Richard Stamp
Rocks, Water & Carols

Many of us have heard the story of the Israelites in the desert a number of times, but with startling clarity, something was made clear to me last week that I had never seen before.

The story[i] goes like this: the Israelites realise that there is no water to drink in the desert where they are camped, during their flight from the tyrannical rule of Pharaoh. Despite God’s many previous assurances that He will provide for his people, the Israelites start to doubt. They grumble. Then they get angry and threaten to kill Moses.

Fearful for his life, Moses reminds them not to grumble against God, nor to doubt his provision.  What happens next is remarkable. God tells Moses to stand in front of all the people so that they can see him to sort out their problems. He tells Moses that he, God, will stand on a rock while Moses must strike the rock in sight of all God’s people, in order for water to emerge.

Stop and think about this. In response to anger and doubt against Him, God stands on a rock and allows a man to strike him.

The people have railed against God. The people have threatened murder. The people have tested God. The people are pretty rotten. The people frankly, deserve a beating. But it’s God who takes the beating. It’s God that tells Moses to strike Him, in full view of all who are in that moment opposing Him.

Moses does so, and the people drink the water that pours forth from the rock.

This Sunday is Advent Sunday. Christmas is just around the corner. I don’t naturally find much to be thankful about at this time of year. As a South African, this time of year should be for outdoor swimming and barbeques. I don’t get Christmas trees, I oppose plastic toys with a vengeance, and festive jingles make me queasy. Although I live in the most prosperous era in western history and I have known the provision and kindness of God for many years I still find it very easy to doubt God and whine about life’s circumstances at this time of year.

A people who have been set free from tyranny, brought into a spacious land, given the very presence of God and the promise of a wonderful future found it easy to whinge at that time of year. Note the similarity that scars the human heart across history.

Many years later, another rock was struck. Water gushed forth again and an undeserving, thirsty people – people who opposed God – had their thirst quenched.

In the New Testament, Jesus is called the Rock[ii]. The most sturdy foundation stone, the most solid, faithful and consistent man that ever lived. He is the rock that was struck at the cross in our place when we deserved to be crucified in his place. And as that Rock was struck, a spiritual water gushed from him that we are instructed to drink[iii], that we might never thirst again.

God was always the rock that was struck when we deserved the striking, in order that water might gush forth to give us life. Not just for our 80 years on earth, but forever. And that alone, is cause to quit our whinging and revel in thankfulness.

What does any of this have to do with Christmas? We have two carol services and a Christmas day service coming up. Belting out carols can be fun, and helps to usher in the Christmas spirit, but it’s much more than that. It’s our opportunity to reflect on all that Jesus, the Rock has won for us and be thankful.  Exodus from the tyranny of death. A solid rock, struck for us, instead of striking at us. Living water that quenches every thirst that life produces. And at what cost to us? Free.

“Hail the heav’n-born Prince of Peace!
Hail the Son of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings
Ris’n with healing in His wings
Mild He lays His glory by
Born that man no more may die
Born to raise the sons of earth
Born to give them second birth
Hark! The herald angels sing
“Glory to the newborn King!”

From, ‘Hark! The Herald Angels Sing’

[i] Exodus 17:1-7
[ii] 1 Corinthians 10:4
[iii] John 4:14