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Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Rock of Ages

Another favorite hymn, again by Augustus Toplady. (What a name!) Here's a link to a nice rendition of it, again by the Celebration Choir.

And the final selection on that CD which has a part of the hymn at the end of the song "When the Roll Is Called Up Yonder"

And the lyrics.

And now for the commentary on the hymn itself. The first two lines (repeated at the end) are a play on the word "cleft." "Cleft" can be both a noun and the past participle of the verb "cleave." Thus, Jesus is both the place where we hide and he is broken for me.
Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
let me hide myself in thee;
Then these words:
be of sin the double cure;
save from wrath and make me pure.
(Or, save me from its guilt and power)
The author has neatly captured our need. We need to be saved from sin twice, if you will. We need to be saved from the guilt of sin, from the wrath of God, and we need now and in the future to be saved from the power of sin so that we can live pure and holy lives for our God.

The next stanza underscores strongly our helpless position before God (Toplady was a strong Calvinist.)
Not the labors of my hands
can fulfill thy law's commands;
could my zeal no respite know,
could my tears forever flow,
all for sin could not atone;
thou must save, and thou alone.

Nothing that we do can atone for our sins. We are completely and truly helpless before God. Only he can save us. So the next stanza continues. We bring nothing but sin and rebellion to God. He does all the work.

Nothing in my hand I bring,
simply to the cross I cling;
naked, come to thee for dress;
helpless, look to thee for grace;
foul, I to the fountain fly;
wash me, Savior, or I die.

While I draw this fleeting breath,
when mine eyes shall close in death,
when I soar to worlds unknown,
see thee on thy judgment throne,
Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
let me hide myself in thee.

Jesus is our hope not only for this life, but also for the life and world to come. As Romans 8 states, Jesus intercedes for us and nothing can separate us from his love.

Hide yourself in Jesus, cleft for me, cleft for you. Hide yourself in him both now and in the life to come.

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