The Extremity of God’s Grace in “Rock of Ages”

If you have been reading through the Bible with us this year, you may, like me, have been struck by the wrath of God toward sin. God’s wrath is real and it is just, but in my pride I often look at it as extreme. The story of Nadab and Abihu from Leviticus 10 comes to mind, when God consumed two priests with fire because they improperly used incense before His holy presence. Or when God caused the earth to open up and swallow all that were with him in Numbers 16.

The truth of the matter, however, is that God’s wrath is not extreme. It is just. What is extreme is His grace. One of the clearest pictures of this in the Old Testament is found in Exodus 33 where we read:

18 Moses said, “Please show me your glory.” 19 And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The Lord.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. 20 But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.” 21 And the Lord said, “Behold, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock, 22 and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by.

We cannot see God’s glory and live because we are sinners. But God, in the extremity of His grace makes a way for us to not only glimpse His glory as Moses did, but to approach His throne, be in His presence, and even to dwell within us. He hides us in the cleft of the rock and protects us from His wrath. The name of that Rock is Jesus.

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; safe from wrath and make me pure.

These lyrics come from Rock of Ages, the 1750 hymn written by Augustus Toplady, and they carry some of the most striking images of God’s extreme grace towards sinners. The song expresses rich doctrinal truth using rich and beautiful imagery. It clearly communicates our desperate need for salvation, and it makes plain that our only hope is Jesus Christ, the Rock of Ages, who was wounded for our transgressions and crushed for our iniquities.

I would encourage you to read through the lyrics below. You can also buy and listen to the song here.

Rock of Ages

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 labors of my hands can fulfill thy law’s commands;
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,
When I soar to worlds unknown, see thee on thy judgment throne,
Rock of Ages, cleft for me, let me hide myself in thee.

Post by Jacob Deems.