"THERE STANDS A ROCK"
"Thou art my Rock and my fortress" (Psa. 71.3)
INTRO.: A song which identifies the Lord as our Rock is "There Stands a Rock" (#188 in Hymns for Worship Revised and #122 in Sacred Selections for the Church). The text is often identified as having been written by "S. S. Journal." This, of course, could possibly be the name of a person, but in this case it is not. It stands for Sunday School Journal, a religious paper, in an 1871 edition of which this anonymous poem appeared. The refrain was added and the tune (Upon the Rock) was composed by Tullius Clinton O’Kane (1830-1912). A native of Fairfield County, OH, who spent most of his life in Delaware, OH, O’Kane edited several gospel song collections which contained many of his own melodies, some of the more familiar of which are used with "Is It For Me?", "O Think of the Home Over There," and "On Jordan’s Stormy Banks" ("Evergreen Shore"). "There Stands A Rock" was published in 1872. In his Reflections on Our Hymns, Max Wheeler states that O’Kane was a member of the church of Christ.
Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ, this hymn was included in the 1921 Great Songs of the Church (No. 1) and the 1937 Great Songs of the Church No. 2 both edited by E. L. Jorgenson; the 1935 Christian Hymns (No. 1), the 1948 Christian Hymns No. 2, and the 1966 Christian Hymns No. 3 all edited by L. O. Sanderson; the 1963 Christian Hymnal edited by J. Nelson Slater; and the 1963 Abiding Hymns edited by Robert C. Welch. Today it is still found in the 1971 Songs of the Church, the 1990 Songs of the Church 21st C. Ed., and the 1994 Songs of Faith and Praise all edited by Alton H. Howard; the 1978 (Church) Gospel Songs and Hymns edited by V. E. Howard; and the 1992 Praise for the Lord edited by John P. Wiegand; in addition to Hymns for Worship, Sacred Selections, and the 2007 Sacred Songs of the Church edited by William D. Jeffcoat. It has proven to be a very popular song among brethren.
The song identifies three pictures of the Rock that can be applied to us.
I. Stanza one says that the Rock is cleft
"There stands a Rock on shores of time That rears to heaven its head sublime;
That Rock is cleft, and they are blest Who find within this cleft a rest."
A. The Rock is Christ: 1 Cor. 10.4
B. The word "cleft" means split; a cleft place in a rock was often used as a place of protection: Jer. 49.16; the fact that the Rock is cleft might also symbolize the fact that Jesus was crucified for us (cf. Jn. 19.31-37)
C. And we can find within this cleft a rest because Jesus offers rest to the weary: Matt. 11.28-30
II. Stanza two says that the Rock is a cross
"That Rock’s a cross, its arms outspread; Celestial glory bathes its head.
To its form base my all I bring, And to the cross of Ages cling."
A. Here we have a form of metonymy where the cross is put for Him who died upon it, Christ, the Rock: Matt. 27:32-35
B. We come to the cross by bringing our lives in humble submission to Christ: Gal. 6.14
C. Thus, clinging to the cross does not have anything to do with the literal image of the cross, but simply refers to holding fast to what the cross represents, the message of salvation in Christ revealed in the written word: 1 Cor. 1.18
III. Stanza three says that the Rock is a tower
"That Rock’s a tower whose lofty height, Illumined with heaven’s unclouded light,
Opes wide its gates beneath the dome Where saints find rest with Christ at home."
A. A tower was often a place of refuge and protection: Psa. 61.3
B. In the desert, a tall rock might look like a tower and in fact serve as one by being either a source of refuge from the heat or even a location where one might defend himself against enemies; as such a tower, Jesus has opened the gates of salvation for all mankind: Matt. 7.13-14
C. And by opening these gates, He has made it possible for saints to find rest with Him at home: Rev. 14.13
CONCL.: The chorus reminds us that while some build their hopes on the ever-drifting sand of fame, treasure, or land, we should build our houses on Jesus Christ who is the Rock of Ages (Matt. 7.24-27).
"Some build their hopes on the ever-drifting sand,
Some on their fame or their treasure or their land;
Mine’s on the rock that forever shall stand, Jesus, the ‘Rock of Ages.’"
We can be thankful that that Rock is available to us for rest, salvation, and protection. And we need to be pointing out to a world lost in sin that "There Stands A Rock."