“That Rock Was Christ”

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“That Rock Was Christ”

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In the Bible, the writings of the apostle Paul are well known for sometimes being hard to understand. Even the apostle Peter acknowledged this (2 Peter 3:16 2 Peter 3:16As also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, to their own destruction.
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Often some things Paul wrote are a challenge for us to grasp for the simple reason that he lived and wrote in a very different culture 2,000 years ago in a very different part of the world. Our modern culture is unlike Paul’s world in many ways, and we often fail to appreciate or understand these differences when we read the Bible.

Other things Paul wrote are puzzling to us because he wrote from an intellectual background and knowledge base that was poles apart from our world today. Paul was a trained rabbi under the tutelage of the great Gamaliel, known and respected as “a teacher of the law held in respect by all the people” (Acts 5:34 Acts 5:34Then stood there up one in the council, a Pharisee, named Gamaliel, a doctor of the law, had in reputation among all the people, and commanded to put the apostles forth a little space;
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; Acts 22:3 Acts 22:3I am truly a man which am a Jew, born in Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, yet brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, and taught according to the perfect manner of the law of the fathers, and was zealous toward God, as you all are this day.
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As a result, Paul was highly knowledgeable of the Hebrew Scriptures (today commonly called the Old Testament) and often makes reference to somewhat obscure passages or topics that he and his audience of that day well understood, but that today are foreign or largely unknown to most Bible readers. 

A puzzling passage from 1 Corinthians

We find such an example of a partially or mostly misunderstood passage in 1 Corinthians 10:1-4 1 Corinthians 10:1-4 [1] Moreover, brothers, I would not that you should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; [2] And were all baptized to Moses in the cloud and in the sea; [3] And did all eat the same spiritual meat; [4] And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.
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, where Paul writes: “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” (emphasis added throughout).

Some parts of this passage are easy to understand—other parts, not so much.

In trying to understand the Bible, it’s always helpful to read the context. When we understand the overall picture the biblical writer is conveying, it’s much easier to understand the details.

In this case, Paul is writing this letter to the church in Corinth around the time of the biblical Passover and Feast of Unleavened Bread, which was the time of the year during which ancient Israel left Egypt in the Exodus some 15 centuries earlier. This timing is evident from Paul’s comment that “Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us” in 1 Corinthians 5:7-8 1 Corinthians 5:7-8 [7] Purge out therefore the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, as you are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us: [8] Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
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and his accompanying instructions about how to keep the Feast of Unleavened Bread with a right attitude and perspective. In 1 Corinthians 11:20-29 1 Corinthians 11:20-29 [20] When you come together therefore into one place, this is not to eat the Lord’s supper. [21] For in eating every one takes before other his own supper: and one is hungry, and another is drunken. [22] What? have you not houses to eat and to drink in? or despise you the church of God, and shame them that have not? What shall I say to you? shall I praise you in this? I praise you not. [23] For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered to you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: [24] And when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. [25] After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do you, as oft as you drink it, in remembrance of me. [26] For as often as you eat this bread, and drink this cup, you do show the Lord’s death till he come. [27] Why whoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. [28] But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. [29] For he that eats and drinks unworthily, eats and drinks damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.
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, he also gives instructions for how Christians should properly observe the biblical Passover ceremony. 

Clearly the story of Israel’s Exodus from Egypt and lessons Christians should learn from that are very much on Paul’s mind in this letter. That’s why in this passage in chapter 10 he refers in verses 1 and 2 to the pillar of cloud (see Exodus 13:21-22 Exodus 13:21-22 [21] And the LORD went before them by day in a pillar of a cloud, to lead them the way; and by night in a pillar of fire, to give them light; to go by day and night: [22] He took not away the pillar of the cloud by day, nor the pillar of fire by night, from before the people.
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; Exodus 14:19-20 Exodus 14:19-20 [19] And the angel of God, which went before the camp of Israel, removed and went behind them; and the pillar of the cloud went from before their face, and stood behind them: [20] And it came between the camp of the Egyptians and the camp of Israel; and it was a cloud and darkness to them, but it gave light by night to these: so that the one came not near the other all the night.
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) and to Israel’s miraculous passage through the sea (Exodus 14:24-30 Exodus 14:24-30 [24] And it came to pass, that in the morning watch the LORD looked to the host of the Egyptians through the pillar of fire and of the cloud, and troubled the host of the Egyptians, [25] And took off their chariot wheels, that they drove them heavily: so that the Egyptians said, Let us flee from the face of Israel; for the LORD fights for them against the Egyptians. [26] And the LORD said to Moses, Stretch out your hand over the sea, that the waters may come again on the Egyptians, on their chariots, and on their horsemen. [27] And Moses stretched forth his hand over the sea, and the sea returned to his strength when the morning appeared; and the Egyptians fled against it; and the LORD overthrew the Egyptians in the middle of the sea. [28] And the waters returned, and covered the chariots, and the horsemen, and all the host of Pharaoh that came into the sea after them; there remained not so much as one of them. [29] But the children of Israel walked on dry land in the middle of the sea; and the waters were a wall to them on their right hand, and on their left. [30] Thus the LORD saved Israel that day out of the hand of the Egyptians; and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the sea shore.
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), and in verse 3 to the divinely provided manna that fed the Israelites for 40 years (see Exodus 16:11-35 Exodus 16:11-35 [11] And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, [12] I have heard the murmurings of the children of Israel: speak to them, saying, At even you shall eat flesh, and in the morning you shall be filled with bread; and you shall know that I am the LORD your God. [13] And it came to pass, that at even the quails came up, and covered the camp: and in the morning the dew lay round about the host. [14] And when the dew that lay was gone up, behold, on the face of the wilderness there lay a small round thing, as small as the hoar frost on the ground. [15] And when the children of Israel saw it, they said one to another, It is manna: for they knew not what it was. And Moses said to them, This is the bread which the LORD has given you to eat. [16] This is the thing which the LORD has commanded, Gather of it every man according to his eating, an omer for every man, according to the number of your persons; take you every man for them which are in his tents. [17] And the children of Israel did so, and gathered, some more, some less. [18] And when they did mete it with an omer, he that gathered much had nothing over, and he that gathered little had no lack; they gathered every man according to his eating. [19] And Moses said, Let no man leave of it till the morning. [20] Notwithstanding they listened not to Moses; but some of them left of it until the morning, and it bred worms, and stank: and Moses was wroth with them. [21] And they gathered it every morning, every man according to his eating: and when the sun waxed hot, it melted. [22] And it came to pass, that on the sixth day they gathered twice as much bread, two omers for one man: and all the rulers of the congregation came and told Moses. [23] And he said to them, This is that which the LORD has said, To morrow is the rest of the holy sabbath to the LORD: bake that which you will bake to day, and seethe that you will seethe; and that which remains over lay up for you to be kept until the morning. [24] And they laid it up till the morning, as Moses bade: and it did not stink, neither was there any worm therein. [25] And Moses said, Eat that to day; for to day is a sabbath to the LORD: to day you shall not find it in the field. [26] Six days you shall gather it; but on the seventh day, which is the sabbath, in it there shall be none. [27] And it came to pass, that there went out some of the people on the seventh day for to gather, and they found none. [28] And the LORD said to Moses, How long refuse you to keep my commandments and my laws? [29] See, for that the LORD has given you the sabbath, therefore he gives you on the sixth day the bread of two days; abide you every man in his place, let no man go out of his place on the seventh day. [30] So the people rested on the seventh day. [31] And the house of Israel called the name thereof Manna: and it was like coriander seed, white; and the taste of it was like wafers made with honey. [32] And Moses said, This is the thing which the LORD commands, Fill an omer of it to be kept for your generations; that they may see the bread with which I have fed you in the wilderness, when I brought you forth from the land of Egypt. [33] And Moses said to Aaron, Take a pot, and put an omer full of manna therein, and lay it up before the LORD, to be kept for your generations. [34] As the LORD commanded Moses, so Aaron laid it up before the Testimony, to be kept. [35] And the children of Israel did eat manna forty years, until they came to a land inhabited; they did eat manna, until they came to the borders of the land of Canaan.
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Layered metaphors of “the Rock”

In verse 4 Paul transitions from another element of the Exodus story to make a broader point.

He mentions that the Israelites “drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ.” We can read accounts of God providing water to the Israelites in the desert out of a rock Moses struck in Exodus 17:1-6 Exodus 17:1-6 [1] 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, and pitched in Rephidim: and there was no water for the people to drink. [2] Why the people did chide with Moses, and said, Give us water that we may drink. And Moses said to them, Why chide you with me? why do you tempt the LORD? [3] And the people thirsted there for water; and the people murmured against Moses, and said, Why is this that you have brought us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our cattle with thirst? [4] And Moses cried to the LORD, saying, What shall I do to this people? they be almost ready to stone me. [5] And the LORD said to Moses, Go on before the people, and take with you of the elders of Israel; and your rod, with which you smote the river, take in your hand, and go. [6] Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock in Horeb; and you shall 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.
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and Numbers 20:1-11 Numbers 20:1-11 [1] Then came the children of Israel, even the whole congregation, into the desert of Zin in the first month: and the people stayed in Kadesh; and Miriam died there, and was buried there. [2] And there was no water for the congregation: and they gathered themselves together against Moses and against Aaron. [3] And the people strived with Moses, and spoke, saying, Would God that we had died when our brothers died before the LORD! [4] And why have you brought up the congregation of the LORD into this wilderness, that we and our cattle should die there? [5] And why have you made us to come up out of Egypt, to bring us in to this evil place? it is no place of seed, or of figs, or of vines, or of pomegranates; neither is there any water to drink. [6] And Moses and Aaron went from the presence of the assembly to the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, and they fell on their faces: and the glory of the LORD appeared to them. [7] And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, [8] Take the rod, and gather you the assembly together, you, and Aaron your brother, and speak you to the rock before their eyes; and it shall give forth his water, and you shall bring forth to them water out of the rock: so you shall give the congregation and their beasts drink. [9] And Moses took the rod from before the LORD, as he commanded him. [10] And Moses and Aaron gathered the congregation together before the rock, and he said to them, Hear now, you rebels; must we fetch you water out of this rock? [11] And Moses lifted up his hand, and with his rod he smote the rock twice: and the water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their beasts also.
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. God had said He would stand on the rock, so the water really flowed to the people from Him by a miracle.

But notice that Paul was not focusing primarily on the physical rock that Moses struck and from which water poured out, but the “spiritual Rock that followed them”—that Rock being Jesus Christ.

What is this talking about? What is Paul telling us here?

We should first note that “followed” isn’t the best translation here. The Greek verb used is a form of akoloutheo, which means to “go in the same way” or to “travel together.” Forms of the word appear 92 times in the New Testament, the overwhelming majority of which are referring to the disciples or crowds accompanying Jesus Christ on His travels along the roads of Galilee and Judea during His ministry.

While the word akoloutheo can and usually does mean “follow,” a better translation in the context of the Exodus story would be “accompany” or “travel together with”—since the “spiritual Rock” with the Israelites didn’t follow them, but accompanied them as they traveled together on their journey from Egypt to the Promised Land. Accordingly, other versions translate this as “traveled with them” (New Living Translation), “went with them” (God’s Word version) and “accompanied them” (New International Version).

Paul is presenting the physical rock Moses struck to bring forth water as a type or symbol of a higher “spiritual Rock” giving spiritual drink, and Paul identifies this spiritual Rock as Jesus Christ. 

The “spiritual Rock” that was Israel’s God

Where in the Exodus story do we find mention of another “Rock”? It’s found not in the books of Exodus and Numbers, as are the examples above, but another biblical book that recounts the Exodus story—Deuteronomy. The book of Deuteronomy is the last of the five books of Moses, written shortly before Moses’ death as Israel prepared to enter the Promised Land.

The book of Deuteronomy in many ways recaps the story of the Exodus and Israel’s 40 years of wandering in the wilderness. Near the end of that book, in chapter 32, Moses offers an extended praise to God, “the Lord,” who had delivered and led the Israelites and protected them even when they were unfaithful to Him.

This part of the book of Deuteronomy is a direct tie-in to the Exodus story, where Moses repeatedly talks about God being Israel’s “Rock”—today we might call it their spiritual foundation—who has been with them right up to their entering into the Promised Land. And when Paul discusses this “spiritual Rock” that accompanied the Israelites on their journey, he no doubt has this divine “Rock” of Deuteronomy 32 in mind. (Illustrating the book’s popularity and their familiarity with it, the New Testament writers allude to Deuteronomy more than any Old Testament books other than Psalms and Isaiah.)

Let’s notice how Moses in Deuteronomy 32 repeatedly refers to Israel’s God, again “the Lord” or Yahweh (as this Hebrew name is commonly thought to have been pronounced), as “the Rock.” This is from the New Living Translation, which makes some of the wording clearer.

Moses begins this chapter with praise to God, Israel’s “Rock,” in verse 3-4: “I will proclaim the name of the Lord; how glorious is our God! He is the Rock; his deeds are perfect. Everything he does is just and fair. He is a faithful God who does no wrong; how just and upright he is!”

In verse 15 Moses calls the Israelites’ God their “Rock,” this time in the context of the nation rejecting Him: “But Israel soon became fat and unruly; the people grew heavy, plump, and stuffed! Then they abandoned the God who had made them; they made light of the Rock of their salvation.”

In verse 18 Moses again calls God their “Rock,” condemning the fact that they had rebelled against Him even though He had made a nation of them: “You neglected the Rock who had fathered you; you forgot the God who had given you birth.”

In verses 30-31 Moses compares the Israelites’ “Rock,” their God, to the false and unfaithful gods worshipped by the surrounding nations: “How could one person chase a thousand of them, and two people put ten thousand to flight, unless their Rock had sold them, unless the Lord had given them up? But the rock of our enemies is not like our Rock, as even they recognize.”

In this chapter alone Moses refers to the Israelites’ God five times as their “Rock.” Obviously Paul, highly knowledgeable biblical scholar that he was, had this in mind in referring to the events of the Exodus and wilderness journey and telling us “that Rock was Christ.”

The surprising truth about the God of Israel and Creator of all things

In Paul’s phrase—“and that Rock was Christ”—we see an amazing truth of the Bible made plain. Most people assume that God the Father was the God who directly interacted with individuals, groups and nations during the Old Testament period. But Paul here tells us that in fact the Being who did so, at the direction of the Father, was the One who would later be born in the flesh as Jesus Christ.

Paul confirms this a few verses later in 1 Corinthians 10:9 1 Corinthians 10:9Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents.
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, where he writes of another significant event that took place during the Israelites’ journey from Egypt to the Promised Land: “We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents,” wrote Paul (NLT). The incident he is referring to can be found in Numbers 21:5-9 Numbers 21:5-9 [5] And the people spoke against God, and against Moses, Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? for there is no bread, neither is there any water; and our soul loathes this light bread. [6] And the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and much people of Israel died. [7] Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, We have sinned, for we have spoken against the LORD, and against you; pray to the LORD, that he take away the serpents from us. And Moses prayed for the people. [8] And the LORD said to Moses, Make you a fiery serpent, and set it on a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looks on it, shall live. [9] And Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it on a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived.
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, where the people rebelled against God and, as a result, “the Lord sent poisonous snakes among the people, and many were bitten and died” (verse 6, NLT). Who was the Lord or God whom the Israelites tested there? Paul plainly tells us it was Jesus Christ!

How would Paul know that this God who interacted with Moses and the Israelites was the same Being who would later be born in the flesh as Jesus Christ? Keep in mind that Paul, after his miraculous conversion, was apparently directly taught by Christ for three years in Arabia before meeting any of the other apostles (Galatians 1:11-18 Galatians 1:11-18 [11] But I certify you, brothers, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. [12] For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ. [13] For you have heard of my conversation in time past in the Jews’ religion, how that beyond measure I persecuted the church of God, and wasted it: [14] And profited in the Jews’ religion above many my equals in my own nation, being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers. [15] But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called me by his grace, [16] To reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood: [17] Neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me; but I went into Arabia, and returned again to Damascus. [18] Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and stayed with him fifteen days.
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And writing under God’s inspiration, he tells us in Colossians 1:16 Colossians 1:16 For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him:
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regarding Jesus: “For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him.”

Here Paul clearly tells us that Jesus Christ was the One who created not only the physical universe we see around us, but also the invisible spirit universe or dimension of angels. These were, Paul tells us, “created through Him and for Him.”

In all this we see that Paul, under God’s inspiration, tells us that Jesus Christ is the Creator, the One through whom God the Father created the physical universe and the angelic realm, and also that Jesus was the God and Lord who interacted with Moses and the Israelites during their journey from Egypt to the Promised Land.

“No one has seen God at any time”

The apostle John made several remarkable statements that help us understand Jesus Christ’s role during the Old Testament period. In John 1:18 he tells us: “No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.”

Earlier in this chapter (verse 14) John explained that he was a personal eyewitness of “the Word” who became flesh as Jesus Christ. So “God” in verse 18 cannot refer to Jesus even though Jesus was also God (verses 1-3). The “God” whom no one has ever seen at any time thus has to be referring to God the Father.

Notice also that John says Jesus Christ “declared” the Father. Other versions translate this as “made him known” (New International Version, English Standard Version, New Revised Standard Version) or “reveal[ed] Him” (Green’s Literal Translation).

If God the Father was known to the Israelites as God during the Old Testament period, why would Jesus need to make Him known? That doesn’t make sense. There’s no need to reveal the Father if the Father was already known when Jesus came.

John repeats this exact same statement in one of his epistles: “No one has seen God at any time” (1 John 4:12). John apparently wrote near the end of the first century. At the time it seems that he was the last of the apostles still alive. He’d had more than half a century to reflect on his personal time with Jesus Christ and to allow Jesus’ teachings—including Jesus’ own statements that no one had ever seen God—to deeply sink in. Surely John knew exactly what he was saying.

We also see two such explicit statements from Jesus Christ Himself. Notice John 5:37: “And the Father Himself, who sent Me, has testified of Me. You have neither heard His voice at any time, nor seen His form.”

And just to be clear, Jesus again says that no one has ever seen the Father in John 6:46: “No one has seen the Father except the one who is from God; only he has seen the Father” (New International Version). Here Jesus plainly says that no one has seen the Father except the One who is from God—referring to Himself. He alone has seen the Father. No human being has ever seen the Father.

The biblical record of people who saw God

Yet in the books of the Old Testament period we see that a number of people did see God. They include:

• Abraham (Genesis 12:7; Genesis15:1; Genesis18:1).

• Isaac (Genesis 26:2, Genesis 26:24).

• Jacob (Genesis 28:13Genesis 32:30 Genesis 32:30And Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: for I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.
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Genesis 35:9-10 Genesis 35:9-10 [9] And God appeared to Jacob again, when he came out of Padanaram, and blessed him. [10] And God said to him, Your name is Jacob: your name shall not be called any more Jacob, but Israel shall be your name: and he called his name Israel.
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).

• Moses (Exodus 3:6Exodus 33:11 Exodus 33:11And the LORD spoke to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend. And he turned again into the camp: but his servant Joshua, the son of Nun, a young man, departed not out of the tabernacle.
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Exodus 33:21-23 Exodus 33:21-23 [21] And the LORD said, Behold, there is a place by me, and you shall stand on a rock: [22] And it shall come to pass, while my glory passes by, that I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and will cover you with my hand while I pass by: [23] And I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back parts: but my face shall not be seen.
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).

• Moses, Aaron and the 70 elders of Israel (Exodus 24:9-11).

• Joshua (Joshua 6:2).

• Gideon (Judges 6:14).

• Solomon (1 Kings 11:9 1 Kings 11:9And the LORD was angry with Solomon, because his heart was turned from the LORD God of Israel, which had appeared to him twice,
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).

Nearly all of these are described as face-to-face encounters. Two are specifically described as visions, including one of these encounters with Abraham and one with Jacob. But in addition to those visions, Abraham and Jacob had face-to-face encounters with God also—during which Abraham ate a meal with God and Jacob wrestled with God.

In these various encounters, the “God” who appeared and spoke with these individuals is identified as “God” (Hebrew Elohim), “the Lord” (Hebrew YHWH or Yahweh), “the God of Israel,” “the God of your fathers,” “the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob,” “God Almighty” (Hebrew El Shaddai), “the word of the Lord,” “the Angel of the Lord,” “I AM WHO I AM” and “I AM.”

How, then, do we reconcile “No one has seen God at any time” with the many individuals who saw God?

Earlier we saw multiple statements from the apostle John and from Jesus Christ Himself that no one has seen the Father at any time. So who did these individuals see when they saw God? The only way we can make sense of this is to understand that no man had seen God the Father at any time, yet people had nevertheless seen One who was also God.

What they saw as recorded in these many passages, and at other times when God appeared to individuals, was the Word who was also God (John 1:1), the One who was born in the flesh as Jesus. With this understanding, there is no contradiction. We know that “Scripture cannot be broken” (John 10:35).

What we see revealed in Scripture from these verses is that Jesus was the One who interacted with the patriarchs and prophets and the people of Israel as the Lord or God on behalf of the Father. The One who became the Father was not generally known to the Israelites when Christ came. They had never seen the Father, but only the Word or Spokesman of God, Jesus Christ, who came to reveal the Father.

Jesus was the “I AM” who spoke to Moses

Jesus Himself clearly said this, and the people who heard Him got the point of what He was telling them. Notice the exchange in John 8:57-58, where Jesus was in a heated debate with some of the Jews who opposed Him, and He said that Abraham rejoiced to see His day.

“Then the Jews said to Him, ‘You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?’ Jesus said to them, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.’”

Here Jesus specifically told them of His divine identity—that He existed before Abraham and, more amazing still, that He was the God who had interacted with people during the Old Testament period. Who did He specifically claim to be?

We find the answer in Exodus 3:13-14, where God appeared to Moses at the burning bush promising to deliver the Israelites out of their Egyptian slavery.

“Then Moses said to God, ‘Indeed, when I come to the children of Israel and say to them, “The God of your fathers has sent me to you,” and they say to me, “What is His name?” what shall I say to them?’ And God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM.’ And He said, ‘Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, “I AM has sent me to you.”’”

Jump 15 centuries forward, and who did Jesus say He was? Returning to what we just read in John 8:58, “Jesus said to them, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.’”

And notice what happened immediately after Jesus said these words: “Then they took up stones to throw at Him; but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by” (John 8:59).

The Jews who heard Jesus say these words realized what He meant—that He was claiming to be the “I AM” who had interacted with Moses. And how did they react? They immediately took up stones to stone Him to death for claiming to be God!

The amazing truth of Jesus’ identity

Putting all of these scriptures together, we see a remarkable picture emerge: The One who came to earth as a flesh-and-blood human being, Jesus Christ, was in fact the One who interacted with people as God throughout the Old Testament period.

These are not all the scriptures pertinent to this subject, but they are enough to abundantly demonstrate that the One who spoke to and interacted with human beings in the Old Testament period as God on behalf of the Father was the One we know today as Jesus Christ.

This is not just opinion or conjecture, but from the direct statements of the apostle Paul, Jesus’ beloved disciple John and Jesus Christ Himself. Likewise the apostle and Gospel writer Matthew affirmed Jesus to be Immanuel, meaning “God with us” (Matthew 1:23 Matthew 1:23Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.
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), and the apostle Thomas proclaimed Him “my Lord and my God” (John 20:27-29 John 20:27-29 [27] Then said he to Thomas, Reach here your finger, and behold my hands; and reach here your hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing. [28] And Thomas answered and said to him, My LORD and my God. [29] Jesus said to him, Thomas, because you have seen me, you have believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.
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To be sure, Jesus always directed worship toward God the Father and was totally subservient to Him (John 4:23 John 4:23But the hour comes, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeks such to worship him.
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; John 5:19 John 5:19Then answered Jesus and said to them, Truly, truly, I say to you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he sees the Father do: for what things soever he does, these also does the Son likewise.
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, John 5:30 John 5:30I can of my own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not my own will, but the will of the Father which has sent me.
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; John 8:28 John 8:28Then said Jesus to them, When you have lifted up the Son of man, then shall you know that I am he, and that I do nothing of myself; but as my Father has taught me, I speak these things.
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; John 10:18 John 10:18No man takes it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father.
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, John 10:29 John 10:29My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand.
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, John 10:37 John 10:37If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not.
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; John 12:49-50 John 12:49-50 [49] For I have not spoken of myself; but the Father which sent me, he gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak. [50] And I know that his commandment is life everlasting: whatever I speak therefore, even as the Father said to me, so I speak.
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; John 14:10 John 14:10Believe you not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak to you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwells in me, he does the works.
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, John 14:24 John 14:24He that loves me not keeps not my sayings: and the word which you hear is not mine, but the Father’s which sent me.
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; John 15:10 John 15:10If you keep my commandments, you shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love.
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). In the same way we must always put God the Father first and honor Him above all. But Jesus accepted worship also without dissuading people (Matthew 8:2-3 Matthew 8:2-3 [2] And, behold, there came a leper and worshipped him, saying, Lord, if you will, you can make me clean. [3] And Jesus put forth his hand, and touched him, saying, I will; be you clean. And immediately his leprosy was cleansed.
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; Matthew 9:18-19 Matthew 9:18-19 [18] While he spoke these things to them, behold, there came a certain ruler, and worshipped him, saying, My daughter is even now dead: but come and lay your hand on her, and she shall live. [19] And Jesus arose, and followed him, and so did his disciples.
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; Matthew 14:33 Matthew 14:33Then they that were in the ship came and worshipped him, saying, Of a truth you are the Son of God.
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; Matthew 15:25 Matthew 15:25Then came she and worshipped him, saying, Lord, help me.
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; Matthew 28:9-10 Matthew 28:9-10 [9] And as they went to tell his disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, All hail. And they came and held him by the feet, and worshipped him. [10] Then said Jesus to them, Be not afraid: go tell my brothers that they go into Galilee, and there shall they see me.
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, Matthew 28:17 Matthew 28:17And when they saw him, they worshipped him: but some doubted.
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; Luke 24:51-52 Luke 24:51-52 [51] And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven. [52] And they worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy:
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), and He said it’s God’s will “that all should honor the Son just as they honor the Father” (John 5:23 John 5:23That all men should honor the Son, even as they honor the Father. He that honors not the Son honors not the Father which has sent him.
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).

Let us never lose sight of the astounding role of Jesus Christ throughout the Bible, knowing that He can also be our Rock accompanying us on our spiritual journey!

 


 

Many Scriptures Point to God as Israel’s “Rock”

The apostle Paul is not the only biblical writer who referred to Israel’s “Rock.” Several Old Testament writers also referred to God—or Yahweh, as many believe the Hebrew form of His name was pronounced—as their or Israel’s “Rock.” In addition to the five mentions in the book of Deuteronomy, at least 24 other verses, mostly in the Psalms, refer to God being Israel’s “Rock.”

As explained in the main article here, the apostle Paul likely had the five references to God as Israel’s “Rock” in Deuteronomy 32 in mind when he wrote in 1 Corinthians 10:4 1 Corinthians 10:4And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.
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, “and that Rock was Christ.” But being an expert in all the writings of the Hebrew Scriptures, commonly called the Old Testament, he likely also had in mind a number of these other references.

Notice these 24 other verses where God is called Israel’s Rock. And included in the divine identity, as Paul made clear, is the One who became Jesus Christ!

“The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer” (2 Samuel 22:2 2 Samuel 22:2And he said, The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer;
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).

“For who is God, except the Lord? And who is a rock, except our God?” (2 Samuel 22:32 2 Samuel 22:32For who is God, save the LORD? and who is a rock, save our God?
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“The Lord lives! Blessed be my Rock! Let God be exalted, The Rock of my salvation!” (2 Samuel 22:47 2 Samuel 22:47The LORD lives; and blessed be my rock; and exalted be the God of the rock of my salvation.
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“The God of Israel said, The Rock of Israel spoke to me …” (2 Samuel 23:3 2 Samuel 23:3The God of Israel said, the Rock of Israel spoke to me, He that rules over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God.
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).

“The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer …” (Psalms 18:2 Psalms 18:2The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower.
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“For who is God, except the Lord? And who is a rock, except our God?” (Psalms 18:31 Psalms 18:31For who is God save the LORD? or who is a rock save our God?
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“The Lord lives! Blessed be my Rock!(Psalms 18:46 Psalms 18:46The LORD lives; and blessed be my rock; and let the God of my salvation be exalted.
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“To You I will cry, O Lord my Rock(Psalms 28:1 Psalms 28:1To you will I cry, O LORD my rock; be not silent to me: lest, if you be silent to me, I become like them that go down into the pit.
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Be my rock of refuge, a fortress of defense …” (Psalms 31:2 Psalms 31:2Bow down your ear to me; deliver me speedily: be you my strong rock, for an house of defense to save me.
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“For You are my rock and my fortress …” (Psalms 31:3 Psalms 31:3For you are my rock and my fortress; therefore for your name’s sake lead me, and guide me.
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“I will say to God my Rock(Psalms 42:9 Psalms 42:9I will say to God my rock, Why have you forgotten me? why go I mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?
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“Lead me to the rock that is higher than I” (Psalms 61:2 Psalms 61:2From the end of the earth will I cry to you, when my heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the rock that is higher than I.
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“He only is my rock and my salvation …” (Psalms 62:2 Psalms 62:2He only is my rock and my salvation; he is my defense; I shall not be greatly moved.
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).

“He only is my rock and my salvation …” (Psalms 62:6 Psalms 62:6He only is my rock and my salvation: he is my defense; I shall not be moved.
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).

“In God is my salvation and my glory; the rock of my strength …” (Psalms 62:7 Psalms 62:7In God is my salvation and my glory: the rock of my strength, and my refuge, is in God.
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“You are my rock and my fortress” (Psalms 71:3 Psalms 71:3Be you my strong habitation, whereunto I may continually resort: you have given commandment to save me; for you are my rock and my fortress.
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“Then they remembered that God was their rock, and the Most High God their Redeemer” (Psalms 78:35 Psalms 78:35And they remembered that God was their rock, and the high God their redeemer.
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“You are my Father, My God, and the rock of my salvation” (Psalms 89:26 Psalms 89:26He shall cry to me, You are my father, my God, and the rock of my salvation.
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“The Lord is upright; He is my rock …” (Psalms 92:15 Psalms 92:15To show that the LORD is upright: he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him.
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“The Lord has been my defense, and my God the rock of my refuge” (Psalms 94:22 Psalms 94:22But the LORD is my defense; and my God is the rock of my refuge.
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“Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation” (Psalms 95:1 Psalms 95:1O come, let us sing to the LORD: let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation.
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“Blessed be the Lord my Rock(Psalms 144:1 Psalms 144:1Blessed be the LORD my strength which teaches my hands to war, and my fingers to fight:
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“Is there a God besides Me? Indeed there is no other Rock; I know not one” (Isaiah 44:8 Isaiah 44:8Fear you not, neither be afraid: have not I told you from that time, and have declared it? you are even my witnesses. Is there a God beside me? yes, there is no God; I know not any.
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).

“Are You not from everlasting, O Lord my God, my Holy One? … O Rock, You have marked them for correction” (Habakkuk 1:12 Habakkuk 1:12Are you not from everlasting, O LORD my God, my Holy One? we shall not die. O LORD, you have ordained them for judgment; and, O mighty God, you have established them for correction.
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).

When Paul wrote “that Rock was Christ,” he wasn’t pulling the word “Rock” out of thin air. He knew that Moses, David, Isaiah and Habakkuk all referred to God—Yahweh—as their or Israel’s “Rock.” Paul was intimately familiar with the Hebrew Scriptures and their repeated references to “Rock” as a term applying to Israel’s God. And Paul clearly tells us who the Rock who directly interacted with the Israelites was—“that Rock was Christ.”

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