God commands us to love him. He commands us to delight in him. He commands our cheerfulness. We see this all over our Bibles, in a cluster of texts we’ve talked about many times over the years: Deuteronomy 28:47; Psalm 32:11; 37:4; 100:2; Romans 12:8; 2 Corinthians 9:7; Philippians 3:1; 4:4; 1 Thessalonians 5:16, to name a few. Those nine texts I just mentioned, in total, have made close to 90 appearances on this podcast now.
This casting of our cheerfulness and joy in God as a point of obedience is something that causes a lot of Christians to scratch their heads. Our happiness is a moral issue to God. It’s about obedience. And on that point, we see disagreements (or misunderstandings) between Pastor John and other theologians, which we saw in APJ 1584, just as one example.
At the core of Christian Hedonism is a bringing together of our obedience to God, our delight in God, and our glorifying of him. Here’s Pastor John, explaining how it all connects in a 1989 sermon.
“Duty” and “law” are words that sound negative. They sound burdensome; they sound oppressive; they sound limiting and constricting. And so at this point, you’re up against it saying to somebody, “You ought to do something” or “You should do something.” Those words in our culture are fighting words. We are libertarians to the core when it comes to our own personal religion and morality. We don’t want anybody telling us we should or ought to do something. So now what do you do here? Because in people’s minds you got this oppressive sense — duty, law, burden.
Is Obedience a Burden?
I want to show you that God’s demand for love from you, gratitude from you, trust from you, and obedience from you is a way to glorify him that is not burdensome. It is not legalistic. It is not restricting and confining and a hardship.
“God’s demand for love from you is a way to glorify him that is not burdensome.”
Now here’s the way I’m going to show that to you. I said last time that we are supposed to be mirrors of God’s glory, like the light coming through there this morning. You’re supposed to be a polished mirror, so that when your life is in the right angle, the right biblical angle, the glory of God shines out in a commendable and attractive way to the world. “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father” (Matthew 5:16).
The other analogy I used was the crystal or the prism. I said, “Each one of you is a uniquely shaped human crystal or prism, so that when it is positioned in the light of God’s glory, it refracts out many different colors and lights, and only you can display for this world some of the things that ought to be seen about God.” Now that’s a duty to live that way and that’s not a burden to live that way, and I think I can show you with several illustrations.
A Skilled Painter
If it is your duty to glorify God because he is beautiful and glorious, consider this illustration. If there’s a beautiful painting in your house or in a museum somewhere, and you go to it and it is beautiful to you, how do you glorify that painting? Do you glorify that painting and say, “Ooh, I’ve got to go buy some paint now and work on it a little bit, needs a border or needs a little more orange.” And you burden yourself with the need to improve it.
That would be burdensome, but that’s not the way you glorify a painting. That’s an insult to a painting. The way you glorify a painting is by enjoying it, by delighting in it, and by speaking excitedly of it to people who are near you, your friends, inviting them to go to the museum and see it. And that’s no burden and every one of you knows that’s no burden. If you love the painting, you will delight in it, and that glorifies the painting.
An Exceptional Cook
Or let me use a more homely illustration that’s more relevant to most of us. Suppose somebody makes an excellent meal for you and it is not only tasty, it’s beautiful on the table and it’s nutritious. It’s the kind of thing you ought to eat, as well as like to eat. How do you glorify the cook? Do you glorify the cook by putting on an apron and saying, “Oh my, we got to work on this.” So you go out in the kitchen and you add some more spices or you say, “Oh, we don’t have any chips.” I think of that because Noel always used to correct me. I would say, “Aren’t there any chips?” And she’d say, “You’re not supposed to have chips with this meal. This is not a chips meal.” I did not glorify her culinary arts by asking for chips.
The way to glorify a cook is to eat a lot of the food. And when you’re done to say things like “Hmm” or “Ah.” That’s it. Now, is that a burden? If you’ve got an excellent meal in front of you, your duty, your law is to glorify this meal and this cook. Is that a burden to do when the way to glorify the meal is to eat a lot of it and to say, “Hmm” and “Ah.” We call that worship at Bethlehem.
A Well-Built Bridge
Here’s another illustration. Suppose it’s your duty to glorify the strength of a new alloy, a metal that has been created by somebody, and it is in a bridge that holds up a road across the chasm. Now, this is an old-fashioned illustration. How do you glorify the strength of that alloy? Do you glorify the strength of that alloy by saying, “Ooh, we got to buy some two-by-fours and work up a good sweat, propping up the bridge before we go over?” No, that’s a dishonor to the alloy. The way you glorify the alloy is by gathering all your family, all the little ones and all the old ones, in your car and, with not one whiff of anxiety, drive right across the bridge singing as you go.
Is that a burden? It is not a burden to trust strength if it is strength. And if you are called upon to glorify the strength of almighty God, nobody ought to be able to persuade you that’s a burden. It isn’t a burden. It’s freedom to trust strength.
A Generous Friend
Here’s another illustration. Suppose you are required by law — divine authority — to glorify generosity or to glorify grace or kindness in the heart of God or a friend. Let’s just say you have a good rich friend, who just happens to be so lavish in his generosity that he gives you things freely. Now, how do you glorify that person and his generosity? Not by trying to pay him back. This is a mistake we make with God. We say, “God has been so good to me, now what can I give him to pay him back?” Do you know what that does to grace? It turns it into a business transaction. It rips the heart out of grace.
“It is no burden to glorify God’s grace.”
How do you glorify grace? Primarily by allowing spontaneously lavish gratitude well up in your heart. Which of you, if a billionaire came up and handed you a check for a million dollars, would say, “Oh no. I’m going to have to be thankful. Burden. Heavy load. Law. Duty”? Nobody! You see what people have done with Christianity? It is no burden to glorify God’s grace. Don’t let anybody tell you that Christianity is a summons to loss.
Will You Really Lose?
And so I want to close with this question. Have you come this morning on the run from God, thinking, “I am not going to turn to the Christian God. I’m not going to bow before God because it means loss, loss, loss. I lose this, this, this, this, this.” Is there anybody here like that? If there is, I just pray and I hope that I have shown you just enough, a little tip of the iceberg of God’s glory, that you will say it is not loss.
Whatever you give up to become a Christian, because it happens to be sin, will be repaid a hundredfold, the Bible says, both in this life and in the life to come (Mark 10:29–30). And I just beg of you, wherever you are in your flight from God or your quest for God, that you will turn to him, recognize him as a fountain of grace and glory and beauty and strength, and yield to him.
You Might also like
The Good War Against Moods: How Stubborn Faith Overcomes FeelingsBy Joe Rigney — 1 year ago
Christian Hedonism emphasizes the importance of feelings. The Bible commands us to delight in the Lord, to love mercy, to fear God, to rejoice in hope. Emotions are essential to the obedient Christian life.
At the same time, Christian Hedonism recognizes that not all emotions are godly emotions. Not all feelings are faithful feelings. Not all affections are holy affections. Emotions aren’t always our friends. Far from serving worship of God, they can hinder and undermine it.
“Not all feelings are faithful feelings. Not all affections are holy affections.”
It’s my growing conviction that we need to develop (or recover) a more robust vocabulary for describing various categories of feelings and emotions. In particular, it seems good to distinguish between immediate and impulsive feelings that are rooted in the soul but closely tied to our bodies, on the one hand, and deeper, more stable emotions that are exercises of our will, on the other. The former we can call passions; the latter we can call affections. With a little help from the apostle Peter and C.S. Lewis, we can see the value of making this type of distinction between immediate (and superficial) passions and deeper (or higher) affections.
Set Your Hope on Grace
First, consider Peter’s exhortation in 1 Peter 1:13–16.
Preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”
Notice the three phrases in verse 13: (1) “preparing your minds for action,” (2) “being sober-minded,” and (3) “set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you.”
The first phrase literally means “girding up the loins of your mind.” To use a modern image, we might say, “rolling up the sleeves of your mind.” Peter calls them to get ready to do some serious mental work, the kind that takes effort. This isn’t roll-out-of-bed-in-your-pajamas work. This is get-your-work-clothes-on, make-sure-your-shoes-are-tied, get-your-game-face-on work.
The second phrase refers to the opposite of drunkenness. Be sober-minded. Now, drunkenness impairs our perception, our judgment, our reaction times. So the opposite of drunkenness is an alertness, a clarity of mind, a steadiness. So roll up the sleeves of your mind, get clear and steady, and then what?
The final phrase calls for a particular affectionate response. Hope is a future-oriented affection. It is a glad-hearted expectation of something good that is coming. We don’t yet possess it; we don’t hope for what we already have. And Peter knows it is far too easy to be distracted by the cares and anxieties of this world, to look to the future with fear rather than faith. And so he exhorts us: Roll up the sleeves of our mind, get clear and steady, and then set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you. You’ve been born again to a living hope, an imperishable inheritance (1 Peter 1:3–5). Now set your hope fully on the tidal wave of coming grace.
What Are Passions?
Now, why is setting our hope in this way so necessary? The next verse expresses the danger. “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance” (1 Peter 1:14).
Passions are the immediate and intuitive and impulsive exercises of the soul that are closely tied to the body. Passions can be good. Paul desires to depart and be with Christ (Philippians 1:23), using the same word translated as passions in 1 Peter 1. However, frequently the word passions in the Bible refers to sinful and ungodly passions. Elsewhere in 1 Peter, they are called “passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul” (1 Peter 2:11). They are linked with vices like sensuality, sexual immorality, drunkenness, and lawless idolatry (1 Peter 4:3). As human passions, they are opposed to the will of God (1 Peter 4:2). And these passions want to lead. They want to take us somewhere. If we follow them, then we indulge or gratify our passions, and they begin to conform us to their image.
So Peter depicts a conflict between an affection (hope) that requires serious mental effort, and the fleshly passions that wage war against our soul. And this is where Lewis is so helpful.
Blitz Against Belief
Lewis knows that the human mind is not completely governed by reason. There’s often a conflict between what we know to be true and what our emotions (or passions) and our imaginations tell us is true. He says once someone has accepted the gospel, here’s what will inevitably happen:
There will come a moment when there is bad news, or he is in trouble, or is living among a lot of other people who do not believe it, and all at once his emotions will rise up and carry out a sort of blitz on his belief. Or else there will come a moment when he wants a woman, or wants to tell a lie, or feels very pleased with himself, or sees a chance of making a little money in some way that is not perfectly fair: some moment, in fact, at which it would be very convenient if Christianity were not true. And once again his wishes and desires will carry out a blitz. I am not talking of moments at which any real new reasons against Christianity turn up. Those have to be faced and that is a different matter. I am talking about moments when a mere mood rises up against it. (Mere Christianity, 140)
Lewis knows that our moods pose a real danger to our faith. Elsewhere he says,
Our faith in Christ wavers not so much when real arguments come against it as when it looks improbable — when the whole world takes on that desolate look which really tells us much more about the state of our passions and even our digestion than about reality. . . . When once passion takes part in the game, the human reason, unassisted by Grace, has about as much chance of retaining its hold on truths already gained as a snowflake has of retaining its consistency in the mouth of a blast furnace. (Christian Reflections, 43)
In the grip of passions, all sorts of dubious and preposterous arguments begin to seem plausible. Our moods really do affect our faith, and our moods are frequently influenced by our bodies — what we’ve eaten, how well we’ve slept, whether we’ve exercised — as well as by our circumstances or even the weather. In my own life, I’ve regularly had to face these kinds of unbelieving moods, these foggy clouds of vague unbelief that seem to settle over my soul.
How do Peter and Lewis help me in the face of these moods? First, by enabling me to recognize them as passion-driven moods. This sort of unbelief is a fog that clouds thinking. That’s why we have to roll up our sleeves and clear our heads in order to set our hope.
Second, they encourage me to pray for the gift of faith, for “the power to go on believing not in the teeth of reason but in the teeth of lust and terror and jealousy and boredom and indifference that which reason, authority, or experience, or all three, have once delivered to us for truth” (43).
“Faith is the art of holding on to what we’ve believed in the face of our changing moods.”
Now faith, or what Peter here calls “setting your hope fully,” is the art of holding on to what we’ve believed in the face of our changing moods. There’s a kind of rebellion of our moods against our real self. Our sinful passions wage war against our souls. Our lower, superficial, and immediate feelings seek to grab the steering wheel, leaving our higher faculties to trail along behind.
To use an image from Jonathan Haidt, it’s a bit like trying to ride an elephant. The elephant (our passions and moods) is strong and powerful and lurches left and right. But if we roll up our sleeves and stay clearheaded and steady, we can, by grace, learn to steer the elephant. We can tell our moods where they get off.
Lewis calls this “practicing our faith.” Repeatedly engaging in the practice of our faith turns that practice into the habit of faith, a kind of persevering dedication and affectionate commitment to the truth that we’ve received. True faith is a stubborn thing.
Cultivating this habit is no easy task. It requires ongoing effort. It’s why we daily seek to bring the truths of Scripture before our minds. It’s why we labor to pray consistently and constantly, thankfully and humbly calling on God as our Father for help. It’s why we gather with other believers to encourage each other in the faith and stir one another up to love and good deeds. These habits of grace are ways that we roll up the sleeves of our mind and soberly set our hope on future grace.
The Rock Was Christ: How Paul Read the PentateuchBy Jim Hamilton — 7 months ago
ABSTRACT: “And the Rock was Christ.” Some have interpreted Paul’s claim in 1 Corinthians 10:4 as a departure from grammatical-historical exegesis, or even as evidence that Paul gave credence to unhistorical Jewish myths. A close reading of his words against the backdrop of the canon, however, shows that Paul was reading Moses the way Moses intended. In the Pentateuch, Moses identifies the two water-giving rocks in the wilderness with Yahweh himself. Later in the Old Testament, the psalmists and prophets further identify the rock with Yahweh and look forward to a new exodus. In the Gospels, Jesus fulfills Old Testament expectations for that new exodus, with himself as the bread from heaven and water-giving rock. And in 1 Corinthians, therefore, Paul embraces the united perspective of the biblical authors. In drinking water from the rock, the Israelites drank from a type of Christ, who now lives as the thirst-quenching spiritual Rock of the church.
For our ongoing series of feature articles for pastors and Christian leaders, we asked Jim Hamilton, professor of biblical theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, to explain Paul’s typological exegesis in 1 Corinthians 10:4.
Peter Enns identifies his “aha moment” — when he realized that what he was taught about the Bible and how to interpret it in his evangelical background was untenable — as coming to his understanding of 1 Corinthians 10:4: “They drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ.” Enns relates how Professor James Kugel explained in a lecture
that water coming from the rock twice — once at the beginning of the wilderness period (Exodus 17) and again toward the end of the 40-year period (Numbers 20) — led some Jewish interpreters to conclude that the “two” rocks were actually one and the same, hence, one rock accompanied the Israelites on their 40-year journey.
To help his readers feel the force of the problem, Enns asserts,
Let me put a finer point on that: no rock moved in the Old Testament, but Paul said one did. Paul says something about the Old Testament that the Old Testament doesn’t say. He wasn’t following the evangelical rule of “grammatical-historical” contextual interpretation. He was doing something else — something weird, ancient, and Jewish.
I am going to argue in this essay that we should regard this moment as an “oops” rather than an “aha.” That is, Enns’s conclusions do not stand up to examination. While the apostle Paul has interpreted the Old Testament in accordance with the intentions of its authors, Peter Enns has not.
Before we look at the Old Testament contexts and New Testament claims of fulfillment, let us observe that Paul does not say exactly what Enns says he does. Enns claims that Paul says the rock moved, and he takes that as conclusive evidence that Paul believed an ancient Jewish myth that was not, in fact, true.1 Note, however, that Paul identifies the rock as Christ, in which case a possible interpretation is that Paul does not endorse the Jewish myth at all but rather says that the people drank from Christ, their rock, and that Christ followed them through the wilderness.
In what follows, we turn our attention to the Old Testament contexts of Exodus 17 and Numbers 20, and move from there to how the ideas developed in the rest of the Pentateuch and later Old Testament writings. We will then consider the way Jesus seems to present himself as the fulfillment of the water-from-the-rock episode, before returning to Paul’s treatment in 1 Corinthians 10.
Water from the Rock in Exodus and Numbers
Michael Morales has persuasively suggested that the whole of the Pentateuch is chiastically structured, centering on the Day of Atonement in Leviticus 16, with the two episodes of water from the rock standing across from one another in the literary structure.2 This suggests that Moses, author of the Pentateuch, intended the two episodes to be read in light of one another.3
Given the topic under discussion, it seems particularly significant that the first of these episodes entails Yahweh standing before Moses on the rock that Moses is to strike, from which the water will flow for Israel to drink: “Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb, and you shall strike the rock, and water shall come out of it, and the people will drink” (Exodus 17:6). It is almost as though, by placing himself on the rock that Moses is to strike, Yahweh means to identify himself, in some sense, with the rock, so that when Moses strikes the rock he implicitly strikes Yahweh, as a result of which the people’s need for water will be met.4
Some points of contact between the contexts of Exodus 17 and Numbers 20 are worth observing. For instance, after the water from the rock in Exodus 17, Israel defeats Amalek, and Moses builds an altar and names it “Yahweh is my banner” (Exodus 17:15), the term rendered “banner” reflecting the Hebrew nēs. After the water from the rock in Numbers 20, Israel defeats Arad (Numbers 21:1–3) but then speaks against God and Moses (verse 5), in response to which the Lord sends fiery serpents so that many Israelites die (verse 6). When the people repent, the Lord instructs Moses to “make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole” (verse 8), and the term rendered “pole” in Numbers 21:8–9 is the same as the term rendered “banner” in Exodus 17:15, nēs. The only other place this term is used in all the Pentateuch is Numbers 26:10, making its presence in the contexts that immediately follow the two water-from-the-rock episodes all the more noticeable.
Given the myth of the moveable well that supposedly followed Israel from Exodus 17 until they entered the promised land in Joshua, it also would seem noteworthy that they come to a well in Numbers 21:10–20. In terms of narrative space, Israel has the rest of Numbers 22–36 and all of Deuteronomy before they enter the land. This includes the defeat of Sihon and Og (Numbers 21), the Balaam oracles (Numbers 22–24), and the sin at Baal Peor (Numbers 25), followed by the war against Midian (Numbers 31). So it would seem that they still face some time before they enter the land of promise, which is to say, the Pentateuch itself shows that the rocks Moses struck were not Israel’s only water sources during the forty-year wilderness wandering.
“At no point does Moses indicate that a literal stone or a moveable well followed Israel through the wilderness.”
The two narratives in question, Exodus 17 and Numbers 20, stand in literary relationship to one another, but at no point does Moses indicate that a literal stone or a moveable well followed Israel through the wilderness.
Water from the Rock in Deuteronomy
Note again that the apostle Paul does not, as Peter Enns suggests, endorse the Jewish myth of the moveable well. That is, Paul does not say that the rock from which the water flowed in Exodus 17 followed Israel through the wilderness, giving them water across the forty-year period. Rather, Paul says that Israel drank from the “spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ” (1 Corinthians 10:4). Why does Paul call it a “spiritual Rock,” and where would he have gotten that idea? As a step toward an answer for why Paul would refer to a “spiritual Rock,” I make two related observations. First, Paul identifies this “spiritual Rock” as Christ. Second, the KJV and ESV capitalize “Rock” in the phrase “spiritual Rock,” which seems to indicate that these translation committees understand Paul to be calling God the “spiritual Rock,” with Paul then identifying Christ with God.
As to where Paul might have gotten these ideas, I contend that he got them from the Old Testament itself, beginning with Moses. In Deuteronomy 32, Moses calls God “the Rock” five times (all with the Hebrew term ṣūr *for “rock,” which is also in Exodus 17:6, whereas Numbers 20:8–11 uses *selaʿ):
Verse 4: “The Rock, his work is perfect, for all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright is he.”
Verse 15: “But Jeshurun grew fat, and kicked; you grew fat, stout, and sleek; then he forsook God who made him and scoffed at the Rock of his salvation.”
Verse 18: “You were unmindful of the Rock that bore you, and you forgot the God who gave you birth.”
Verse 30: “How could one have chased a thousand, and two have put ten thousand to flight, unless their Rock had sold them, and the Lord had given them up?”
Verse 31: “For their rock is not as our Rock; our enemies are by themselves.”
Perhaps reflecting the incident in Exodus 17:6, when Yahweh stood on the rock, so that when Moses struck the rock it was as though he struck through Yahweh to smite the rock, in Deuteronomy 32:13 there seems to be an identification made between Yahweh, Israel’s “Rock,” and the “rock” from which they drank:
32:13: “He made him ride on the high places of the land, and he ate the produce of the field, and he suckled him with honey out of the rock [selaʿ], and oil out of the flinty rock [ṣūr].”
Since both terms for “rock” appear in Deuteronomy 32:13, the one from Exodus 17:6 (ṣūr) and the other from Numbers 20:8–11 (selaʿ), it seems that Moses means to reference both passages.
Note, too, the proximity of the “rock” statements to one another in the poetry of Deuteronomy 32 — Yahweh is the rock whose work is perfect (verse 4), and he suckled his people with oil from the flinty rock (verse 13), but they were unmindful of Yahweh, their rock (verse 15). It also seems significant that Moses does not speak of prosaic and historical water from the rock but rather speaks poetically in verse 13 of honey from the crag and oil from the rock. Hereby Moses accentuates the life-giving provision the Lord made for his people, and simultaneously he forges a connection between the identity of Yahweh as the Rock for Israel and the physical rock, struck by Moses, from which water flowed.
I want to point out here as well that teasing out the sophisticated metaphorical and theological implications of the kinds of statements Moses makes does not entail a departure from grammatical-historical interpretation. No, understanding all the fullness of what Moses has written across the Pentateuch demands that we understand his grammatical constructions and the historical meaning of his terms in their literary context. We get at poetic, symbolic, metaphorical meanings by going through grammatical-historical interpretation in canonical context, not by departing from these necessary interpretive controls.
Before moving on to references to the water-from-the-rock episodes later in the Old Testament, we should make two observations on what Moses meant to communicate in the Pentateuch. First, we have no indication that Moses intended his audience to understand that the rock he struck in Exodus 17:6 became mobile and followed Israel through the wilderness all the way to the second incident in Numbers 20:8–11. In fact, the use of different Hebrew terms for “rock” in Exodus 17:6 and Numbers 20:8–11 seems to indicate that Moses did not intend his audience to understand that he struck the same object on the two occasions.
Second, there are indications that Moses meant for his audience, at some level, to identify Yahweh with the rock. Moses clearly distinguishes between Yahweh and the rock, and yet by relating how Yahweh stood before Moses on the rock he was to strike (Exodus 17:6), and then by referring to Yahweh as Israel’s Rock in close proximity to his rehearsal of the water-from-the-rock episodes in Deuteronomy 32, Moses seems to say that Yahweh is the real source of Israel’s provision, the real solid ground and stable shelter. Yahweh is the Rock for his people.
Water from the Rock in Later OT Writings
There are a number of references to the Lord providing water from the rock through the rest of the Old Testament. Consider the following:
Isaiah 48:21: “They did not thirst when he led them through the deserts; he made water flow for them from the rock [ṣūr]; he split the rock [ṣūr] and the water gushed out.”
Psalm 78:15: “He split rocks [ṣūr] in the wilderness and gave them drink abundantly as from the deep.”
Psalm 78:16: “He made streams come out of the rock [selaʿ] and caused waters to flow down like rivers.”
Psalm 78:20: “He struck the rock [ṣūr] so that water gushed out and streams overflowed. Can he also give bread or provide meat for his people?”
Psalm 78:35: “They remembered that God was their rock [ṣūr], the Most High God their redeemer.”
Psalm 81:16: “But he would feed you with the finest of the wheat, and with honey from the rock [ṣūr] I would satisfy you.”
Psalm 105:41: “He opened the rock [ṣūr], and water gushed out; it flowed through the desert like a river.”
Psalm 114:8: “. . . who turns the rock [ṣūr] into a pool of water, the flint into a spring of water.”
Job 29:6: “. . . when my steps were washed with butter, and the rock [ṣūr] poured out for me streams of oil!”
Note three observations on these texts. First, just as Moses never indicates that the physical stone he struck in Exodus 17:6 followed Israel through the wilderness for forty years, so also later Old Testament authors never indicate that during the forty-year wandering in the wilderness Israel relied upon a moveable well to provide them with water. That is to say, the myth of the moveable well does not derive from exegesis of the Old Testament.
Second, in the same way that Moses identified Yahweh with the rock, later Old Testament authors regularly speak as David does in Psalm 18:2: “The Lord is my rock [selaʿ] and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock [ṣūr], in whom I take refuge.” In the bullet-pointed list above, I included the references to the water from the rock in Psalm 78:15, 16, and 20, and in that same psalm we see the assertion, “They remembered that God was their rock [ṣūr]” at verse 35. Similarly, in Psalm 42:1 the psalmist likens God to the streams of water for which the deer pants, and then in 42:9 he says, “I say to God, my rock [selaʿ].”
Third, these references to the water-from-the-rock episodes in later Old Testament texts often point back to the way God saved his people at the exodus in order to point forward to the way he will save them at the new exodus. In other words, once the two water-from-the-rock episodes in Exodus 17 and Numbers 20 have been narrated, when water from the rock is mentioned in later Old Testament texts, these later authors are contributing to the typological expectation of a new exodus.
I contend, then, that Moses, the prophets, and the psalmists all treat the water-from-the-rock episodes in the same way: Moses narrates the historical events of the exodus, and because he has presented similar patterns of events in the lives of Abraham (Genesis 12:10–20; 15:7–16) and Jacob (Genesis 28–32), while also indicating that the conquest of the land will be a new exodus (Exodus 15:5–10, 13–17), the historical correspondences generate an escalating sense of expectation.5 That is to say, Moses intends his audience to understand that the exodus (including related wonders like manna from heaven and water from the rock) typifies the way God will save his people in the future. The prophets and the psalmists have learned from Moses and been led by the Spirit to understand the exodus and water from the rock in the same way, and thus they too present Israel’s past experience of salvation as typifying what God will do for them in the future.
Moses and the Old Testament authors who followed him did not indicate that the literal stone followed Israel through the wilderness, but they did indicate that insofar as Yahweh was Israel’s real source of protection and provision, he was their Rock. Further, they also indicate that the exodus and God’s provision for his people in the wilderness typify the way God would save his people in the future. I contend that the New Testament authors learned this same perspective from Moses, the prophets, and the Lord Jesus.
Water from the Rock in John’s Gospel
In his Gospel, John everywhere presents Jesus as the one who brings about the typological fulfillment of the exodus from Egypt.6 As part of this, in John 4:10–14 Jesus presents himself as the source of living water. Then in John 6, Jesus is the prophet like Moses (verse 14) who feeds the people in the wilderness in the season of Passover (verses 4–13). Then having miraculously crossed the water (verses 16–21), Jesus identifies himself as the true bread from heaven that gives life (verses 32–33), going so far as to assert, “I am the bread of life” (verse 35).
Whereas the feast of Passover celebrated the exodus from Egypt, the feast of Tabernacles celebrated the way God provided for his people through the forty-year wilderness wandering, when God led his people by the pillar of fire and cloud and gave them water from the rock. These two aspects of Israel’s experience likely inform the famous candle-lighting and water-pouring ceremonies that came to be celebrated in the feast of Tabernacles (cf. m.Sukkah 4:9–5:3). In keeping with this, Jesus not only presents himself as the light of the world (John 8:12), but he also presents himself as a rock-like source of water, only he offers something better than water: the Holy Spirit (7:37–39). In the same way that Jesus is himself the fulfillment of the manna from heaven and the pillar of fire, he is the fulfillment of the rock from which the water flowed.
Thus we read in John 7:37–39,
On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.
I submit that John intends his audience to understand this statement along the following lines: In the same way that God saved his people from Egypt then provided for them in the wilderness, God is saving his people through Jesus and will provide for them in him until they reach their destination. In the fulfillment of the exodus accomplished by Jesus, however, God gives something better than manna from heaven and water from the rock to sustain his people on their life-journey through the wilderness to the fulfillment of the land of promise, the new Jerusalem in the new heavens and new earth. God gives his people Christ himself as the bread of life, and Jesus gives to his people the Holy Spirit as the fulfillment of the water from the rock.
John has asserted that Christ is the Word made flesh (John 1:14) and that the Word was in the beginning, was with God, and was God (1:1–2). John thus identifies Jesus with Yahweh, and his presentation includes Christ, the one who has promised living water, being struck: “One of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water” (19:34). After testifying that he tells the truth (verse 35), John immediately asserts that the fact that the legs of Jesus were not broken (verses 32–33) fits with his death being the typological fulfillment of the death of the Passover lamb in the fulfillment of the exodus pattern of events: “These things took place that the Scripture might be fulfilled: ‘Not one of his bones will be broken’” (verse 36).
From the Gospel of John, we can make the same three points about the idea of water from the rock that we have made about this theme in Moses and the Prophets. First, at no point does John present Jesus or any other character in his narrative suggesting that a literal rock or moveable well followed Israel through the wilderness across the forty-year wandering. Second, Yahweh, and in John’s case Jesus, whom he identifies with Yahweh, is symbolically and metaphorically presented as the one who abides with, provides for, and protects his people, and like Moses, John presents the Lord as the stricken water-giver. And third, God’s deliverance of his people at the exodus and through the wilderness typifies the future salvation, which John claims is fulfilled in Jesus.
Given the claims made by Peter Enns, we can engage in a thought experiment at this point. Which is the more likely scenario, that Paul perpetuates what Moses, the prophets, the psalmists, and the evangelist John indicate about water from the rock, or that Paul picks up a relatively obscure Jewish myth7 — a myth unsubstantiated by exegesis of the Torah, unsupported in the Prophets and Psalms, and unattested in any tradition of what Jesus taught — and perpetuates it in 1 Corinthians 10:4?
It is not as though there were no careful thinkers in Paul’s earliest audiences, and it is not as though all his letters were recognized as having been inspired by the Spirit and included in the New Testament. I suspect that if the believing community had understood Paul to be perpetuating that myth, which was in fact false to history, they would not have received what we now refer to as 1 Corinthians into their growing collection of New Testament Scripture.
So what did Paul say, and what does it mean?
‘And the Rock Was Christ’ in 1 Corinthians 10:4
Paul has addressed the identity issues, sexual immorality, and idolatry plaguing the Corinthian church in 1 Corinthians 1–9. The identity issues manifest in members of the church making themselves notable through their claims about whom they follow, whether Paul, Cephas, or Christ (1 Corinthians 1:12), and in his opening words in chapter 10 Paul continues to reshape their understanding of who they are with his typological application of Scripture. He addresses the Jewish and Gentile congregation as his “brothers,” and he refers to the exodus generation as “our fathers”: “I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea” (10:1). Paul speaks to the church as though they belong to the family of faith.
In the reports that have come to him (e.g., 1:11; 5:1; 7:1), Paul may have heard that some members of the church thought that because they had been baptized and had partaken of the Lord’s Supper, they could engage in sexual immorality and/or idolatry with impunity — or he could be anticipating this unacceptable response. He seems to address this mindset with his typological explanation of what happened to Israel in 1 Corinthians 10:2–5.
Paul’s view appears to be that Moses presented a recurring pattern in which Noah was saved through the floodwaters of judgment, then baby Moses was saved in his ark-basket through floodwaters of judgment, and then the nation was saved through the floodwaters of judgment when they crossed the Red Sea (there are verbal connections between these narratives that signal Moses’s intent to link them).8 The Lord Jesus seems to allude to this “salvation through the floodwaters of judgment” theme when he speaks of his looming death as a baptism he has to undergo (e.g., Mark 10:38–39). Paul explains in Romans 6 that when believers are immersed in water, they are plunged into a symbolic union with Christ in his death, that they might then symbolically rise from the waters with him (Romans 6:1–11; cf. Ephesians 2:5–6).
Thus, when Paul speaks of Israel being “baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea” in 1 Corinthians 10:2, he words it this way to highlight the pattern of salvation-through-the-waters-of-judgment that typify Christian baptism. Paul moves to address the presumption that baptism allows one to sin with impunity by rehearsing how “with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness” (verse 5). The point being: Israelites “were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea” (verse 2), and God judged them for their sin, so do not think that having been baptized into Christ allows for continuing in sin with impunity.
Before we proceed to discuss 1 Corinthians 10:3–4, we must note the thoroughly typological way Paul is dealing with the events of the exodus from Egypt. The Greek rendered by the ESV “examples” in verse 6 and “example” in verse 11 is the root we transliterate to form the English term type. We could just as well translate these statements as follows:
Verse 6: “Now these became types of us . . .”
Verse 11: “Now these things happened to them typologically . . .”
The point I am trying to emphasize is that just as Moses indicated that the exodus typified future salvation, just as the Prophets and Psalmists learned that view from Moses, and just John presented Jesus as the one who brought the exodus pattern of salvation to typological fulfillment, so Paul applies the exodus and wilderness narratives typologically to the Corinthians. On this point, Paul’s understanding is consistent with that of Moses, Isaiah, Asaph, John, and Jesus of Nazareth.
When Paul speaks in 1 Corinthians 10:3–4 of the exodus generation eating “spiritual food” and drinking “spiritual drink,” he clearly has in view the manna from heaven and water from the rock. He seems to refer to these as “spiritual” as opposed to “natural” (cf. the same contrast in 1 Corinthians 2:14–15) because, unlike normal food and water obtained in the usual human way, this food and water were provided through the direct intervention of God. The fact that Paul speaks of the Lord’s Supper in 10:16–21 and again in 11:17–34 fits with the idea that he sees the manna from heaven and water from the rock as prefiguring types of the Lord’s Supper. In the same way that, having saved Israel from Egypt, God provided for them through the wilderness on their journey to the land of promise, so now, having saved Christians through the fulfillment of the exodus in Christ, God provides the Lord’s Supper to sustain his people through the wilderness to the fulfillment of the land of promise in the new heavens and new earth. Paul’s treatment of the Lord’s Supper thus matches the way that the Lord Jesus provided himself as the fulfillment of the manna from heaven in John 6 and the fulfillment of the rock from which the water flowed in John 7.
This brings us to Paul’s explanatory comment in 1 Corinthians 10:4b: “For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ.” The fact that Paul calls this a “spiritual Rock” argues against the idea that he means to refer to a literal stone that supposedly followed Israel around in the wilderness. That he proceeds to identify this Rock with Christ amounts to the assertion of a conclusion that naturally follows from the premises he has established, and neither the premises nor the conclusion has anything to do with the myth of a moveable well.
Rather, Paul’s premises are those that we have seen in the Law, Prophets, Writings, and Gospels. First, this is a “spiritual Rock” for the same reason the food and drink were “spiritual” — because it is not a naturally occurring physical stone as a source of water but something that results from the direct intervention of the transforming work of God. Second, just as Moses identifies Yahweh with the rock, and just as John identifies the Christ with Yahweh, so Paul identifies the rock with Christ. Third, just as the point of identifying Yahweh as the rock was to communicate his presence with, protection of, and provision for his people, so also Paul asserts that the people of Israel experienced the presence, protection, and provision made by Christ. This affirms the inseparable operations of the members of the Godhead — what the Father does the Son does — and it matches Jude referring to “Jesus, who saved a people out of the land of Egypt” (Jude 5).
“The God who saved Israel at the exodus and in the wilderness is the Christ who has saved Christians.”
Paul’s point here is to warn the Corinthians. He urges them not to think, wrongly, that they can sin with impunity since they partake of the Lord’s Supper. His proof against this is that even though the Israelites partook of the type of the Lord’s Supper, God judged them for their sin. Why does Paul assert that the rock was Christ? By doing so, he affirms that the God who saved Israel at the exodus and in the wilderness is the Christ who has saved Christians.
Paul the Biblical Theologian
How would the affirmation of the little-known myth of the movable well have helped Paul to make this point with his Corinthian audience? Would it not have been a confusing distraction from the point he sought to make? Would it have helped him to establish typological identity between Israel and the church? Would it have helped him to warn the church in Corinth away from the sexual immorality and idolatry that tempted them? Would it have helped them to relish their experience of the fulfillment of the manna from heaven and water from the rock as they partook of the Lord’s Supper? Would it have established him in the church as a sound interpreter of the Law and the Prophets, as a faithful exponent of the message of the Lord Jesus? Paul comments in 1 Corinthians 4:6, “I have applied all these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, brothers, that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written.” Bringing in the myth of the moveable well undoubtedly goes “beyond what is written,” and such interpretive moves more likely characterized Paul’s opponents in Corinth rather than Paul himself.
“Christ is the Rock. Let all who thirst go to him and drink.”
The fact that the moveable well would not have helped Paul in any of these ways does not establish that he did not reference the myth. That he did not say it has already done that. Paul did not say something like, “Forty years did he rain bread from heaven for them, and he brought them quails from the sea, and a well of water following them” (Ps.-Philo, L.A.B., 10.7). Paul did not teach that the miracle that happened in Exodus 17:6 kept happening across the forty years in the wilderness because the well from which the water flowed actually followed Israel through their journey. No, Paul did what Moses did. He treated the exodus and wilderness narratives typologically. He identified the rock with God, and for Paul that includes God the Son, Christ. And hereby we see the brilliance of Paul as a biblical theologian. He has succeeded in the task of understanding and embracing the perspective of the biblical authors,9 and the church recognized that Paul’s success was due in no small part to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Further, they recognized that the Spirit had inspired Paul’s writing of what we refer to as 1 Corinthians, as attested by its presence in the New Testament.
Christ is the Rock. Let all who thirst go to him and drink. And those who go to him shall never hunger, those who believe in him never thirst, for what he gives is better than mere water. Indeed, he gives the Spirit. And those who eat this bread and drink this cup proclaim his death until he comes. Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.
Hope for the Fragile and FragmentedBy John Piper — 1 week ago
Welcome back to the podcast on this Memorial Day here in the United States, a day when we remember and honor soldiers who died while serving in the armed forces.
War has been on the forefront of many minds here in the past fifteen months. No matter how close or far we are from the front lines, war has impacted us all. Of course, Jesus said we can expect to hear of “wars and rumors of wars” and that “nation will rise against nation,” which are “but the beginning of the birth pains” (Matthew 24:6–8). Jesus said this in the context of his return to earth, and what we can expect before he comes again.
Pastor John, you just published a new book titled Come, Lord Jesus: Meditations on the Second Coming of Christ (Crossway, 2023). In it, Matthew 24:6–8 and mentions of war make many appearances, especially in the second half of the book. This new book is very relevant for our age of wars and rumors of wars.
Today, I have another open question for you. With the book’s release, you have done a handful of interviews with various ministries. I think our listeners would be interested if, in all those conversations, anyone asked you a question that you didn’t expect or ones that may have opened new insights into the biblical teaching on Christ’s return. Have any questions surprised you?
In fact, that did happen. In fact, it happened more than once. The one that was most provocative and caused me to see some texts in a different light was a question about how a healthy expectation of the second coming might actually bring stability to a person’s mind who is feeling psychologically fragile and vulnerable and off-balance — maybe because of personal circumstances, losses, tragedies, pain, or because of upheavals in society that disorient people and pull them this way and that and make them feel fragmented and shaky, maybe even agitated and frenzied.
Stability and the Second Coming
What was surprising to me about the question itself was that it seemed a bit counterintuitive. In other words, I think a lot of people would perhaps mistakenly say, “Well, the second coming is not a solution to that problem — it contributes to that problem.” They would say, “Wouldn’t it add to the vulnerability and shakiness and fragility of mind if you stir something as cataclysmic as the second coming into the mix of all the social and personal upheavals of our time?”
So I had to really step back and ask, Does the Bible present the hope of the second coming in a stabilizing way or a destabilizing way? Is it really presented explicitly in connection to this problem? Or do I have to just kind of manufacture connections with this problem of instability? And frankly, I was surprised. I mean, the question was, “Did anything surprise you?” I was surprised.
So in the hope of helping folks who feel like this (and we all do from time to time) — off-balance, wobbly, agitated, fretful, racing mind, can’t quite grab hold of peace of mind — let me show you what I saw and just draw attention to some of these amazing explicit connections between second-coming thoughts in the Bible and stability of mind that we all need in these shaking times.
Beware of Being Shaken
So here’s 2 Thessalonians 2:1–2. Paul said, “Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus and our being gathered together to him, we ask you, brothers, not to be quickly shaken in mind.” Now, the reason that text jumped out at me after I heard this question was that a literal translation is even more surprising. It says, “We ask you, brothers, not to be quickly shaken from your mind” or “out of your mind.”
In other words, Paul saw that there were people in Thessalonica who were going out of their minds. They were no longer able to be rational or reasonable. You couldn’t reason with them. The upheavals that were happening around them and were shaking them loose from their minds were causing them to lose their stability. And a kind of hysteria or frenzy was taking control of them. And it had to do with a combination of social circumstances and misinformation about the second coming.
Paul’s solution — this is amazing, I think; for a lot of people it would seem amazing — to their frenzy was to teach the truth about the second coming rather than neglect the second coming. He didn’t say, “Wow, you folks are thinking way too much about the second coming. You need to stop thinking about it and get a grip on reality, like where you live now. Go to work.” What he did, in fact, was the opposite. He spent a whole chapter dealing with that instability by teaching on the second coming.
And so that’s what I take away. Paul believed that a right understanding of the second coming would not add to the frenzy or the instability of life. In fact, it would be part of the remedy. So that’s my first text.
Set Aside Alarm
The second one is from Jesus, and I think it’s where Paul got his thinking on this because the language is so similar. I’ve got a whole section in the book on the similar language between Matthew 24 and the Thessalonian epistles, which I think is just huge with implications for how they understood Matthew 24. Jesus said in Matthew 24:5–6, “Many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars.” And then he says, “See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet.”
“One remedy to our instability and anxiety is solid biblical knowledge about the second coming.”
So Jesus recognizes that the world is going to be a destabilizing, alarming, anxiety-producing place. False Christs, wars — the next two verses talk about famines, earthquakes, and endless difficulties as the end draws near (Matthew 24:7–8). And he realizes that it is natural for people to look around and be alarmed, frightened, uncertain, off-balance. So what’s his solution? His solution is to give true instruction about the second coming. Most of the chapter is for that purpose.
So one remedy to our instability and anxiety is not ignorance or disregard of the second coming, but solid biblical knowledge about the second coming so we can be expectant and hopeful but not be alarmed or fretful.
Guarded Hearts and Minds
Here’s another example of the connection between the second coming and the stability of our minds.
The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:5–7)
Now, most of us, most of the time, make the connection between the guarding of the hearts and the guarding of the minds with prayer. “Let your requests be made known to God,” and it will guard you. But the preceding verse says, “The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious. . . . The peace of God . . . will guard your hearts and your minds.” So there’s a connection between a right grasp of the nearness of the Lord and the Christian heart and mind being guarded from anxiety and instability in fretting about the world.
Unsurprised in Stress
Here it is again in 1 Peter 4:12–13: “Beloved, do not be surprised” — in other words, don’t be alarmed and thrown off-balance and anxious — “at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.” In other words, a right perception, a right anticipation of the glory of Christ’s appearing and our joy in that day is a stabilizing force to keep us from being surprised, alarmed, or thrown off-balance at the end-time stresses and sufferings that are coming.
“A right anticipation of the glory of Christ’s appearing and our joy in that day is a stabilizing force.”
Let me give one more example.
You yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. For you are children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness. (1 Thessalonians 5:2–5)
In other words, Paul’s remedy to fretfulness and alarm and instability in the last days is right and true and balanced teaching about the second coming and who we are in Christ as we eagerly wait for him.
So, Tony, I had seen all those texts, but I had not seen them in the light of that particular question of contemporary frenzy or instability. This is, I think, a really good example of how we keep on learning and growing and how the Bible is an inexhaustible reservoir of help for every kind of human problem.