favorite picture of their God was, more specifically, as a rock of salvation.
This powerful picture conveys that our salvation is secure because it is built upon the strength and stability of Yahweh Tsuri, an unmovable, persevering, solid rock. This was true for ancient Israel, and it is no less true for us today.
But in my world, to stand firmly on the rock of my salvation, my foundation is secure, yes, but still I am exposed. I certainly feel exposed to the elements. When the storms come, I turn my face into the wind, straighten my back and square my shoulders, ready to do battle. On this rock I can stand firm in the face of the onslaught, but more honestly, I want only to survive it with my faith intact.
But there is more to Yahweh Tsuri than a firm foundation. God wishes us to know Him not just as the rock on which we securely stand, our sure foundation of salvation, or bedrock made strong by His faithful promises. The psalmists also describe Him as a rocky crag with a fissure or split which provides a hiding place, a sheer cliff of granite with a gash large enough for us to slip into and find refuge. A massive, unyielding slab of rock with a cleft where we can hide.
When the storms rage, or the heat of a blistering sun is beating down upon us, or when the enemy is relentlessly pursuing and attacking, we can slip into the cleft of the rock and rest. Shelter. Calm. A moment of peace. A place to be still and catch our breath. A place to hide, to feel safe, to be renewed and refreshed. Within that rock we can drink deeply of the living water that is there, the never-ending spring that soothes and heals, that satisfies and strengthens.
Yahweh Tsuri is both our rock of salvation and our hiding place, our solid footing and our refuge. But He is even more, with even greater purpose than we imagine. This rock took on flesh and blood and became a living stone, the Living Stone, securing our salvation and pouring out the water of life. He walked among us as us, healing, restoring, reviving, sheltering and saving. Even today His work continues, carefully shaping and honing to make each one of us into a living stone as well.
The Apostle Peter put it like this:
“As you come to him, the living Stone, rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to Him, you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood….” – 1 Peter 2:4-5
Stone upon stone, in unity, He will build His house. Stone upon stone, He connects us, interlocking and stacking, making many diverse parts into one beautiful whole. Stone upon stone, He hones us, chipping away at what does not belong in His house, at what compromises the strength of this living, breathing structure, this holy priesthood. Stone upon stone, He joins us together, uniting us in His cause, sealing us with His Spirit. Bringing us together, building, uniting, sealing, the Living Stone builds His house. For His glory. In unity.
Stone upon stone.