God's Mercy

Rock of Ages: A Hymn of Gospel Love

June 6, 2016
I am a great lover of hymns. In my life, God uses the depths of the words, the echoes of the music to stir in my soul a love for Him, worship for His Name, and a passion to share Him with others. This hymn, “Rock of Ages” is my favourite hymn. It has special meaning for my family; my husband sings in beautifully; I hum it to myself when I feel especially close to the Lord, or, when I do not.
“Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee;”
God is our Father, and He alone in this changing world is where we can put our feet and know we won’t fall. There is nothing and no-one that can save us, protect us, rescue us from the death that is our sin and the sickness that is in our souls. He is our hiding place.

“Let the water and the blood,
From Thy wounded side which flowed,
Be for sin the double cure,
Cleanse me from its guilt and power.”
God is our hiding place only because of Jesus, the man who was God, and who died on a cross for those he loved. He was wounded, pierced in the side from which blood and water flowed {John 19:34-37} to fulfill the scriptures from hundreds of years before {Zechariah 12:10}, to save us both from the guilt we have as sinners and the power it has over us.

“Not the labour of my hands
Can fulfill Thy law’s demands;
Could my zeal no respite know,
Could my tears forever flow,”
It is in our very nature to do all that we can to make ourselves good. We make ourselves nicer, more giving, more patient, more loving – anything that save us from who we truly know we are inside. We know instinctively what is right and wrong – God’s laws – and we try to do “what is right”. We expend all our energies and have the highest zeal to the point of weeping – 
“All for sin could not atone;
Thou must save, and Thou alone.”
There is a point we get to in our “holiness treadmill” when we realise that there is simply nothing we can do to save ourselves. We see inside and despair. Nothing we do can make right what we do wrong {in our hearts and with our hands}. We are broken, hurting and hurtful, people. Only Thou – God in Jesus – can save, only Him alone.
“Nothing in my hand I bring;
Simply to Thy cross I cling;”
When we realise that we are actually nothing without Jesus and that we can do nothing to make ourselves right with God, we come to Him with open hands. We see the bloodied Cross before us and know that it is the lifeline for our very breaths. In all the storms of life, in all the pain and sorrow, in all our deepest failures – it is the Cross we cling to.
“Naked, come to Thee for dress;
Helpless, look to Thee for grace;
Stained by sin to You I cry;
Wash me, Saviour, or I die!”
Everything about us is stained by sin until we are given the clothes of righteousness that Christ has purchased for us. Like newborns, we can do nothing with Him – we lean towards Him, desperate for the mercy and the grace that washes us clean, that gives us a new life to live, that enables us to breathe again.

“While I draw this fleeting breath,
When my eyelids close in death,
When I soar through worlds unknown,
See Thee on Thy Judgement Throne,”
In our moment of life and in our moment of death; when we are taken to that which we cannot see; when we face that which we have always taken in faith; when we see that what faith we have has been given to us and not what we have created – – then, before the judgement throne of God, we will finally see Him. And not just with our eyes – which so few have done before – we will actually see, clearly and fully and with perfect understanding, Him and all of our life’s purpose, in Christ.

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

The only way we can face the Judgement Throne and come away with mercy is by crying out to God, through Jesus Christ, and asking Him to cleft to us – to hide us away, forever, washed in the blood of Jesus on the Cross. And, we must ask – not presume – for Him to let us.
This hymn was written by Augustus Montague Toplady in 1763, considered one of the four top Anglican hymns. Traditionally, it is said Augustus wrote this whilst taking shelter in a cleft of a rock during a storm. In his Psalms and Hymns For Public and Private Worship, he labels this song simply,
“A Prayer, living and dying.”

  1. Hello. I found your post through the Tuesday Talk link up. This is a song I learned oh so long ago in church in the 70s. Still resonates for me, and your breakdown of each verse and chorus gives me new light into the Lord's love and power and grace. And I enjoy seeing the other verses. I only knew the words to the first verse. Thank you!

  2. This is one of my favorite hymns as well. I loved reading your reflections on the words. Thank you for linking with Grace and Truth last week!

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