6 Thus says the Lord, the King of Israel
and his Redeemer, the Lord of hosts:
“I am the first and I am the last;
besides me there is no god.
7 Who is like me? Let him proclaim it.
Let him declare and set it before me,
since I appointed an ancient people.
Let them declare what is to come, and what will happen.
8 Fear not, nor be afraid;
have I not told you from of old and declared it?
And you are my witnesses!
Is there a God besides me?
There is no Rock; I know not any.”
Palestine is a dry and rocky place for the most part. The Galilee region is lush and fruitful, but southern Israel, where Jerusalem is, is a rocky spot. Little wonder, then, that the prophet Isaiah would compare God to a rock (vs. 8). We need to differentiate a rock from a stone. At least in Biblical usage, a stone is a weapon, an instrument of judgment. Stoning was one of the forms of capital punishment prescribed in the Torah. Rocks, on the other hand, were places of refuge. Repeatedly the psalms call God a rock of refuge, three times within psalm 18 and four times in Psalm 62. This is probably because the Psalmist David had hidden from murderous King Saul in the rocks of the Judean wilderness.
Isaiah recycles this image for his time and for us. In Isaiah’s day the mighty kingdom of David had been repeatedly crushed and its people exiled. Israel, the northern 10 tribes were gone. Judah, the southern remnant of David’s kingdom, had been humiliated and forced to pay tribute. Only Jerusalem itself had escaped the invading army of Sennacherib. Eventually even Jerusalem would fall to Babylon’s armies and its people led away into cruel bondage.
God’s Christian people have also known days of difficulty and oppression. The Plague of the mid 1300’s may have killed up to 40% of the people in western Europe. That rather puts the recent pandemic into a bit of a perspective. A rock is a place where one seeks refuge when threatened. The rock does not keep the threat from happening. The Rock serves as a refuge when the evil foe does his worst. There is no Rock besides God for there is no other who can help when death claims me, as it must. I might die of this disease or another. I heard today of a young person heading into eighth grade at a Lutheran parochial school in Florida who was killed in a car accident. She knew Jesus. She knew the Rock that is the refuge of us all.