When people visit England, there are a number of things they want to see. There are the many sights in London: Buckingham Palace, the Tower of London, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Piccadilly Circus, the Houses of Parliament, and many others. Outside of London are also thousands of things to see and places to visit.
Out in what is called “the West Country” is a special place. Thousands of people flock to it every year. It’s a rocky steep-sided gorge, made famous throughout the world by the name of a cheese, Cheddar.
This gorge is famous for another reason. It’s a story that goes something like this:
One evening years ago a man was walking up through that deep gorge when a storm broke. The rain came down in torrents. He knew that he would never make it through the top end of the gorge and onto high ground. But he ran anyway. It was pitch dark.
The water began rising. The man was forced to climb up the rocky side of the gorge. His hands groped for something to hold. He was soaking wet. He slipped back several times. With all his strength he gradually inched his way upward. All of a sudden his hand felt a vertical opening in a huge rock. The opening became wider. There was room for his upper body, then for his entire body. He wedged himself into the split rock, and there found shelter from the fierce storm, high enough above the raging water to be completely safe. There he waited out the storm.
The man was a Christian clergyman. He had been praying during this whole ordeal. Now resting in the security of the split rock, words began to come to him — words which, when he arrived home, he would put on paper for all the world to sing. The man’s name was Augustus Toplady, the year was 1776. And the famous words were those of the hymn ‘Rock Of Ages, Cleft For Me.’
They say, “You can run but you can’t hide.” It’s not true. Not spiritually true, anyway. There are other hymns which testify to that. Like “Jesus, Lover of my Soul, let me to Thy bosom fly . . . Hide me, O my Saviour, hide, till the storm of life is past . . .”
There are many hymns famous around the world. ‘Rock of Ages’ is one of them. It is in the ‘Justification’ section of our hymnal. It points us to our Lord Jesus Christ, the God of the 46th Psalm, our Refuge and Strength, our Mighty Fortress. As the hymn says, we have no other refuge. We need no other. His side was split (riven) so that we might hide in the wounds made there on the cross, where He suffered for our sins.
Every time we come to church we come to hide in the Gospel. Every time we have our home or personal devotions, we run and hide in Christ. Every time we preach or teach or tell the Good News, we are telling people there is a place to hide. Every time we pray, basing our prayer on a Gospel verse, we hide in the only safe place there is.
What a comfort, in life and in death. Thanks be to our saving God.
— Pastor Warren Fanning