By Pastor Glenn Pease
1776 was the year the United States of America was born.
It was also the year one of the favorite hymns of all time was born, and that was Rock Of Ages.
The author was an Englishman named Augustus Montague Toplady.
He wrote 133 poems and hymns, but they were all forgotten.
This one, however, lives on, for it gives an image of Jesus that people need.
We need to know that all else can crumble and collapse, but Jesus is that Rock of Ages, that solid rock on which we can stand when all other ground is sinking sand.
Toplady died at the early age of 38, but he was secure in Jesus, and his hymn has been a favorite at funerals ever since, for it reminds us that though life is insecure, Jesus is not.
He is the Rock of Ages.
Toplady's last words were, "My prayers are all converted into praises."
He felt secure because he had built his life on the solid rock.
His hymn has been translated into almost every known language.
What is surprising is that people know this hymn more than they know the Bible reference that gave Toplady the idea.
It is really rather shocking how often God and Jesus are called the Rock in the Bible.
It is one of the major names of God.
Paul in I Cor.
10:3-4 tells us Jesus was with the people of God in the Old Testament disguised as a rock.
The rock from which water poured out to keep them alive in the desert was Jesus.
He wrote, "They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink, for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them and that rock was Christ."
Jesus has always been the source of the water of life, and has always been the Rock of Ages.
He was the source of life and security for God's Old Testament people just as He is for God's New Testament people.
They just did not know it was Jesus as we do.
But they knew their God was a Rock, and they sang of it often.
18:31 we read, "For who is God besides the Lord?
And who is the Rock except our God."
31:2-3, "Turn your ear to me, come quickly to my rescue, be my rock of refuge, a strong fortress to save me.
Since you are my rock and my fortress, for the sake of your name lead and guide me."
England made the Rock of Gibraltar the strongest fort in the world, for it is cut right into the rock and defended with canons.
A certain insurance company has capitalized on this strong image, and the Rock of Gibraltar is their trademark.
God's Old Testament people had this image long before, and God was their Rock.
They didn't just have a piece of the rock, they had the whole Rock.
71:3 stresses it again: "Be my rock refuge, to which I can always go; give the command to save me, for you are my rock and my fortress."
There are so many references to God as the Rock that we cannot read them all, but let me give you just phrases that give you a clear impression.
28:1, "To you I call, O Lord my Rock."
42:9, "I say to God my Rock."
78:35, "They remembered that God was their Rock."
89:26, "You are my Father, my God, the Rock, my Savior."
92:15, "The Lord is upright, He is my Rock."
95:1, "Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord, let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation."
There are many others, but these ought to be sufficient to impress us that the Rock was a favorite image of God in the Old Testament, and of Jesus in the New Testament.
Bible lands were rock filled lands where rocks were a part of their way of life.
This fact motivated me to study rocks, and what I learned was amazing.
Rocks are one of the most valuable resources in the world, and our lives are more dependent upon rocks than we realize.
Let me give you some examples, for the more we see the value of rocks, the more we will treasure what we have in the Rock of Ages.
Many of the wonders of the world were made of huge rocks, and because of this they have survived in part to this day.
You have for example:
The Great Wall of China.
The Great Pyramid of Egypt.
The Parthenon of Greece.
The Aztec Temple of the Sun.
The Stonehenge in England.
The rock is the symbol of stability, and that is why when men build something to last they use rock, or stone if you prefer.
The two terms are used as synonyms in the New Testament.
Peter in I Pet.
2:6-8 calls Jesus the Stone, the Cornerstone, the Precious Stone, the Stone the builders rejected, the Capstone, a Stone that causes men to stumble, and a Rock that makes them fall.
Jesus is the Rock and the Stone.
There are endless parallels between men's use of rocks and stones, and who Jesus is.
Jesus is the Rock, and Jesus is the Way.
If you study the history of roads, you will discover that those that have lasted are made of rock.
The old Roman roads of New Testament days are still being used where they were made of stones.
The old cobblestone roads of early America are still being used in places, and the modern superhighways are built with a foundation of various size rocks, and so is the bed for railroad tracks.
If you want to make a way to anywhere be lasting, you make it with rocks.
Jesus is the permanent way to God and eternal life, for He is the Rock of Ages.
On Christ the solid Rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.
Man knows that anything that lasts has to be built on a solid rock foundation.
That is why there are over three thousand commercial crushed rock plants in the United States.
They play a major role in the construction of our nation.
If you go to the Capital of our country-Washington D.C., you will discover that it conveys an image of strength and endurance, for all of its major buildings and monuments are made of quarried sandstone, limestone, or marble.
The White House, the Capital, the Supreme Court, the Smithsonian Institution, the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Monument, and the Jefferson Memorial, plus many of the lesser known buildings are all made of this material.
When God reveals the eternal city where we will dwell forever, it is a city of such strength and endurance.
The temple is Jesus-the Rock of Ages, and the walls, according to Rev. 21:17, are around 200 feet thick.
There has never been such a city for security.
And for beauty its vast walls are all decorated with the most precious stones God has ever created on this planet.
The study of precious stones in the Bible is a subject in itself that we can only mention at this time.
Rocks are the source of great riches.
Almost all the treasures of this world are hidden in rocks, which are the many jewels of history.
Rocks were a part of the everyday environment of Bible people.
They were everywhere, and they were used constantly for building, grinding, and for weapons.
Not only did man use rocks to build altars to God, but God used rocks to give His laws to man, for Moses came down from Mt. Sinai with the Ten Commandments on two slabs of rock.
When something was written in stone it was meant to be permanent.
When God chooses a man to build His kingdom He chooses a rock-like man.
The Rabbi's said this of Abraham: "When God looked on Abraham, who is to arise, He said, "Low, I have found a rock on which I can build and found the world.
For this reason He called Abraham a rock."
It is of interest that Jesus chose Peter to be the leader of the 12, and they were the foundation of his church.
Petra is the Greek word for rock, and Jesus said, "On this Petra I will build my church."
Peter, who is often more like quicksand, was made a rock that Jesus could build on.
Petrology is the science of rocks.
A specialist is called a Petrologist.
All Christians need to be Petrologists who specialize in the study of the Rock of Ages.
Jesus said the foolish man builds on the sand and the wise man builds on the rock, and so He labored with Peter until he was a solid rock on which He could depend.
We call certain people pillars of the church, because they can be counted on.