CHRIST OUR ROCK OF REFUGE
CHRIST OUR ROCK OF REFUGE (Part 1): The word “REFUGE” is from a Latin word meaning to escape and depicts a place which provides shelter or protection from trouble, danger or distress. A REFUGE is a place of safety and security. And so it is fitting for David to invite us: “O taste and see that the LORD is good; How blessed is the man who takes REFUGE IN HIM (the Solid Rock)!” (Ps 34:8-note) In contrast, in his classic Paradise Lost, John Milton writes “Rocks, dens and caves (of this passing world)…in none of these, find place or REFUGE.” In the Revelation, kings, great men, commanders, rich, strong, slave and free, all hide themselves in “the rocks” of this world and say “to the rocks “Fall on us and hide us from the presence of Him Who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb.” (Rev 6:15-16-note, cp Lk 23:30-note, Isa 2:19-note) Spurgeon writes “It will be vain to call to the rocks in the day of judgment, but our ROCK attends to our cries!”
And so we see that every man of every age will chose to hide either in the “rocks” of this passing world or in the “everlasting ROCK” (Isa 26:4-note), a solid, unchanging ROCK (Heb 13:8-note, Mal 3:6-note, Ps 102:26-27-note). Indeed, the believer’s sure REFUGE in this world and the next is not a place but a Person, Christ Jesus, our “ROCK in Whom (we) take REFUGE” (Ps 18:2-note), for “Who is a ROCK, except our God?” (Ps 18:31-note). “It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in man.” (Ps 118:8-note) Spurgeon exhorts us “to let the sandy foundations of terrestrial trust be the choice of fools, but we are to be like one who foresees the storm, and builds for ourselves an abiding place upon the Rock of Ages.” Ray Stedman encourages us to “Remember that, when you feel defeated, when you are under attack, when doubts come flooding into your mind. Remember that you are already encircled by the belt of truth. You have found the One who is the solid, unchanging Rock. The words of the hymn express this well: On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand, All other ground is sinking sand.” Moses affirms this faith stabilizing truth declaring “The ROCK! His work is perfect, for all His ways are just. A God of faithfulness and without injustice, righteous and upright is He” (Dt 32:4-note) Moses then reminds us that the world’s “rock is not like our ROCK, as even our enemies concede.” (Dt 32:31-note). Dear Father, we who are so prone to wander (and wonder!) ask that by Your sweet Spirit, you might enable us moment by moment “to fix our eyes on Jesus” (Heb 12:2-note), our “spiritual ROCK” (1Cor 10:4-note), so that we might not be like those of old who so often “neglected the ROCK” (Dt 32:18-note), who quickly forgot “the God of their salvation and who did not remember the ROCK of their REFUGE” (Isa 17:10-note, cp Hos 4:6-note). Amen
OUR ROCK OF REFUGE: THE ROCK OF AGES: In the mysterious, providential working of the Spirit of God (Jn 3:8-note), an uneducated layman named James Morris once preached a simple sermon on Ephesians 2:13-note (“But now IN Christ Jesus [think “safe IN the Rock of Refuge”] you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ”) in a barn in Ireland reaping only one conversion (Jn 4:37-38-note), a highly educated 16 yo boy named Augustus Montague Toplady, who had been stirred to attend by an earthquake that had recently rocked the British Isles. “God moves in a mysterious way, His wonders to perform. He plants His footsteps in the sea, and rides upon the storm.” (Cowper) As an aside may the profound impact of this one otherwise unknown and unlettered man’s words on young Toplady’s heart be an encouraging reminder to all of us that the “the Gospel is the (intrinsic, inherent, “self-contained”) power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Ro 1:16-note), that the Holy Spirit can speak through anyone (E.g., see Nu 22:28-30-note), and finally that He can make “beautiful (literally “timely in the arrival of”) the feet of those who tell good news, who make the Gospel known.” (Ro 10:15-note, Isa 52:7-note)
Augustus Toplady soon felt God’s call to preach the Gospel himself and this he did for the remainder of his short life of 38 years (1740-1778). During his life he preached thousands of sermons, wrote hundreds of poems, and composed 133 hymns. In 1763 Toplady was walking home, when he was caught in a sudden, violent thunderstorm. At first there seemed to be no hiding place, but he soon spied a cleft in a rock, into which he ran and in which he was able to just barely stand upright. And there he remained for refuge as the thunder roared and the lightning flashed. And as he stood in the cleft of this rock, he redeemed the time (Eph 5:16-note) in a most unique way, for these words welled up in his soul (how fitting that they are in the form of a prayer)
Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee;
Let the water and the blood,
From Thy riven side which flowed,
Be of sin the double cure,
Cleanse me from its guilt and pow’r.
Beloved, we have an enduring Rock, Isaiah recording that “The steadfast of mind Thou wilt keep in perfect peace (literally “in shalom, shalom”), because he trusts in Thee. Trust in the LORD forever, for (always pause and ask what is the “for” explaining) in God the LORD (literally “in Yah, Yahweh”), we have an EVERLASTING ROCK (literally “a ROCK OF AGES”)!” (Isa 26:3-4-note) (Choral Version of Rock of Ages) (Rock in Which Toplady Supposedly Hid)
O Everlasting Rock,
Sole Refuge in distress,
My Fort when foes assail and mock,
My Rest in weariness!
HIDDEN IN THE CLEFT OF THE ROCK IN TIME AND ETERNITY: When Moses said “I pray Thee, show me Thy glory!” the LORD responded by telling Moses “Behold, there is a place by Me, and you shall stand there ON THE ROCK” and “while My glory is passing by, I will put you IN THE CLEFT OF THE ROCK and cover you with My hand.” (Ex 33:18, 21, 22-note) ON the rock, IN the rock, even the ROCK OF AGES cleft for me! Spurgeon asks “O my soul, what is the cleft of the rock where thou must stand, if thou wouldst ever see God’s face, and live? Oh, it is the “Rock of ages, cleft for me,” where I must hide! Oh, what a cleaving that was when Jesus died! O my soul, enter into the cleft in Jesus’ side. That is the cleft of the rock where thou must abide, and see God.” In John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress (“Tenth Stage”), Christian and Hopeful come to a river (Bunyan’s portrayal of passing from this world into the next) and “Christian began to sink, and crying out to his good friend Hopeful, he said, I sink in deep waters; the billows go over my head; all his waves go over me. Selah. Then said the other, Be of good cheer, my brother: I feel the bottom, and it is good.” Stand ON the Rock and IN the Rock of Refuge (“IN CHRIST”) in this life and He will give you a firm footing as you walk into the next life, for there is “no condemnation for those who are IN Christ Jesus (our Rock of Refuge),” (Ro 8:1-note) for even death “shall not be able to separate us from the love of God which is IN Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Ro 8:39-note). As Queen Victoria’s beloved husband Prince Albert lay on his death-bed, he again and again sang the Rock of Ages including the words “Nothing in my hand I bring; Simply to Thy Cross I cling” adding “If in this hour I had only my worldly honors and dignities to depend on, I should be poor indeed.” Ira Sankey wrote that “Years ago, when a ship sank in the Bay of Biscay (January 11, 1866), a man who was saved was asked what the passengers were doing when the ship went down. He said that the last he heard was “Rock of Ages,” sung by all who could join in it.”
Indeed, Moses affirms that “The eternal God is thy REFUGE, and underneath are the everlasting arms: and He shall thrust out the enemy from before thee” (Dt 33:27-note) and “The last enemy that will be abolished is death.” (1Cor 15:26-note). “Bless the LORD, O my soul. Praise the LORD” (Ps 104:35-note), our everlasting Rock of Refuge. As Spurgeon affirms “I am in a cleft of a ROCK which is so enduring that time can never dissolve it. Precious Christ, may I be found in Thee amidst the concussion of the elements when the world shall melt away (2Pe 3:10-12-note), and the heavens shall be dissolved (Isa 34:4KJV-note)! Oh, may I stand in Thee, Thou precious cleft of the Rock, for Thou art all-in-all to my soul!” Puritan Thomas Watson writes that as “the dove hides ‘in the clefts of the rock, in the secret places of the cliffs’ (Song 2:14-note), Christ’s wounds are the clefts of the rock where the believing soul hides itself!” F B Meyer adds that He “is the Rock of Ages! Time may beat upon Him, but it cannot alter Him or impair Him. Whilst this fleeting breath is drawn, when eyes close in death, when unknown worlds are entered, when the judgment throne is set, always and for ever the soul may shelter in the cleft Rock of the unchanging Redeemer, and Peace, like a double window, intercepts alarm from the heart which is stayed on God and trusting in Him (Isa 26:3KJV-note).”
In fitting tribute to our Rock of Refuge, Fanny Crosby penned these beautiful words: “He hideth my soul in the cleft of the ROCK (click to play hymn) that shadows a dry, thirsty land; He hideth my life in the depths of His love, and covers me there with His hand, and covers me there with His hand.” As Samuel Rutherford rightly said we should “Not Build (our) nest on any tree of earth, seeing God has sold the forest to Death. But rather soar upwards to the sure and immutable REFUGE in the Cleft of the ROCK,” the “ROCK that is higher than” we (Ps 61:2-note). John describes the NT parallel of being hidden in the cleft of the Rock writing “And we know that the Son of God has come, and has given us understanding, in order that we might know Him Who is true, and we are IN HIM Who is true, IN His Son Jesus Christ (our Rock of Refuge). This is the true God and eternal life.” (1Jn 5:20-note)
O safe to the Rock that is higher than I
My soul in its conflicts and sorrows would fly;
So sinful, so weary — Thine, Thine would I be;
Thou blest “Rock of Ages,” I’m hiding in Thee.
Are the storm winds raging in your life? Are you hiding in Christ, the Rock of your Refuge? He will “always fill (your) heart with songs of deliverance, whenever (you are) afraid.” Listen to this great song “You are My Hiding Place” (Sung by Selah)
You are my Hiding Place
You always fill my heart
With songs of deliverance
Whenever I am afraid
I will trust in You,
I will trust in You,
Let the weak say
I am strong in the strength of the Lord.