Jesus Is Your Rock of Ages!
O LORD God, I thank and praise You for revealing Your precious name to me through Your holy Word. You reveal Yourself to be gracious and merciful to me—a sinner, for You have sent Your Son, Jesus the Christ, to be my Savior. As I worship this day, please send Your Spirit to fill my heart with renewed faith and increased gratitude. Amen.
John encourages the believers, young and old, to remain faithful to the God whose mercy and forgiveness they have come to know. He then admonished these same believers not to love the world, for it is passing away. Only God and those who do His will are destined to abide forever in heaven.
Jesus sent seventy of His followers out to preach the gospel. They returned overjoyed by their power over evil spirits. Jesus told them rather to rejoice in the fact that their names were known by God and written in the book of life in heaven.
Text: Exodus 33:17b-23
So the Lord said to Moses, “…you have found grace in My sight, and I know you by name.” And he said, “Please, show me Your glory.” Then He said, “I will make all My goodness pass before you, and I will proclaim the name of the Lord before you. I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.” But He said, “You cannot see My face; for no man shall see Me, and live.” And the Lord said, “Here is a place by Me, and you shall stand on the rock. So it shall be, while My glory passes by, that I will put you in the cleft of the rock, and will cover you with My hand while I pass by. Then I will take away My hand, and you shall see My back; but My face shall not be seen.”
In Christ Jesus, the only solid foundation for your faith and mine, dear fellow redeemed:
The Bible often uses the picture of God as “the rock” upon which we as believers stand. That metaphor is intended to instill within our hearts absolute confidence in our Savior God. The Psalmist David, for instance, begins the Eighteen Psalm by saying: “I will love You, O LORD, my strength. The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold” (Ps. 18:1-2). Jesus ties that picture of the LORD as His people’s “rock” to Himself when in His Sermon on the Mount He says: “Whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock” (Mt. 7:24), and when Jesus declared to His disciples after Simon Peter had identified Him as “the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Mt. 16:16),that “on this rock (that is, Peter’s confession regarding Jesus) I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it” (Mt. 16:18).
Augustus Toplady, in the hymn you have just sung (TLH 376), alludes to that Scriptural metaphor, identifying Jesus as your “Rock of Ages.” The story is told that Toplady, who was an 18th Century pastor living in England about the time of our American Revolution, got the idea for his hymn while out hiking one day. He apparently was caught out in a storm and took refuge in the cleft of a rock. Some historians claim that this story is apocryphal, and I suppose we will never know for sure, but the concept upon which it is based certainly is true. Jesus is the Rock upon which believers of all ages have stood. While Augustus Toplady may have never taken refuge in the cleft of a rock, our Savior God certainly placed Moses in a cleft of a rock, as described in our text. He did so in order to reveal Himself to Moses in a way that would keep him safe while bringing him great blessings.
My dear friends, let us consider how by faith JESUS IS YOUR ROCK OF AGES, and that how through your faith in Jesus you have all received those same blessings, for, like Moses, you have found grace in the LORD’s sight, like Moses, the LORD knows you by name, and like Moses, the LORD has revealed His glory to you!
The setting for our text is Mount Sinai. Moses had led the children of Israel out of slavery in Egypt to that holy mountain. There on that mountain, God had given Moses His law, but during the forty days that Moses was up on that mountain, the children of Israel had become restless and rebellious. They confronted Aaron about his missing brother and intimidated him into creating a more familiar god to follow—a golden calf, which mirrored one of the gods they had seen in Egypt. Upon descending the mountain Moses found the people celebrating their idolatry. He broke into pieces the two tablets of stone upon which God had inscribed His law, ground the golden calf into powder, cast it into the waters, and forced the Children of Israel to drink their false god.
The LORD God, however, was not so easily assuaged. He threatened to withdraw His presence from Israel in view of their sin. Moses pleaded with the LORD not to abandon His people and the LORD listened and relented. We are told in the text that “the LORD spoke to Moses' face to face, as a man speaks to his friend” (Ex. 33:11). God promised: “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest” (Ex. 33:14). The LORD then expressed the first thought of our text: “Moses…you have found grace in My sight.”
My dear friends, Moses was surely among the greatest of the Old Testament saints. When he died, we are told: “Since then there has not arisen in Israel a prophet like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face” (Dt. 34:10). We tend to elevate Moses above other believers in the Biblical narrative and above ourselves as well. Yet, the grace Moses found in the LORD’s sight is the same grace you have found in His sight. It is that love Moses did not deserve, and which we likewise have not deserved, for we must all confess—Moses included—that we are sinners before our holy and righteous God. We deserve nothing but God’s wrath and punishment, just as the Israelites of old.
But as with Moses, you too are individually the objects of God’s grace. “For by grace you have been saved through faith,” the apostle Paul assures each of us, “and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Eph. 2:8-9). The evangelist John likewise assures us: “of His fullness (that is, the fullness of Christ) we have all received, and grace for grace” (Jn. 1:16). The Bible, furthermore, assures usthat we have been “justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 3:24), that “through…(Jesus) we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God” (Rom. 5:2), and that "those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5:17).
All told, the grace of God is mentioned 124 times in our New Testaments. Our God wants to impress upon your mind and heart that fact that in the midst of all of the strife and struggles of this life JESUS IS YOUR ROCK OF AGES! Like Moses, you have found grace in the LORD’s sight!
He also wants to impress upon your mind and heart the fact that like Moses, the LORD knows you by name! Our text tells us: “So the Lord said to Moses, ‘…I know you by name.’” The LORD was not just talking about being aware of the title given him by Pharaoh’s daughter, when she had her servant rescue him from the waters of the Nile—“Moses…because I drew him out of the water” (Ex. 2:10). The LORD knew him by name, because He had guided his entire life, preparing him for leadership in the palace of Pharaoh’s daughter, but then preparing him for his future assignment by sending him into the wilderness to herd sheep for forty years. The LORD God knew Moses intimately and had a plan for him to fulfill to God’s glory and the blessing of God’s people.
How important is it to you, that someone knows you by name? Permit me to share with you just one paragraph in a very special letter that I received from one of our Immanuel students shortly after I announced my decision to accept my recent call. It is a letter I intend to keep with my “very important papers” file. This young student wrote: “I still remember that one time in chapel last year when you asked me my name. I know it seems silly, but I felt appreciated and that someone cared about me just because someone asked me what my name was. Mostly because at my old school nobody asked me anything unless I was in trouble.” My dear friends—our names are particularly precious to us, for they are tied to our personal identities and our sense of self-worth. When someone…when anyone takes the time, and makes the effort to remember us by name, we feel affirmed and valued. If that is true, and it is I am confident for all of us, then how much more important it is that you and I know that the LORD God, who created heaven and earth, knows each of us by name? It is of absolute and vital importance! God knows you intimately. He created you, giving your body and your soul and your gifts and abilities. As with Moses He has a plan for you and has been with you in the past, even as He is with you in the present, so that His will might be done within your life. But remember above all what Jesus once told His disciples returning from a mission trip. They were all excited about the powers they had been given to cast out demons, but Jesus said that they should rather “rejoice because your names are written in heaven” (Luke 10:20).
The apostle Paul assures us that by God’s grace Jesus was sent forth from heaven to be “born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law (that is, you and me) that we might receive the adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, ‘Abba Father’” (Gal. 4:4b-7). In view of that intimacy, you can be filled with confidence, for JESUS IS indeed YOUR ROCK OF AGES! Like Moses, you have found grace in the LORD’s sight! Like Moses, the LORD knows you by name!
Also, like Moses, the LORD has revealed His glory to you! At this point in our text, Moses pleads with God to show him His glory. The LORD then responds: “I will make all My goodness pass before you, and I will proclaim the name of the Lord before you. I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.” He then informs Moses, however: “You cannot see My face; for no man shall see Me, and live.” What did the LORD then do to bless Moses? He puts a unique plan into action: “Here is a place by Me, and you shall stand on the rock. So it shall be, while My glory passes by, that I will put you in the cleft of the rock, and will cover you with My hand while I pass by. Then I will take away My hand, and you shall see My back; but My face shall not be seen.”
In the end, Moses, the “friend” of God, only saw a portion of God’s glory. He saw God's back after having passed by. My dear friends, in the person of Jesus, as revealed through God’s plan of redemption and as recorded in the Scriptures, you have been permitted to see the full glory of God. Think for just a moment about the meaning of Jesus’ comments to the people after sending the imprisoned John the Baptizer’s disciples back to him. Jesus said that while John was the greatest man born of women, “he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he” (Mt. 11:11). How can that be? What does that mean? Think only of the little children who came up for our children’s sermon—while John the Baptizer did not live to see the fulfillment of God’s plan of redemption, each of those children could tell you the story. They could tell you what happened on Good Friday—that their Savior died on the cross to take away their sin. They could tell you what happened on Easter—that their Savior arose gloriously from the dead. They could tell you where Jesus is now sitting—at the right hand of God His Father and ours. They could tell you when and how He will return—on the last day in full glory to take us to heaven. In those truths, they see the full glory of God!
Just before Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, He addressed Martha and said: “Did I not say to you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?” (Jn. 11:40) Then Jesus demonstrated that glory by calling Lazarus forth from the dead! (cf. Jn. 11:43) My dear friends, JESUS IS YOUR ROCK OF AGES! Like Moses, you have found grace in the LORD’s sight, like Moses, the LORD knows you by name, and like Moses, the LORD has revealed His glory to you! Rejoice in these truths and the future they promise you! Amen.