Jesus, Cleft for Me

Halfway between the cities of Barnesville and Thomaston sits a community known as “The Rock.” How does a place inherit such an unusual name? The story begins before any of these towns existed. Americans began to settle the land in our neck of the woods during the early nineteenth century. One of these early settlers was Dr. James Anderson, whose house is still standing today on Highway 36. Back then, the mail ran by stagecoach, and with no post office around in 1816, Anderson told the stagecoach driver, “Put my mail in the hole in that rock.” There was a giant boulder near his home that had a cleft in the side of it, perfect for keeping mail safe and dry until it could be retrieved by Anderson or others in the area. Whenever mail was addressed to “the rock in Georgia,” it made its way to the hole in the rock close to Anderson’s home. After locals began traveling by buggy to the rock to get their mail, people began to refer to the town as “The Rock.” Though the boulder had to be blasted to make room for the highway, a remnant still remains with a plaque, designating it as the site of the “First Post Office at The Rock.” The town owes its name to a hole in the side of a rock, a haven for mail delivery.

This story is reminiscent of an English hymn written by Augustus Toplady in 1763. He was said to have been inspired to write this hymn after encountering a storm and finding shelter underneath a cleft in a nearby rock. This experience led him to think of Exodus 33:22, when the Lord hid Moses within a cleft in a rock as his glory passed by. The lyrics read:

Rock of ages, cleft for me

Let me hide myself in Thee

Let the water and the blood

From Thy wounded side which flowed

Be of sin the double cure

Cleanse me from its guilt and pow’r

What does it mean to call Jesus a “rock?” Language like this is used all over Scripture to describe God. A rock is solid, dependable, safe, sturdy, and ancient. Rocks provide a foundation to firmly stand upon and a shelter to hide under. For the believer, Jesus is like a cleft in a rock. He is our hiding place and eternal refuge. Paul says in Colossians 3:3, “For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” This means that as a believer, you are fully and eternally secure with the Father and Son. Your destiny is hidden forever within the Cleft, Jesus Christ.

When Toplady wrote “Rock of Ages,” he included a few clever puns, one of them being the word “cleft.” Toplady implies that Jesus is the cleft, a split or hole in a rock. However, cleft can also be the past-tense form of the verb cleave, meaning “to split apart or sever.” So Jesus was cleft (cleaved) for me. His body was broken and severed to save me from sin’s guilt and power. According to Paul in 1 Corinthians 10:4, the Lord gave the Israelites a foreshadowing of Christ as they thirsted for water in the desert. In Exodus 17:6, God told Moses to “strike the rock, and water shall come out of it, and the people will drink.” The crucified Christ is the rock which was struck, cleft and severed, and his wounds are a fountain of salvation for any who will drink from his stream.

In these strange days, you need to know that Jesus Christ is like a cleft in a rock. He is a safe haven for everyone who makes him their place of refuge. This is all because he was cleft by those who pierced him. Jesus can become your rock of refuge when your heart cries out to him, “Let me hide myself in Thee.” Whoever is found in the Rock will be eternally secure, whether we live or die. Through Christ, God has delivered salvation once for all, addressed to “The Rock” and hidden safely within its cleft. You would be wise to make your home with him.

Scriptures to ponder: Philippians 3:7-11; Romans 6:8-10; John 10:25-30; 1 Peter 2:4-10; Jude 1:20-25; Psalm 95:1-11; John 4:7-14