The Cleft in the Rock

cleftI love it when the Lord makes something crystal clear by communicating the same message at multiple times and through multiple mediums. Such was the case for me yesterday and today.

Yesterday my pastor, Dr. Buz McNutt was preaching about Esau and Jacob from Genesis 25 and Romans 9. In Romans 9, Paul quoted a verse from Exodus 33,

And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy.

–Exodus 33:19

As it so happened, my Bible reading passage for this morning was Exodus 33. In this chapter Moses converses with the Lord with Moses ultimately asking that God would show him his glory. God grants Moses’ request but with one caveat. Moses cannot see the face of God lest he die.

Behold, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock, and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock.

–Exodus 33:20-21

So God places Moses in the cleft of a rock and covered Moses until he had passed by so that Moses would see only the backside of God. A cleft is a narrow space or split. This would have put rock under Moses’ feet, behind his back and on either side of him. In a sense he was wedged into this rock which would hold him in place and provide a stable base. From that vantage point he would behold the back of God’s glory.

Fast forward to the late 1700’s. A Christian bard, August Toplady penned one of the most enduring hymns in Christendom – Rock of Ages. While praying this morning after hearing the sermon yesterday and after reading the biblical text in my time with the Lord, this hymn began to resonate in my mind. I grabbed my old Baptist Hymnal and flipped to hymn #163. Slowly and thoughtfully I began singing this hymn to the Lord.

Don’t miss the rich words to this hymn. Here is verse 1.

Rock of Ages, cleft for me,

  Let me hide myself in thee;

Let the water and the blood,

  From thy wounded side which flowed,

Be of sin the double cure,

  Save from wrath and make me pure.

When we rightly sing this hymn, we are asking the Lord to do with us as he did with Moses. Toplady connects this rock to the rock which is Jesus and desires that the death of Jesus have its full effect on us.

The double cure. We desperately need for the Lord to be gracious and merciful, which is the point Paul carries over to Romans from Exodus 33. That double cure is the saving from wrath AND being made pure. Forgive my over simplicity, but one part of the cure is being rescued from hell. That is the saving from wrath part. The other part is being granted entrance into heaven. That is the being made pure part.

Lord, grant grace and mercy to me. Hide me in the cleft of that rock.