I remember hearing the song at my grandmother’s funeral.
Back then, I was little girl. My Grandma Edna had died and my Grandpa Dick was devastated. I still remember him with a big white handkerchief as he cried.
And I remember the song: “Rock of Ages.” It was one of my grandma’s favorites.
Recently, I was reading a segment of the “Our Daily Bread” devotional where Amy Boucher Pye retold the story of Augustus Toplady.
Augustus, who wrote the song, was a young minister. In 1763, he was traveling on a road in Somerset, England, when a storm with heavy rain and lightning began.
He ducked into a cave to escape the storm.
While there, he began to write “Rock of Ages.”
His song starts with these words:
“Rock of Ages, cleft for me, let me hide myself in thee….”
No one knows if Augustus was thinking about Moses and the cleft — an opening — in a rock while writing the hymn.
But it makes me wonder.
The story is found in 33rd chapter of the Old Testament book of Exodus.
By this point of time, Moses has led the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt.
The Israelites have seen God part the Red Sea so they could escape from the Egyptian king’s army.
But since then, they’ve been a rebellious bunch — even making and worshiping a golden calf while Moses was on Mount Sinai talking to God.
When Moses comes down from the mountain and sees that golden idol, he’s so mad that he throws the stone tablets containing the Ten Commandments.
And they break.
Moses has the golden calf burned with fire, ground into powder and put into the Israelites’ drinking water.
That must have tasted really bad.
The next day, Moses goes to God, who says he’ll send an angel to accompany the wayward group into the land he promised their forefathers.
But God won’t go.
The Israelites mourn when they hear this.
But Moses has a tent meeting with God, asking him to reconsider.
Because Moses doesn’t want to go anywhere if God’s very own presence doesn’t go, too.
So God agrees to go.
I think that’s amazing.
The Fire Bible also says it seems to show that not every decision the Lord makes is absolutely final and irreversible and that God responds when his people sincerely call on him and commit to his plan.
Does this mean we serve a God who compromises his standards — so people can do whatever they want?
Not at all.
God was firm in his judgement regarding what the Israelites did.
But he’s also a God of incredible mercy, when people seek him and repent.
And Moses isn’t a guy who just wants to see what he can get out of God.
He wants to know God better and please him.
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“Show me now your ways,” Moses says, “that I might know you in order to find favor in your sight.”
Then Moses says: “Please show me your glory.”
And God agrees to do so.
“I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you….” the Lord says. “But you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.”
Then the Lord talks about a rock.
“There’s a place near me where you may stand on a rock,” God says. “When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and will cover you with my hand until I have passed by.
“Then I will remove my hand and you will see my back; but my face must not be seen.”
What must that have been like?
I close my eyes and try to imagine myself in Moses’ sandals. I imagine the warm, steadiness of God’s hands as he lifts the leader and gently places him in the opening of the rock.
Then I image peace as God places his hand over Moses and, finally, a dazzling, brilliant, white light as the leader is allowed to see the back of our magnificent Lord.
But to quote another familiar song: I can only imagine.
After that glorious experience, God tells Moses to cut two tablets of stone.
“And I will write on the tablets the words that were on the first tablets, which you broke,” the Lord says.
When Moses comes down from Mount Sinai with those two tablets, his face is shining so much that the Israelites and even Moses’ own brother, Aaron, are afraid to come near him.
So Moses ends up wearing a veil over his face whenever he is done speaking with God and goes to talk to the Israelites.
I love the story of God putting Moses into the rock and shielding him, because it shows how protective our Lord can be.
And while Augustus faced a literal storm with rain, how many of us have trusted God to shield us from the other storms of life?
Back in the 1980s, I remember being a single mom with $2 in the bank and a lot of worry.
God was my shelter from the storm. It wasn’t easy, but he always pulled me through.
Years later, my husband, Chuck, lost a job right before Christmas. I was pregnant with our son Zach.
But God was our shelter and brought us through that time.
I believe God shielded me from what could have been financial ruin after Chuck died.
And for as bad as the heartache was after Chuck’s death, I believe it could have been worse.
I can’t explain it, but I think God shielded my heart somehow.
And I certainly felt him lift the heavy pain a couple of times when I asked him to do so.
Today, I think about health crises, relationship struggles, heavy workloads and a lot of the stuff we as humans face on this earth.
I’ve seen God carry my biological and church families and friends through some really tough times.
I love how the Psalmist David writes: “He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.” (Psalm 40:2)
God is our shelter. The Holy Spirit is our guide.
And Jesus is our Rock of Ages.
Jesus the rock that doesn’t wear away with time. He’s the rock that doesn’t crumble under heat or pressure. He’s not washed away by storms or floods.
When all else fails, we can cling to our Lord, who is — and who always will be — that rock unmovable.