Posted by: rcottrill | July 1, 2011

Rock of Ages

Words: Augustus Montague Toplady (b. Nov. 4, 1740; d. Aug. 11, 1778)
Music: Toplady, by Thomas Hastings (b. Oct. 15, 1784; d. May 15, 1872)

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal

Rock is generally very strong. It takes great power to shatter a large rock. Thus it provides a picture of strength and stability, of endurance and dependability. Because of this, it’s not surprising that the Lord Himself is portrayed as a rock a number of times, in the Bible. Here is a sampling:

“I proclaim the name of the Lord: ascribe greatness to our God. He is the Rock” (Deut. 32:4). “For there is none besides You, nor is there any rock like our God” (I Sam. 2:2). “The Lord lives! Blessed by my Rock! Let God be exalted; the Rock of my salvation!” (II Sam. 22:47). “For who is God, except the Lord? And who is a rock, except our God?” (Ps. 18:31). “To You will I cry, O Lord my Rock” (Ps. 28:1). “He only is my rock and my salvation; He is my defense; I shall not be greatly moved” (Ps. 62:2).

Yet there was one time when that Rock was shattered. It happened on the cross–though the One who hung suspended there was God incarnate, almighty, omnipotent, eternal. How could it happen that the Lord Himself was broken on the cross? What all-surpassing power was required to accomplish that?

The answer is that it took a combination of the infinite power of divine love, and the infinite force of divine judgment. God, in His infinite love for sinful, fallen humanity, sent His Son to accomplish our salvation (Jn. 3:16). And the incarnate Son also acted in love (Gal. 2:20; Eph. 5:25). But the suffering of Christ on the cross was meted out because He willingly took upon Himself the charge of all the world’s sin. So, in the cross, we seek a unique blending of opposing motivations.

“Mercy and truth have met together; righteousness and peace have kissed” (Ps. 89:10). Because of Calvary, God is able to be “just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (Rom. 3:26). And “that Rock [that was split open on the cross] was Christ” (I Cor. 10:4). Just as Moses struck the rock in the wilderness, and refreshing streams of water poured forth for a thirsty people (Exod. 17:3-6), so the water of eternal life flows out from the cross for all who will drink of it (Jn. 7:37-39; Rev. 22:17).

Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee;
Let the water and the blood,
From Thy riven side which flowed,
Be of sin the double cure;
Cleanse me from its guilt and power.

The Bible is quite clear that faith in Christ’s finished saving work on the cross is our only means of salvation. No standing gained by human birth and rank, no good works, no church ritual or membership can accomplish it. We can only cast ourselves upon Christ, and trust in Him to save (Jn. 1:12-13; 14:6; Acts 4:12; Eph. 2:8-9). That is the insistent theme of CH-2 and 3, in Toplady’s magnificent hymn.

Not the labour of my hands
Can fulfil Thy law’s demands;
Could my zeal no respite know,
Could my tears forever flow,
All for sin could not atone;
Thou must save, and Thou alone.

Nothing in my hand I bring,
Simply to Thy cross I cling;
Naked, come to Thee for dress;
Helpless look to Thee for grace;
Foul, I to the fountain fly;
Wash me, Saviour, or I die.

1) Why is it that our own works, even done zealously and with many tears shed, aren’t sufficient to save us?

2) What four qualities of the sinner does Toplady picture in CH-3? What do they represent in spiritual terms?

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal


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