The Glory of God in the Hymnal Classic ‘Rock of Ages’ – Part 5
by Robie Day
While I draw this fleeting breath,
When my eyes shall close in death,
When I rise to worlds unknown,
And behold Thee on Thy throne,
Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee.
To begin the final stanza of his poem, “Rock of Ages,” Augustus Toplady immediately draws our attention to our final breath of life, in which our eyes will be drawn closed in death. It is an inevitable moment for each of us, as can be seen in Romans 6:23, “the wages of sin is death” (ESV), and in Hebrews 9:27, “it is appointed for man to die once” (ESV). As a result of sin, each of us will draw a final “fleeting breath” as our eyes close for the last time. However, each of the aforementioned passages go on to offer a hope beyond that moment of death. The entire verse of Romans 6:23 reads, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (ESV), while Hebrews 9:27-28 reads, “And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him” (ESV). Toplady’s main point in this stanza is that same hope as offered in these passages; that beyond that final breath, there is “eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” for those who are “eagerly waiting for him.” When, after death, we “rise to worlds unknown” and come before God on his throne of judgment, those who trust in Christ as Lord and Savior will receive the free gift of eternal salvation, avoiding the wrath that we discussed in last week’s post. This is why Toplady refers to Jesus as our “Rock” and “cleft.” His death and resurrection gives us comfort and security, knowing that his righteousness is imputed to us and our sins are passed over in judgment (Rom. 3:25), so that we may have eternal joy and fellowship with God in heaven. As we have seen over the past several weeks, it is only here, in Christ, that we can find this security. It is not because of any work that we have performed to deserve it, but because of his grace in offering salvation as a free gift to those who “confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead” (Rom. 10:9). Let us sing this song with reverence, giving glory and praise to God for his grace and mercy. Soli Deo Gloria.
“I will put you in a cleft of the rock.” Exodus 33:22
In last week’s post I included my favorite version of “Rock of Ages,” by Ascend the Hill. This version, however, comes in a very close second. It is a beautiful, yet simplistic version of the song, played on a harmonica. Enjoy!