The Rock

He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress — I will never be greatly shaken.

Psalm 62:2

Why does David refer to God as a “Rock”? The Hebrew word for “Rock” in this passage is ‘tsoor’ (צוּר – H6696); it literally means a ‘rock’, or ‘boulder’:

Exo 17:[6] Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock {tsoor} in Horeb. And you shall smite the rock {tsoor}, and water will come out of it; and the people will drink. And Moses did so before the eyes of the elders of Israel.

For further examples, see Jdg 6:21, 1Sa 24:2, Job 28:10, Pro 30:19, Nah 1:6. But ‘tsoor’ also has a figurative meaning of strength and durability. God is certainly strong, and durable (2Ch 20:6, Job 24:22, Psa 21:13, Psa 62:11, Psa 90:4, Psa 103:17), but ‘tsoor’ also has a meaning that goes beyond mere strength, durability, and hardness. In the Middle East, many boulders and cliffs have caves large enough to house people, or even whole troops of men. Therefore, they are often used as hiding places, fortresses, and places of refuge:

Exo 33:[21] And Jehovah said, Behold, a place by Me! And you shall stand on a rock {tsoor}. [22] And as My glory is passing it will be that I will put you in a cleft of the rock {tsoor}; and I will cover My palm over you during My passing.

1Sa 23:[25] Saul and his men went to seek him. When David was told, he went down to the rock {tsoor}, and stayed in the wilderness of Maon. When Saul heard that, he pursued David in the wilderness of Maon.

1Ch 11:[15] Three of the thirty chief men went down to the rock {tsoor} to David, into the cave of Adullam; and the army of the Philistines were encamped in the valley of Rephaim.

Isa 32:[2] A man shall be as a hiding place from the wind, and a covert from the storm, as streams of water in a dry place, as the shade of a large rock {tsoor} in a weary land.

Seeking out a cave for refuge from the elements, or from one’s enemies, became symbolic of turning to one’s god for protection. This was true of the false gods, as well as the one, true God:

Deu 32:[30] How could one chase a thousand, and two put a myriad to flight, if it were not their Rock {tsoor} that sold them, and Jehovah had shut them up? [31] For their rock {tsoor} is not our Rock {tsoor}, even our enemies being judges.

Psa 27:[5] For in the day of evil He shall hide me in His shelter; in the secrecy of His tabernacle, He shall hide me; He shall set me up on a rock {tsoor}.

Psa 62:[2] He alone is my rock {tsoor} and my salvation, my strong tower; I shall not be greatly moved. [3] For You have been my shelter, a strong tower before the enemy. … [6] He alone is my rock {tsoor} and my salvation, my strong tower; I shall not be shaken. [7] On God is my salvation and my glory; my strong rock {tsoor}, my refuge is in God.

Psa 94:[22] But Yahweh has been my high tower, my God, the rock {tsoor} of my refuge.

David refers to God as his Rock, because only the one, true God has full power to protect and sustain his people from the enemies, and storms, around them. The false gods appear to offer some sort of protection, but the reality is that they only offer a false hope. Only the true God has both the power and the willingness to preserve his people forever.

Those who fled to the one true God for protection obviously displayed a belief in his strength and power to preserve them. But they also displayed a faith in his promise of protection:

2Sa 23: [3] The God of Israel said, the Rock {tsoor} of Israel spoke to me: One ruling over man righteously, who rules in the fear of God, [4] is as the light of the morning, as the sun shines; a morning without clouds; through shining after rain the tender grass sprouts from the earth. [5] For is not my house so with God? For He has made an everlasting covenant with me, ordered in all things, and sure; for all my salvation, and all my desire, will He not make it grow?

Psa 71:[3] Be to me a rock {tsoor} of refuge to which I may always go. Give the command to save me, for you are my rock {sela – H5553; cliff, or stone} and my fortress.

Isa 26:[4] Trust in Jehovah forever, for in Jah Jehovah is everlasting strength. [literally, ‘the rock of ages’]

See also Jos 21:44-45, Isa 54:9-10, and 1Co 1:19-20. As the author of Hebrews says (Heb 11:6), faith consists of trusting that God exists, and that he rewards those who trust in him. Faith is the means by which God saves his people:

Faith is not a condition of or prerequisite to salvation; instead, faith believes that Jesus Christ alone met all the conditions for salvation. Faith is the instrument through which a believer receives the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ and is justified. No man is justified before God by works. Salvation by grace alone through faith alone is diametrically opposed to salvation by works. Scripture rejects the lie that man is able to keep the law of God or even a mere summary of the law as a means of gaining God’s favor, let alone that he is able to obey the law beyond what God requires. [Isa 45:24-25; Isa 51:5; Luk 17:10; Joh 1:12-13; Joh 5:24; Joh 6:29; Act 13:39; Rom 3:20-28; Rom 4:1-5,14-25; Rom 5:1; Rom 9:16,30-33; Rom 11:6; Gal 2:16; Gal 3:6-12; Gal 5:2-6; Eph 2:8-9; Phi 3:9; Heb 11:4,7]

Christian Confession of Faith, V.C.4

The ultimate expression of God’s protection, rewarding, and blessing of his people is in the person and work of Jesus Christ. All those who flee for refuge to this Rock, Jesus Christ, have their sins purged away in the blood of his perfect, propitiating sacrifice (Exo 12:13, Isa 53:11-12, Dan 9:24, Mat 26:28, Act 20:28, 2Co 5:21, Eph 1:7, Heb 10:10-17, 1Pe 2:24, Rev 1:5). Moreover, they are clothed with the very righteousness of Christ himself (Job 29:14, Isa 53:10, Isa 61:10, Rom 8:1). And they have this promise made sure and certain to them by his resurrection to eternal life (Psa 16:10, Act 2:24-33, Rom 4:25, Rom 6:4). In fact, all the promises of God are made sure and certain to them through his life, death, and resurrection, including his protection and sustaining of them.

The Greek word for Rock, ‘petra’ (πέτρα – G4073), is feminine; but the masculine form, ‘petros’ (Πέτρος – G4074), is used as a proper name over 150 times in the New Testament:

Mat 16:[18] And I also say to you that you are Peter {Petros}, and on this rock {petra} I will build My church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against her.

Although Peter would be instrumental in building the church, the fact that Jesus uses the feminine form of the word shows that Peter isn’t the foundation stone of the church; the true foundation stone is Jesus himself (Eph 2:20). All those who build upon him alone as their foundation are under his protection and care:

Mat 7:[24] Then everyone who hears these words from Me, and does them, I will compare him to a wise man who built his house on the rock {petra}; [25] and the rains came down, and the rivers came up, and the winds blew, and fell against that house; but it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock {petra}. [cf. Luke 6:48-49]

1Co 10:[4] And all drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank of the spiritual rock {petra} following, and that Rock {petra} was Christ.

Finally, as Christ is ‘The Rock’, and a shelter and fortress for his people, so he is also a stumbling stone and rock of offense to his enemies:

Isa 8:[14] And He shall be for a sanctuary, and for a stone {eben -H68; stone} of stumbling, and for a rock {tsoor} of falling to the two houses of Israel; for a trap and for a snare to the dweller of Jerusalem. [15] And many among them shall stumble and fall, and be broken, and be snared, and be taken. [cf. Rom 9:33; 1Pe 2:8]

The Gospel is a sweet aroma to those who have faith to believe it, but a stench of death to those who do not:

Joh 9:[39] Jesus said, “I came into this world for judgment, that those who don’t see may see; and that those who see may become blind.”

Act 13:[45] But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with jealousy, and contradicted the things which were spoken by Paul, and blasphemed. [46] Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly, and said, “It was necessary that God’s word should be spoken to you first. Since indeed you thrust it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we turn to the Gentiles.

2Co 2:[16] to the one a stench from death to death; to the other a sweet aroma from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things?

The true Gospel divides; it divides us even from family, and close friends, husbands from wives, parents from children, and brothers from brothers (Mat 10:34-36). But through it all, the Lord promises protection, shelter, and sustenance to all who take refuge in him.

21 Against the righteous souls they join,
they guiltless blood condemn.
22 But of my refuge God’s the rock,
and my defence from them.
(Psalm 94, The Psalms of David in Metre)

See Also:

Justification & Imputation

II. Theology Proper – The Doctrine of God

Judging Saved and Lost