If you ever see the bookshelf in my office one particular collection that continues to grow is my collection of hymnals. The hymnal is such a wonderful tool I will always use no matter what style of worship I lead. It is full of theology and usually organized by doctrine. When I am directed to a certain passage in the bible there is a section of songs that will be inspired by those verses. I can open up and read these concise beautiful poems that illustrate God’s word. It has been so reaffirming to me to see writers like Fanny Crosby (Blessed Assurance) and John Newton (Amazing Grace) had the same doubts and trials, and needed the same reassurance that I do today.
Yes some of them don’t sound the way we talk. Sometimes the music does seem a little stiff and outdated. To me that is a great reminder of the truths that have lasted through the ages. It’s worth it to cut through some of those thou’s, thine’s and didst’s.
One of my favorite hymns is by Augustus Toplady, an Anglican priest born in 1740. Written in 1776, Rock of Ages was at a time considered “the best known, best best loved, and most widely useful hymn in the English language.” Let’s go through the first verse and look at the theology of the poem.
“Rock of ages cleft for me, Let me hide myself in Thee;”
Isaiah 26:4 says “trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord, the Lord himself is the Rock eternal. We find rocks or stones used throughout the Old testament being used to mark alters or memorials so His people could remember God’s provision at certain times. Jacob did at El-Bethel after God revealed himself. Noah did so after finding dry land following the flood. Rocks were used to remember, but God is the everlasting rock that will always be there.
Cleft means to split or sever something. This is referencing Christ’s sacrifice. What a picture. God has no room for our sin, but through Christ God has carved a way into his presence where we are welcome to find shelter. Christ has penetrated the unpenetratable and now where there was once no path, there is now safe passage from death.
“Let the water and the blood from thy wounded side which flowed”
This begins to show the accomplishment of the cross. Isaiah 53:5 says, “He was pierced for our transgressions.” The sacrificial blood of Christ which atones for our sin and the purifying water that sanctifies us.
Next is my favorite line:
“Be of sin the double cure, Save from wrath and make me pure”
This clarifies the last line before. God’s justice was absolute and satisfied. At the same time, He has adopted us through cleansing by Christ’s blood. He has healed me from the sickness of sin and revived me into everlasting life.
“Rock of Ages” is a song that pops in my head constantly and I’m thankful, because it is a truth I continually need to be reminded. Through the years there have been verses added and changed. There’s a few newer versions I like too. One by Page CXVI, and another by Dustin Kensrue which is my favorite.