The Rock Of Ages

Title: The Rock Of Ages

Bible Book: 1 Corinthians 10 : 4

Author: Franklin L. Kirksey

Subject: Jesus, the Rock of Ages; Security in Christ



From the pages of the Sunday School Times we read, “Many years ago a farmer had an unusually fine crop of grain. Just a few days before it was ready to harvest, there came a terrible hail and wind storm. The entire crop was demolished. After the storm was over, the farmer, with his little son went out on the porch. The little boy looked at what was formerly the beautiful field of wheat, and then with tears in his eyes he looked up at his dad, expecting to hear words of despair. All at once his father started to sing softly, ‘Rock of ages, cleft for me, let me hide myself in Thee.’ Years after, the little boy, grown to manhood, said, ‘That was the greatest sermon I ever heard.’ The farmer lost a grain crop, but who knows but that that was the turning point in the boy’s life? He saw the faith of a godly father   in practice.”1

Dr. Lindsay Terry shares, “Reverend Augustus Montague Toplady (1740-1778) penned these powerful words in 1776 under the title ‘A Living and Dying Prayer for the Holiest Believer in the World.’ This was the first title for one of the most loved of all hymns, ‘Rock of Ages.’”2

Biographer John Telford reveals, “Sir William Henry Wills, in a letter to Dean Lefroy, published in the [London] Times in June, 1898, says ‘Toplady was one day overtaken by a thunderstorm in Burrington Coombe, on the edge of my property, Blagdon, a rocky glen running up into the heart of the Mendip range, and there, taking shelter between two massive piers of our native limestone rock, he penned the hymn, Rock of Ages, cleft for me, Let me hide myself in Thee. There is a precipitous crag of limestone a hundred feet high, and right down its centre is the deep recess in which Toplady sheltered.”3

We understand, “The hymn [“Rock of Ages”] was also reportedly sung at the funeral of American President Benjamin Harrison (1833-1901) because it was his favorite hymn, and the only one he ever tried to sing.”4

Imagine the President of the United States singing these words: 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;

Save from wrath and make me pure.

Not the labor of my hands Can fulfill Thy law’s demands;

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,

[originally When my eye-strings break 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.

Augustus Toplady explains, "We do not think it strange or preposterous to wear clothes, the materials of which we borrow from other creatures; and why should it be deemed absurd, that we should hide our spiritual shame, by appearing before God in the garment of another - even the righteousness of Christ."5

Dr. Lindsay Terry also reveals, "As a teenager, [Augustus Toplady] attended a religious service being held by a lay preacher in a barn at a place called Codymain, Ireland. Later, in his writings, Toplady referred to the incident and pondered how God had brought him to Christ in a barn, with only a few people present, in an out-of-the-way place in Ireland, in response to a sermon preached by a gentleman who could scarcely spell his own name."6

Professor Kenneth W. Osbeck shares, “Augustus Toplady’s strong passionate lines were actually written to refute some of the teachings of John and Charles Wesley during a bitter controversy with them concerning Arminianism (which stresses man’s free will) versus John Calvin’s doctrine of election.” Osbeck continues, “Despite the belligerent intent of this text, God has preserved this hymn for more than 200 years to bring blessing to both Arminian and Calvinistic believers around the world.”7

Best-selling author, Robert J. Morgan, further explains, “Oddly, it [“Rock of Ages”] is remarkably similar to something Wesley had written 30 years before in the preface of a book of hymns for the Lord’s Supper: ‘O Rock of Salvation, Rock stuck and cleft for me, let those two Streams of Blood and Water which gushed from thy side, bring down Pardon and Holiness into my soul.’” Morgan opines, “Perhaps the two men were not as incompatible as they thought.”8

I. The Metaphor Of The Rock

A metaphor is “a figure of speech in which a word or phrase is applied to an object or action that it does not literally apply to in order to imply a resemblance.”9

Someone further explains, “A simile is a metaphor, but not all metaphors are similes. A metaphor transfers the sense or aspects of one word to another. A simile is a type of metaphor in which the comparison is made with the use of the word like or its equivalent.”10

For many years we have heard the commercial that Prudential Insurance used to have about getting a “piece of the rock”. “Prudential’s logo, The Rock of Gibraltar, is one of the most recognized corporate symbols in the world.”11

Chevrolet Trucks featured a line from a 1986 song by Bob Seger in their commercials in 1991 to imply that their vehicles are “Like a Rock.” General Motors dropped the slogan / song like a rock in 2004.12

Colonel Henry Gariepy writes the following in his classic titled 100 Portraits of Christ, “This allegorical title for Christ has captured the imagination of inspired hymn writers who have given us expressions that will live on in the songs of Christendom: ‘On Christ the solid Rock, I stand,’ by Edward Mote; ‘Be our Rock, our Shield, our Tower,’ by William Pearson; ‘We have an anchor. . . fastened to the Rock which cannot move,’ by Priscilla J. Owens; ‘He hideth my soul in the cleft of the rock,’ by Fanny Crosby.”13

II. The Message Of The Rock

We find the message of the Rock throughout the Bible. For example, in Psalm 18:2, the psalmist writes, “The Lord is my Rock, and my Fortress, and my Deliverer” and in Psalm 61:1-4, he writes, “Hear my cry, O God; / Attend to my prayer. From the end of the earth I will cry to You, / When my heart is overwhelmed; / Lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For You have been a shelter for me, / A strong tower from the enemy. I will abide in Your tabernacle forever; / I will trust in the shelter of Your wings. Selah”

David writes in Psalm 62:1 and 2: “Truly my soul silently waits for God; / from Him comes my salvation. He only is my rock and my salvation; / He is my defense; / I shall not be greatly moved.

He also writes in verse five and following:

My soul, wait silently for God alone, / For my expectation is from Him.

He only is my rock and my salvation; He is my defense; / I shall not be moved.

In God is my salvation and my glory; / The rock of my strength, / And my refuge, is in God. Trust in Him at all times, you people; / Pour out your heart before Him; / God is a refuge for us. Selah

Surely men of low degree are a vapor, / Men of high degree are a lie; / If they are weighed on the scales, / They are altogether lighter than vapor.

Do not trust in oppression, / Nor vainly hope in robbery; / If riches increase, /

Do not set your heart on them. God has spoken once, / Twice I have heard this: That power belongs to God. Also to You, O Lord, belongs mercy; / For You render to each one according to his work.

The psalmist also states, “You are my rock and my fortress” (Psalm 71:3b).

Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Moses writes as the oracles of God in Deuteronomy 32:1-4: “Give ear, O heavens, and I will speak; / And hear, O earth, the words of my mouth. Let my teaching drop as the rain, / My speech distill as the dew, / As raindrops on the tender herb, / And as showers on the grass. For I proclaim the name of the Lord: Ascribe greatness to our God. He is the Rock, His work is perfect; / For all His ways are justice, / A God of truth and without injustice; / Righteous and upright is He.”

The prophet Isaiah reminds us in chapter 26 and verses 3 and 4: “You will keep him in perfect peace, / Whose mind is stayed on You, / Because he trusts in You. Trust in the Lord forever, / For in Yah, the Lord, is everlasting strength.”

The phrase “everlasting strength” can be translated “Rock of Ages.”

III. The Meaning Of The Rock

After a review of Old Testament history the apostle Paul emphatically states, “that Rock was Christ” in 1 Corinthians 10:4.

Twice on the journey from Egypt to Canaan the Israelites encountered the Rock. For example, at Rephidim we read, “And all the congregation of the children of Israel journeyed from the wilderness of Sin, after their journeys, according to the commandment of the LORD, and pitched in Rephidim: and there was no water for the people to drink. Wherefore the people did chide with Moses, and said, Give us water that we may drink. And Moses said unto them, Why chide ye with me? wherefore do ye tempt the LORD? And the people thirsted there for water; and the people murmured against Moses, and said, Wherefore is this that thou hast brought us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our cattle with thirst? And Moses cried unto the Lord, saying, What shall I do unto this people? they  be almost ready to stone me. And the Lord said unto Moses, Go on before the people, and take with thee of the elders of Israel; and thy rod, wherewith thou smotest the river, take in thine hand, and go. Behold, I will stand before thee there upon the rock in Horeb; and thou shalt smite the rock, and there shall come water out of it, that the people may drink. And Moses did so in the sight of the elders of Israel” (Exodus 17:1-6).

Then again at Kadesh, we read, “And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Take the rod, and gather thou the assembly together, thou, and Aaron thy brother, and speak ye unto the rock before their eyes; and it shall give forth his water, and thou shalt bring forth to them water out of the rock: so thou shalt give the congregation and their beasts drink. And Moses took the rod from before the Lord, as he commanded him. And Moses and Aaron gathered the congregation together before the rock, and he said unto them, Hear now, ye rebels; must we fetch you water out of this rock? And Moses lifted up his hand, and with his rod he smote the rock twice: and the water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their beasts also” (Numbers 20:7-11).

Please note God instructed Moses to strike the rock in Rephidim and to speak to the rock at Kadesh. Moses, the meekest man, disobeyed God and stuck the rock in Kadesh instead of speaking to it.

Sadly this act misrepresents the metaphor of the rock. Jesus Christ, the Rock, was to be struck only once to bring forth the living water, He mentioned to the woman at the well recorded in John chapter 4.

Colonel Gariepy explains, “As the Israelites were revived and refreshed by God’s supernatural provision, so man’s soul is revived and refreshed by the provision of Christ our spiritual Rock has made for us.” Gariepy adds, “But the rock has to be smitten in order to give forth the refreshing stream of water. Christ, our spiritual Rock, had to be smitten in order for us to partake of the life- giving stream that flows from His cross. Without His stripes we would have no healing; without His sorrows we would have no crown; without His wounds we would have no healing; without His death we would have no life. He is the ‘Rock of Ages’ who was cleft for each of us.”14

We read about “the Chosen Stone and His Chosen People” in 1 Peter 2:1-10: “Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby, if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious.

Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. Therefore it is also contained in the Scripture, “Behold, I lay in Zion A chief cornerstone, elect, precious, / And he who believes on Him will by no means be put to shame.” Therefore, to you who believe, He is precious; but to those who are disobedient, “The stone which the builders rejected / Has become the chief cornerstone,” and “A stone of stumbling / And a rock of offense.” They stumble, being disobedient to the word, to which they also were appointed. But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.”

Peter boldly proclaims the following about our Lord Jesus Christ: “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

If you have never been saved, you can pray a prayer like this: “Dear God, I know that I am a sinner. I know that I have sinned in thought, in word, and in deed. I am a sinner by nature and by choice. I believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross to save me from my sin and that He rose from the grave on the third day. I ask Him to come into my life to be my Savior, my Lord, and my King. Thank You for forgiving me of my sin and for giving me eternal life. In Jesus name, I pray. Amen.

Rev. C. D. Honeyford explains, “Rock of Ages” is “a hymn of faith and love and hope. It is a hymn that expresses simply and beautifully the gospel truth that trust in the Cross of Christ is our only refuge. Is Christ to us all that is claimed for Him in our text [Isaiah 32:2] – a refuge, a river and a rock? ‘And a man shall be as a hiding place from the wind, and a covert form the tempest; as rivers of water in a dry place, as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land’.”15

To you, will Jesus be “the rock of offense” (1 Peter 2:8) or “the Rock of Ages” (Isaiah 26:4)?


1 Knight’s Master Book of New Illustrations, compiled by Walter B. Knight (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdman’s Publishing Company, 1956, 1984), pp. 213-214 Database © 2007 WORDsearch Corp.

2 Lindsay Terry, Stories Behind 50 Southern Gospel Favorites, Vol. 2 (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 2005) p. 190

3 John Telford, The Methodist Hymn-Book Illustrated, fourth edition (London: William Clowes and Sons, Limited, 1924), p. 257

4 Available from: Accessed: 06/27/08

5 Lindsay Terry, Stories Behind 50 Southern Gospel Favorites, Vol. 2 (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 2005) p.192

6 Lindsay Terry, Stories Behind 50 Southern Gospel Favorites, Vol. 2 (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 2005) p. 190

7 Kenneth W. Osbeck, Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1990), p. 114

8 Robert J. Morgan, Then Sings My Soul: 150 of the World’s Greatest Hymn Stories (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2003), p. 75

9 Available from: Accessed: 06/28/08

10 Available    from: simile/ Accessed: 06/24/09

11 Available from: product_id=1014&ch_id=306&co_page-28&v=1 Accessed: 01/23/07

12 Available    from: Accessed: 06/24/09

13 Henry Gariepy, 100 Portraits of Christ (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1987), p. 156

14 Henry Gariepy, 100 Portraits of Christ (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1987), pp. 155-156

15 Knight’s Master Book of New Illustrations, compiled by Walter B. Knight (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdman’s Publishing Company, 1956, 1984), pp. 149-150 Database © 2007 WORDsearch Corp.

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