Haystack Rock is a monolith at the ocean edge in Cannon Beach, Oregon. It endures constant waves from the ocean side while on its beach face tourists can usually walk up to its base.
I envision something like Haystack when I read about rocks of refuge in the Bible. David, for one, wrote of God as his “rock” after escaping King Saul. “I love you, O LORD, my strength. The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold” (Psalm 18:1-2, ESV).
It’s a strong visual metaphor that invites some reflection.
First, there’s a vision of safety. David faced dangers even in his early years as he guarded sheep from predators. Later, as a young man, he faced Goliath. After that he was a successful soldier until he faced Saul’s jealousy and had to run for his life. And even in his mature years he was exiled as his son Absalom tried to kill him. In all these events God protected him.
A second and complementary meaning points to God’s immeasurable care for us: his “steadfast love and faithfulness” (Psalm 61). David knew God cared for him—as a beloved man—despite all his chaotic circumstances. Safety wasn’t David’s sole concern.
Job, another Bible figure, also trusted God in the middle of dramatic challenges. Both Job and David understood that faith doesn’t ensure happy outcomes. Job, for instance, told his erstwhile friends that his confidence in God went beyond issues of personal physical security. “Though he [God] slay me, I will hope in him…”
This “no-matter-what” sort of faith is also seen in the Hebrews 11 “faith chapter” as the author reminds readers that some saints have been “stoned” and “sawn in two” as they waited on God. Which is to say, having God as our “rock” doesn’t mean we win every battle or survive every threat. The book of Revelation, in fact, celebrates throngs of martyrs now waiting in heaven.
This reminder of God’s relational ambition reminds us of our purpose in creation. And the loss of that plan. When Adam sinned, declaring independence from God in Eden, he abandoned the truth that humans were made as relational beings.
God’s triune, relational, image set up an “I-and-you” basis for life. As in, “Let us make man in our image …. In the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” Life in communion was the plan rather than separation as individuals—with full interdependence on each other in view rather than efforts to live with organized autonomy.
Now, after Adam’s fall, every human starts life with a vision of gaining independence. To achieve life apart from God and others. And with that our true basis for identity is broken. Adam pursued substance, security, and status. With God viewed as a resource to be used rather than as our ground of life. The calling, as Jesus later put it, to “abide in me”—was ignored. As was a vision for life in the “Body of Christ.”
Let’s go back to David. As a “man after God’s heart” his identity was God-sized. Not on the basis of his own modest capacities but on the basis of his identity as God’s beloved companion. And with that Goliath faced David in the “name of God” as an I-and-Another sort of man, whose God shaped his heart and actions.
Yet David left this bond behind when he ordered Uriah to be killed so he could take Uriah’s wife for himself. And when he later repented we should note his odd confession: “Against you, you only have I sinned…” (Psalm 51). Many others were certainly damaged by his actions, but that misses the point—David had despised his identity with God, and now he knew better.
David wasn’t dismissing the broader context of his evil. Instead he acknowledged that he had abandoned the reality of who he was made to be. He was a man of God who had, by an evil preoccupation, despised God. He had dismissed his Rock and now he stood alone, naked.
That alternative still stands. Each of us needs God as our ultimate Rock. As our steady lover and companion. David ran back to God in Psalm 51 and God embraced him. And this is the deep reality God offers all of us—to turn from self to a full reliance on him. To be “in Christ” in all we think and do in a broken world. It promises us a life just as steady as the enduring presence of Haystack Rock on Cannon Beach. “The LORD is my rock.”