Rock of Ages

The Rock Who Was Cleft for Us

Be my rock of refuge, to which I can always go; give the command to save me, for you are my rock and my fortress.  Psalm 71:3

Augustus M.Toplady, caught in a thunderstorm, sought refuge in the recess of a massive rock of limestone a hundred feet high. As he gazed up at the huge rock, he composed a poem that became the lyrics to “Rock of Ages.”

The enormous size of the rock, over a hundred feet high, probably made him feel insignificant, yet its size provided safety from the storm. Toplady wrote, “Rock of Ages, cleft for me, Let me hide myself in Thee.”

As the Israelites journeyed through the wilderness after leaving Egypt, they encountered a massive rock. God told Moses to strike the rock and when he did, water gushed forth to provide for the people (Exodus 17:6). The Apostle Paul said, “they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ” (1 Corinthians 10:4).

Jesus was cleft for us. “This is my body given for you,” Jesus told His disciples at their last supper as He took bread and gave it to them. Jesus’ body was given for us—cleft in crucifixion. Not only were His hands and feet pierced, but also His side.

Normally the bodies of criminals were left on the crosses long after they died. But Jewish law said that the dead bodies left overnight would defile the land and the next day was a special Sabbath (Passover). Therefore, the soldiers broke the criminals’ legs so that they couldn’t push themselves upward to breathe.

However, when the soldiers approached Jesus, they discovered he was already dead. Instead of breaking His legs, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water (John 19:31-34). Toplady wrote of this:

Let the water and the blood, From Thy wounded side which flowed,
Be of sin the double cure; Save from wrath and make me pure.

Whatever storms of life threatens you, remember you can feel secure because you are hidden in the Rock cleft for you.

DIG DEEPER:

The word cleave means “to rip apart, to tear, to divide.” Read Numbers 20:8-12. God told Moses to speak to the rock to release the waters. Why did God punish Moses for striking the rock when he had told Him to speak to it? How did this change the image of Christ as the rock?

Read Colossians 3:1-3.  How does Paul subtly use the image of Jesus as a rock here? What point is he making about our spiritual lives?

Read Psalm 18. What reasons did David give throughout the psalm for saying, “Praise be to my Rock” (v. 46)? What reasons do you have for saying, “Praise be to my Rock”?

To read the lyrics of  “Rock of Ages” go to http://www.cyberhymnal.org/htm/r/o/rockages.htm.

Nancy J. Baker

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