Winter wanes and spring struggles. My faith mirrors the hyacinths outside my front door, straining up through cold stones looking for sunlight.
Easter catches me by surprise and I admit my heart is not ready to celebrate Holy Week.
I stop by to visit my friends Pete and June, newly returned from their first trip to Israel. Maybe what they saw there will enliven my weary heart. Surely walking where Jesus walked brings new life to Easter, even when you’ve celebrated it for almost ninety years, as they have.
I want to be refreshed.
Pete talks about the land. “But the land, you wonder how they can live in a land like that. Basically, you see rock and sand. . . You see trees by the thousands--fruit, bananas, figs, olives, apples, pears, everything you can think of. You would think the land cannot produce but it does. The land is an amazing land. I don’t know how it could produce the way it does.”
He keeps circling back to the land—and the rock which makes it. “It’s a beautiful country in a way. In another way, it’s probably not a beautiful country at all because there's so much rock and sand, but they seem to thrive on it so well. Amazing. Just amazing.”
And again, Pete remarks on the rock and land. “We would see sheep up in the mountains, going up there, with almost no grass. But they would work what little there was.”
It sounds parched. Not refreshing at all. Not what I was envisioning.
Yet, in an upside down way, it is. I start thinking about those trees and sheep Pete and June describe, thriving in the rocky desert.
I decide to look and see what God does with rocks and stones in the Bible.
I immediately see that water bursts forth from the rock for the Israelites at Horeb. Moses is hidden in the cleft of a rock as God’s glory passes by. God’s law is carved on tablets of stone. Stones adorn the priestly garments. Stones are set up as remembrance of God’s mighty hand and built into altars. David’s stone kills the Philistine giant. Solomon’s temple is constructed of huge, costly stones. God is called the rock, often combined with words such as salvation, fortress and refuge.
God promises a rebellious Israel that he will take their heart of stone and replace it with a heart of flesh.
In the New Testament, Jesus Christ is described as the cornerstone. Stubborn Peter is the rock on which Jesus declares he will build his church.
And with Easter this week, I can’t ignore Jesus’ death and resurrection. The rocks are split at Jesus’ last cry. He is buried in a tomb carved out of rock and sealed with a stone. And it is this stone the angel rolls away, to reveal a resurrected Savior.
What message do I read in all these biblical connections to a land of rock and stone? I see a God who takes what is not alive and gives it life-giving purpose. He reveals glory, gives law, adorns with beauty, commands worship and remembrance, destroys the enemy, saves, protects and hides—all with rock and stone. He replaces hearts of stone with flesh, builds his church on rock, splits open rocks at his death.
He breaks free from a tomb of rock sealed with stone to be my Risen Savior.
Pete and June’s description of a land of rock and stone helps me see that God takes what is barren and breathes life into it. He chose Israel as the promised land, the place where he would send his Son, knowing its terrain.
God didn’t reject Israel because it was barren; he redeemed it in its barrenness.
Just like he did, and does, with me.
My faith is refreshed at last. God has redeemed my heart of stone with Jesus’ work on the cross. I will worship him this Easter, the Rock of my Salvation.