Of all the great hymns there are a few that are absolute gems where each facet of their lyrics hold deep, theological meaning and a true understanding of God’s gift of grace in the face of Christ Jesus. As a classical musician I deal mainly with music with no lyrics. In fact, with most secular songs on the radio I never listen to the words because I am busy hearing and admiring (or disgusted) with the composer’s choices of progressions and melodies, etc. However, when it comes to great hymns one cannot help but to become enthralled with the words – in fact, we’re all too guilty of standing in church and just “singing the song” without ever really reading the words.
I have my favorite hymns: “It is Well With My Soul”,” Crown Him With Many Crowns”, “Rock of Ages”, “Before the Throne of God Above”, “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name” and “Holy, Holy, Holy”. But above all the hymns one in particular has always made me pause – not only is it majestically written but the theological significance behind it is astounding.
The hymn I am referring to is “The Solid Rock”, written by Edward Mote. Just take a look at these lyrics:
My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.
When darkness veils His lovely face,
I rest on His unchanging grace;
In every high and stormy gale,
My anchor holds within the veil.
His oath, His covenant, His blood
Support me in the whelming flood;
When all around my soul gives way,
He then is all my hope and stay.
When He shall come with trumpet sound,
Oh, may I then in Him be found;
Dressed in His righteousness alone,
Faultless to stand before the throne.
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand,
All other ground is sinking sand.
There are some great theology books that don’t describe imputed righteousness from Christ as well as this hymn. Frankly, based on the way most churches today present the Gospel, this is one hymn that should be sung each Sunday then discussed to show the importance of an alien righteousness – a righteousness that comes only from Christ through our faith and trust in Him. An imputed righteousness.
Mr. Mote begins his hymn with four powerful lines telling that his hope is in absolutely nothing except Christ alone. He trusts not in any part of himself. His trust is totally in the righteousness and cleansing blood of the person of Christ Jesus. Now this is an understanding of salvation.
He continues in the next stanza showing that even when his life is like a stormy sea that his hope, trust and faith rests wholeheartedly in the immovable and unshakable Rock that is Christ Jesus. The third stanza echos a similar scenario this time holding fast to the unbreakable covenant of Christ’s blood and the solidity of God’s promises to His adopted children.
Finally, his hope in Christ’s return is followed by the one way he may stand before the Holy Throne and that is only by being clothed in Christ – having the righteousness of Christ so that when God looks on us, He sees not our sin but His Son!
The refrain of this marvelous hymn further brings home an essential truth -
“Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” John 14:6
Our hope can be built on nothing but the Solid Rock – Jesus Christ. Hoping in our works, going to church, our baptism, signing a church membership card, our family or walking the aisle as a child is futile. These are all sinking sand. Our hope must be built on Jesus Christ. Trust and faith in the work and person of God in the flesh – our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Are you hoping in sinking sand is is your hope in the Solid Rock? There are two ways to live.
So next time you’re singing some of these wonderful hymns in church take time to read the words and reflect on the beautiful meanings behind them. And if your church has chosen not to sing some of these great hymns encourage your music minister to throw a few in to the service…. especially for the youth. I don’t have a problem with contemporary Christian music as long as the message behind them is sound theologically. But that’s a topic for another post!
Soli Deo Gloria!