Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Rock

Standing as a guardian over the entrance to the Mediterranean Sea, the Rock of Gibraltar is a world-famous landmark. Its white limestone cliffs stand in stark contrast to the blue sea and sky around it. The Greeks called it a "Pillar of Hercules." The Phoenicians believed it marked the end of the known world. Its very name invokes an image of strength and endurance. A person who exhibits these characteristics will often be called "The Rock of Gibraltar."

Isaiah used a rock as a metaphor to describe the enduring faithfulness of God. He had just finished warning the people of impending crisis. Both the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah would experience God's judgment for turning away from him. Assyria would sweep across the land and bring fierce destruction. Isaiah knew if the people chose to focus on the circumstances all hope would be lost. So he directed their attention back onto the Lord. "You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, whose thoughts are fixed on you. Trust in the Lord always, for the Lord God is the eternal Rock." (Isaiah 26:3, NLT)

While judgment was necessary, God had not forgotten his promises to the nation of Israel. Isaiah described the man who has put his confidence in the promises of God as at perfect peace. If you translate that Hebrew phrase literally, it reads "Peace, peace." In Hebrew, word repetition is used to emphasize something. Even the word itself, shalom, embodies the idea of completeness. Every part of who we are is in total harmony with the will of God when we have shalom. Now think of this completeness times two: shalom, shalom. And that is what the man has who trusts in the Lord.

Until recent years, my airline travel was fairly limited. So I interpreted any turbulence, strange noises, even water vapor coming off the wings as possible indicators of impending doom. That all changed for me on a flight home from North Carolina. I was seated across from a uniformed pilot, apparently on the way to his next assignment. It was a particularly bumpy ride, and a few times the coffee actually leaped out of my cup. Normally this would have put me into a panic. But this time I watched the pilot. As long as he calmly continued to sip his coffee and read his paper, I knew all was well. So I kept my eyes on him and ignored the circumstances around me.

There will always be things in our lives that drive us to our knees. God deliberately places them there so that we will not become independent and abandon our relationship with Him. When we need Him, we seek Him. And as the winds of challenge pummel us, we hide ourselves in the cleft of the rock. Its solid surface reassures us and shelters us from the fury of the storm. He is the Rock who will not be moved. And the man who trusts in Him has perfect peace.

On Christ the Solid Rock I stand,
All other ground is sinking sand.
All other ground is sinking sand.

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