ON OR UNDER THE ROCK?
"What, then, shall we say? That the Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have obtained it, a righteousness that is by faith; but the people of Israel, who pursued the law as a way of righteousness, have not attained their goal. Why not? Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works. They stumbled over the stumbling stone. As it is written: "See I lay in Zion a stone that causes people to stumble and a rock that makes them fall, and the one who believes in Him will never be put to shame." Romans 9:30-33.
Isn't the imagery of the Bible beautiful? Jesus...a rock? This statement conjures up all kinds of mental pictures about the one in whom we are called to put our trust.
Bedrock - strong, stable and immovable, a solid foundation upon which to build a life; cornerstone - holding the building together, giving strength to the structure; stumbling stone - causing people to trip and fall because they will not accept the truth of who He is; cleft rock out of whom flows living water like the water from the rock that satisfied the thirst of the children of Israel in the desert; crushing rock that destroys those who refuse to believe in Him; mighty rock in a barren land that gives shade and shelter to those who hide in its shadow.
Elizabeth Clephane - (1830-1869) - captured this beuatiful thought in her hymn: "Beneath the cross of Jesus I fain would take my stand, The shadow of a mighty rock Within a weary land; A home within the wilderness, A rest upon the way, From the burning of the noontide heat, And the burden of the day."
Why did the Jews stumble over Jesus? They thought they knew better. Isn't that the reason why people still stumble over Him today? For whatever reason - religion; childhood traditions; beliefs they have accumulated through misunderstood life experiences - they choose to believe their own beliefs rather than the truth.
What is it about Jesus that causes people to stumble? The cross!
"Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles." 1 Corinthians 1:23.
Both Jews and Gentiles missed it. The Jews expected a warrior Messiah, disposing of the Romans with mighty acts as He did when He delivered His people from slavery in Egypt. A crucified Messiah was abhorrent to them! They missed the bigger picture - slavery to sin and death and the greater deliverance their Messiah came to bring. They tried so hard to gain acceptance with God through their puny efforts at righteousness, only to miss it because righteousness is a gift given to us at Jesus' expense.
The Gentiles missed it because God's wisdom made no sense. Their gods had to be magical and powerful, yet manageable... and visible and plural because one god couldn't do everything. They needed to manipulate them to serve their own ends so they created them in their image. A God who was invisible and spiritual and loving was too much for their minds, so they also tripped over the rock.
The problem is that those who fall over the rock will one day fall under the rock. The only safe place is on the rock!
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