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Communion Meditations (2017)

Rock of Ages

Exodus 33:18-23

Originally scheduled for August 27

Christians of a certain age will recognize the hymn, Rock of Ages. In many churches today the song is essentially forbidden since it is not normally accompanied by drums, guitars and other modern instruments. Let us take a look at this old hymn.

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.

The story of its writing, as told to me, is that Augustus Toplady, the author, was taking a walk in nature when a sudden rainstorm came on. He found a crack in the rock formations nearby which allowed him to shelter until the rain went on. This given the inspiration for the hymn. When he played it for one of his friends, the man told him, “God has given you a hymn that will never die.” For many years this hymn was quite popular in many different denominations. Toplady extended a physical cleft into a niche large enough to contain all the sinners of the world.

Perhaps the author was influenced by the experience of Moses. Moses asks God to show him his glory. God replies that he will show him instead these four things:

·         His goodness.

·         His Name.

·         His graciousness.

·         His compassion.

But not his glory. When that passes by, Moses is covered by the hand of God so that he may not see it. God tells him that no one may see his glory and live. The passage is dark and rather mysterious and has given rise to a number of interpretations.

Communion, in a small sense, reflects this too. God wants to show you his glory, but you can’t handle it — not yet. So he shows you his goodness and his compassion, his grace and the power of his Name. For in communion you are handling the body and blood of Christ, sacrificed on Calvary for your salvation. Until Christ returns, and we are transformed into what his children will be, we are to look instead at his body and blood as evidence of his grace and compassion. He took pity on us; by his power he forgave us. Thus is his goodness satisfied and sworn by his Name. So as you partake this morning remember that he has provided you a place in the rock where the wrath of God is kept at bay by the goodness and grace shown at the cross.

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