291) Rock of Ages, Cleft for Me

     My first classic song from the 60’s is Rock of Ages.  Actually, this one is from not the 1960’s, but the 1760’s.  Rock of Ages was written in 1763 by Augustus Montague Toplady (1740-1778), and was first published in 1775.  The story is that Toplady got his inspiration for the hymn when he was caught in a thunderstorm walking on the road one night on the way to his home in the village of Blagdon in England.  There is a rocky gorge along that road, and he took refuge from the storm in a crevasse, or ‘cleft,’ in the rocky cliff.  The safe refuge he received there reminded him of the refuge we have in the Lord our God, as it says in Psalm 18:2:  “The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge,” and so he wrote “Rock of Ages, Cleft for me.”

     The Rock of Ages, Burrington Combe where

Augustus Toplady is reputed to have sheltered from a storm.

     There are many other verses that refer to God as the Rock of our salvation.  In Psalm 95:1-2 this image of God as our rock is linked with music:  “Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation.  Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song.”  The old hymns are great at praising the Lord, our ‘Rock of Ages.’  Most Classic Rock does not praise God, but it often does raise the questions that are answered by faith in God.  Rock (and Roll) of Ages, my title for these meditations, blends those two themes from Psalm 95– ‘the Rock of our Salvation,’ and, ‘music and song.’

     The words to that great old hymn are included below as today’s prayer.  The last verse, as in many of the old hymns, refers to the last things– death and the promise of eternal life.  That will be the main theme in these meditations.  There are many other Biblical topics we can find in rock music:  lifestyle and obedience, love and relationships, true gods and false gods (or priorities) and more.  I may, at times, get into some of those other themes.  But for now the focus will be on the themes of life and death and eternity.

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Psalm 18:2  —  The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge.

Psalm 95:1-2  —  Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation.  Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song.

Psalm 62:7  —  My salvation and my honor depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge.

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Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in thee;
Let the water and the blood,
From thy wounded side which flowed,
Be of sin the double cure;
Cleanse me from its guilt and power.

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 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.