Posted by: rcottrill | May 6, 2019

How Firm a Foundation

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Also see 30+ Ideas for Promoting Hymn Singing in your church. As others have contributed ideas, this wonderful resource has grown to over 80 items now. And, for more than three dozen reasons why congregations should still use hymn books rather than merely projecting words on the wall, see The Value of Hymn Books.

Words: Author Unknown (see note below)
Music: Protection, from A Compilation of Genuine Church Music, by Joseph Funk (b. Apr. 16, 1778; d. Dec. 24, 1862)

Wordwise Hymns (for another article see here)
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: In 1787, English pastor John Rippon (1751-1836) produced a book called A Selection of Hymns from the Best Authors. In it was the hymn How Firm a Foundation, attributed in early editions only to “K” or “Kn.” We know Robert Keene was the song leader (or precentor) in Pastor Rippon’s church. He may, or may not, have been the source.

As for the tune, in addition to the one given above, John Francis Wade’s Adeste Fideles (to which we also sing the carol O Come, All Ye Faithful) works well.

There are many shocking stories about big buildings that collapsed because of problems with the foundation. What is seen above the ground may be well built, even magnificent, but there proved to be an unseen peril beneath the surface that later would bring disaster.

The most famous example is the leaning tower, in Pisa, Italy, a freestanding bell tower for the nearby cathedral. Long before it was completed it had begun to tilt dangerously, due to a thin foundation set on unstable subsoil. Corrective measures were taken, work that’s gone on into the twenty-first century at a cost of many millions of dollars. Though not completely straight, the tilt has currently been stabilized sufficiently to allow tourists safely into the tower.

Problems with the huge Transcona Grain Elevator, in Manitoba, started in 1913, the day it was finished. As grain was moved in, the building began to settle, sinking a foot in the first hour of loading. Soon it had tilted twenty-seven degrees to the west. The problem was the unstable clay and silt below. But the building itself was strong, and engineers were able to create a firm foundation on solid rock thirty-four feet further down, and straighten the structure–again at great expense.

The ruin that can come from having an inadequate foundation was presented in the Sermon on the Mount, in Lord’s parable of the two builders.

“Whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall” (Matt. 7:24-27).

Notice it’s not simply the one who hears God’s Word (or reads it) who is wise. The foolish man did that too. But it’s the one who wisely acts upon it, and applies what is there to his life, who finds it a solid foundation to build upon. The Apostle James puts it bluntly: “Be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves” (Jas. 1:22).

Why would anyone do what the fool did? There may be various reasons. Perhaps he was lazy and careless. Or he was one who cared more about appearances than the deeper things. Or possibly he greatly underestimated the destructive power of the storms that would come. Or possibly pride and a desire to do his own thing led him to ignore the wisdom and experience of others. Whatever the case, the end result was the same.

I had another thought as well, illustrated by the leaning tower of Pisa. That tilted structure became a great tourist attraction. So, when the engineers got to work to solve the problem, the town fathers apparently balked. Yes, they wanted it made safe, so it wouldn’t fall over on anyone. But they didn’t want it completely straightened. Then, people would be less inclined to visit their town!

This is very much like some folks who want to be good, but not too good. Like the individual in Ecclesiastes who advises us not to be “overly righteous,” or “overly wicked” (Ecc. 7:16-17), to just stick with a nice average, and get some fun out of life. But that is not the standard God sets before us. He is a holy God, and He demands the same of us. “As He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, ‘Be holy, for I am holy’” (I Pet. 1:15-16).

The need to build our lives on the Word of God is presented in one of our finest hymns. Ironically, we know nothing certain about the origin of it. But, after the first stanza, every one of the seven is related to some text of Scripture, assuring us that there is no better foundation.

CH-1) How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,
Is laid for your faith in His excellent Word!
What more can He say than to you He hath said,
You, who unto Jesus for refuge have fled?

CH-3) Fear not, I am with thee, O be not dismayed,
For I am thy God and will still give thee aid;
I’ll strengthen and help thee, and cause thee to stand
Upheld by My righteous, omnipotent hand.

CH-5) When through fiery trials thy pathways shall lie,
My grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply;
The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design
Thy dross to consume, and thy gold to refine.

CH-7) The soul that on Jesus has leaned for repose,
I will not, I will not desert to its foes;
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I’ll never, no never, no never forsake.

1) Take a look at the full hymn on the Cyber Hymnal link. What verse stands out to you as being especially encouraging to you?

2) How has the Word of God been a firm foundation to you over the past month?

Wordwise Hymns (for another article see here)
The Cyber Hymnal


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