Posted by: rcottrill | December 13, 2017

O God, the Rock of Ages

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Words: Edward Henry Bickersteth, Jr. (b. Jan. 25, 1825; d. May 16, 1906)
Music: Greenland (or Haydn), by Johann Michael Haydn (b. Sept. 14, 1737; d. Aug. 10, 1806)

Wordwise Hymns (Edward Bickersteth)
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: Edward Bickersteth was a pastor and a hymn book editor, as well as writing some hymns himself. He wrote this one for his congregation to sing on New Year’s Sunday, in 1860. He wanted to encourage their trust in God for the coming year, and he emphasized that the Lord’s care was assured, and His promises were dependable and unfailing.

The fable of the Three Little Pigs has been around for at least two centuries, perhaps longer. The Disney Studios made a popular cartoon version of it in 1933. In the story, Mama Pig sends her three offspring out into the world to seek their fortunes, and they each build a house to live in. One house is made of straw, another of sticks, and the third of bricks.

When a big bad wolf comes along, and he’s determined to dine on pork, he asks slyly to come in to each house in turn. When refused he says, “I’ll huff, and I’ll puff, and I’ll blow your house down!” Which he does easily, with the houses made of straw and of sticks. But he cannot blow down the house of bricks.

The details of the story have varied greatly over the years. In some versions, the first two pigs are eaten by the wolf; in others, they run for safety to the third brother’s house. In some accounts, the wolf is killed by the third pig; in others he simply runs away, never to return. Strangely, in still another story, the wolf is made out to be a kindly character!

The moral drawn from the tale has not always been the same either, but one that’s quite clear is this: If you’re going to build a house to live in, one where you’ll be safe, it pays use the strongest possible materials, and take the time and effort to build it well.

This has an application to the way God Himself is described in the Bible. Many times He is called the Rock of His people, or compared to a rock, the One in whom they may safely hide. The first instance is found in Deuteronomy 32:4, “He is the Rock,” declares Moses. Other examples from the Psalms:

“The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust….Blessed be my Rock!” (Ps. 18:2, 46).

“He only is my rock and my salvation; He is my defense; I shall not be moved” (Ps. 62:6).

“Oh come, let us sing to the Lord! Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation” (Ps. 95:1).

You can see the theme of protection and deliverance running through these verses. Climbing to the top of a rocky cliff, or hiding in a cave or crevice in it will provide a hiding place, a place of security. God’s steadfastness and trustworthiness are represented too.

That symbol is used in Augustus Toplady’s well known hymn that begins:

“Rock of ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee.”

There’s actually a Bible verse that uses that expression, but it isn’t made clear in some translations. Isaiah 26:4 says, “The Lord is everlasting strength” (NKJV), but the Hebrew word for strength (tsoor) can also be rendered “rock.” Here is how the Amplified Bible words the text:

“Trust in the Lord (commit yourself to Him, lean on Him, hope confidently in Him) forever; for the Lord God is an everlasting Rock [the Rock of Ages]” (Isa. 26:4).

With echoes of Psalm 90, Pastor Bickersteth’s hymn says:

CH-1) O God, the Rock of Ages,
Who evermore hast been,
What time the tempest rages,
Our dwelling place serene:
Before Thy first creations,
O Lord, the same as now,
To endless generations,
The Everlasting, Thou.

CH-3) O Thou, who dost not slumber,
Whose light grows never pale,
Teach us aright to number
Our years before they fail;
On us Thy mercy lighten,
On us Thy goodness rest,
And let Thy Spirit brighten
The hearts Thyself hast blessed.

CH-4) Lord, crown our faith’s endeavor
With beauty and with grace,
Till, clothed in light forever,
We see Thee face to face:
A joy no language measures,
A fountain brimming o’er,
An endless flow of pleasures,
An ocean without shore.

1) What are some things a great Rock might illustrate about the Lord?

2) How will the fact that God is your “Rock” affect your life in the coming days?

Wordwise Hymns (Edward Bickersteth)
The Cyber Hymnal


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