Solid Rock or Sinking Sand

(given on September 7, 2008)

Have you ever awakened in the morning with a song running through you mind? Usually I hear a song as I am driving along or through the day somehow and it gets stuck in my brain on replay. It is enough to drive one over the edge. But last Sunday morning, before getting out of bed, I started hearing “…on Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.” I got in the car to drive to church, and the chorus just kept on playing when I should have been focusing on the day’s sermon.
I finally decided that I needed to look it up and read the hymn’s lyrics. I still am a little puzzled why this song surfaced. I had not sung it in ages nor is it on one of my morning CD’s that I listen to in the mornings. This old hymn is one of the favorites of so many generations and I am convinced that it is as pertinent today as it was when it was written in 1834. The lyrics were not even added to the music until 1873. Why the song is almost 200 years old!
The lyrics, though, have stood the test of time and we love to sing it. Look at that first verse again:
My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand.
Can you put yourself in Moses’ place when Jesus was just a promise from the prophets? He was standing on a mountain when God told him to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. God even told him to prepare a sacrificial meal before they left. I doubt that Moses was standing on a solid rock right then, I bet he felt like he was sinking into the sand.
But the hymn was not written for Moses, it was written for all of us Christians who need hope. In that first verse, we are reminded that Jesus lived and died for us. He provided us hope. He provided us the solid rock on which to build. The line “I dare not trust the sweetest frame” has given me a little trouble, but then I tried to see the hymn as if I were a builder of homes. The sweetest frame becomes the latest building fad. In preaching, it could refer to the stereotypical, fast-talking, television evangelist. Only Jesus is the solid Rock.
But let’s go on. The second verse is a bit easier to understand:
When darkness veils His lovely face,
I rest on His unchanging grace;
In every high and storm gale
My anchor holds within the veil.
We often refer to darkness as those times of trial when we just cannot find hope. It might be dealing with the loss of a family member. It might be the financial challenges we have to manage. The darkness is those difficult times in our lives when we lose hope. Each and every one of us experiences those times. But Jesus never leaves us. We must stay focused and never give up. Jesus is the solid Rock when everything else is sinking around us.
Why even Moses may have had to handle his people like a solid rock. Just as the plagues are unleashed on Egypt, the Israelites had to stay focused on God. They had to rely on Moses’ promise and continue forward. Today’s reading from Exodus shares the story of the first Passover. The Israelites must have been so frightened as the plagues fell upon Egypt, but when they learn that all first-born baby boys are to be killed their hope must have wavered.
God gave Moses the instructions on preparing a sacrificial meal. It could not be done overnight. It took several days. Still stopping in the middle of their preparations to cross desert, the Israelites were reminded to listen to God. They were given hope again. The sinking sand of the Pharaoh’s decree to kill all first born turned to solid rock as they prepared the sacrificial meal, ate it, and resumed their journey out of Egypt.
The Passover meal served as a reminder to the Jewish people that God is their solid Rock. When Jesus was born and lived as Jewish young boy, he participated in that meal. Jesus lived, preached, and died to give all of us hope. The third verse connects us with God’s promise:
His oath, His covenant, and blood
Support me in the whelming flood;
When every earthly prop gives way,
He then is all my Hope and Stay.
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand.
Jesus was the answer to the prophets’ messages. His life and death replaced the covenant of the Old Testament and gave us the new covenant. A covenant that we acknowledge each and every time we take communion.
In last week’s passage from Exodus, I was stopped at the fifth verse when God told Moses to take off his shoes because the ground around the burning bush was holy ground. Wesley’s notes on that verse reminded me that we sometimes honor certain sites, certain customs, and certain rituals as a way to honor God. Communion is one of those rituals we repeat to reconnect us with Christ in a very deliberate way.
In Wesley’s notes for Exodus 12:3-10, the Passover is linked to Communion. The Passover subtly changed the process of sacrifice for the Israelites, the haste to finish the meal and to be prepared to flee are all written into those verses. Look at verse 8-11 from the Message:
You are to eat the meat, roasted in the fire, that night, along with bread, made without yeast, and bitter herbs. Don’t eat any of it raw or boiled in water; make sure it’s roasted—the whole animal, head, legs, and innards. Don’t leave any of it until morning; if there are leftovers, burn them in the fire. And here is how you are to eat it: Be fully dressed with your sandals on and your stick in your hand. Eat in a hurry; it’s the Passover to God.
Wesley explains in his note that this meal was to be eaten as fast as it could in order that the Israelites would be able to flee the moment the Passover ended. They were to flee. This was not a formal, sit-down meal. This was a planned meal that people were eating to sustain them for the journey and for quick departure.
The Communion table is set today so we too can rest assured that God, the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit continue to protect us each and every day from all the difficulties and challenges we experience in our lives. The Communion elements are sacred symbols of Jesus, much like the sacrificial lambs on Moses’ tables, that God is there with us. God is the solid Rock. Jesus Christ is the solid Rock of the New Covenant. God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that we who believe in Him should have eternal life:
When He shall come with trumpet sound,
Oh, may I then in Him be found,
Clothed in His righteousness alone,
Faultless to stand before the throne?
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand.
Dear Heavenly Father,
Today we know that You have given us hope by giving us Your Son. Let us join together at Your table to renew our hope. When all the challenges of our lives feel like sinking sand, Christ, the solid Rock, is all we need. –Amen

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