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God’s Word for You

1 Corinthians 10:1-4 That rock was Christ

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Wednesday, March 8, 2023

10 Brothers, I do not want you to disregard the fact that our forefathers were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. 2 They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea.

The cloud Paul mentions is the pillar of cloud: “By day the LORD went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night” (Exodus 13:21). It stayed with Israel for the whole time they were in the wilderness. It never departed until they arrived safely in the Promised Land. And of course the sea is a reference to the entire nation passing through the Red Sea safely by means of a miracle. God divided the waters so that the people walked through “on dry land, with a wall of water on their right and on their left” (Exodus 14:22).

Paul calls this a “baptism” (1) because it involved the rescue of Israel by means of water, (2) because it was a type, that is a sign signifying our own baptism. Just as the Israelites were led out of Egypt through the Red Sea, so also we are rescued from spiritual slavery to “the hellish ‘Pharaoh’” (the devil) through the saving water of baptism.

Just as Pharaoh’s officers and his whole horde were drowned in the Red Sea (Exodus 15:4), so also the old Adam with all his sins and sinful inclinations is drowned in baptism (Romans 6:4; Colossians 2:12).

The Israelites are also said to have been baptized “in the cloud” (or “by the cloud,” that is, by means of the cloud) because the Israelites were bound by faith and obedience to God’s protection with the pillar of cloud. So in a similar way we are protected and then bound by faith and happy obedience to Christ our Savior through holy baptism. Therefore baptism here signifies the outpouring of the special gifts of the Spirit. It is a figurative use of the word, and it does not mean the washing of repentance for the forgiveness of sins which God introduced through John the Baptist (John 1:33).

  Let them give thanks to the Lord
  For his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for men,
  He turned the desert into pools of water
  And the parched ground into flowing springs;
  There he brought the hungry to live,
  And they founded a city where they could settle. (Psalm 107:31,35-36)

3 They all ate the same spiritual food 4 and they all drank the same spiritual drink, for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them. And that rock was Christ.

Now Paul turns from the type of baptism that was given to the Israelites in the days of Moses to the type of Lord’s Supper that was given to them at the same time. The spiritual food was the manna and would include the quail that they ate along the way, and the drink was the water that came at various times from the rocks of the desert, especially at Massah and Meribah (Exodus 17:6-7), again at Kadesh (Numbers 20:11), and yet again in the desert after the incident with the snakes (Numbers 21:17-18).

Just as the Children of Israel were fed with this heavenly bread, and they were given a drink from the water flowing from the rock, so also we are fed by Christ with the living bread that came from heaven (Christ’s own flesh) and given a drink from his holy blood which flows from his wounds (Isaiah 53:5). And yet again, just as the manna and the water from the rock were a clear testimony to God’s grace, so also Christ has offered and given his grace and blessings to us in the Lord’s Supper. We can say the same thing about the sweet taste of the manna and the sweet deliverance through the Supper (Exodus 16:31), or the public consuming of the bread since believers consume the bread together in public worshiping from “the one loaf” for the benefit of their souls (1 Corinthians 10:16-17). Or again, that the miracle of the presence of Christ in the bread and wine is foreshadowed by “the presence of the Lord, the presence of the God of Jacob who turned the rock into a pool, the hard rock into springs of water” (Psalm 114:7-8).

Professor Toppe relates a rabbinical legend, “that a portion of the rock at Kadesh accompanied the Israelites in the wilderness for forty years and continually supplied them with water” (People’s Bible: 1 Corinthians p. 90). But Paul corrects this notion. It wasn’t that a physical, rolling stone was chasing after Israel like a rocky shadow in the sand, gurgling and gushing with water wherever it went. No, the Israelites drank from the physical stone at Kadesh, but it was also the spiritual stone, Christ, that kept on giving them water and that kept them alive for forty years. The physical rock symbolized the spiritual Rock, which was Christ. In fact, it could not have been a physical rock which rolled or scraped alone after them in the desert, because they got thirsty again at the very next stop. Yet the spiritual one, the “Rock” who is Christ, gave them water to drink again and again. He was proving to them that they could rely on him; that God provides for all of their needs.

The miracle in the desert, from the Red Sea to the entrance into Canaan, was in many ways the greatest miracle of the Old Testament. And yet it is a small thing compared with the salvation we have through Christ, the salvation that comes through our baptism and through the Lord’s Supper, all because of the sacrifice of the Lamb of God upon the cross in our place.

This feast is manna, wealth abounding
Unto the poor, to weak ones pow’r.
To angels joy, to hell confounding
And life for me in death’s dark hour.
Lord may your body and your blood
Be for my soul the highest good!

(I Come, O Savior, To Your Table, verse 10)

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim Smith
About Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please visit the St. Paul’s Lutheran Church website.


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