1. Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee;
Let the water and the blood,
From Thy wounded side which flowed,
Be of sin the double cure,
Save from wrath and make me pure.
2. Could my tears forever flow,
Could my zeal no languor know,
These for sin could not atone,
Thou must save, and Thou alone:
In my hand no price I bring,
Simply to Thy cross I cling.
3. When the time of wrath draws nigh,
Frightful darkness fills the sky,
Angry voices seeking blood,
Swept away by fire and flood;
Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee.
4. When I rise to worlds unknown,
And behold Thee on Thy throne,
This my song and safety be,
“Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee.”
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This is the traditional Christian hymn, by Augustus Toplady, but I have updated it for modern application. Verse 1, 2, 3b, and 4a are from Toplady. 3a and 4b were added.
The original Bible reference to hiding in the cleft of the rock was when Moses wanted to see God’s glory:
18 And he said, I beseech thee, shew me thy glory.
19 And he said, I will make all my goodness pass before thee, and I will proclaim the name of the LORD before thee; and will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will shew mercy on whom I will shew mercy.
20 And he said, Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live.
21 And the LORD said, Behold, there is a place by me, and thou shalt stand upon a rock:
22 And it shall come to pass, while my glory passeth by, that I will put thee in a clift of the rock, and will cover thee with my hand while I pass by:
23 And I will take away mine hand, and thou shalt see my back parts: but my face shall not be seen.
The rock was a symbol of Christ, and the “clift” or “cleft” was symbolic of the piercing of His body, when on the cross, from which wound flowed blood and water, the two symbols of purifying grace. So it is that only by the purifying blood, and washing of water by the word of God, can sinful men be restored to open communion with their Maker.
Hiding in the cleft of the rock will also have a very literal application again, just as it did with Moses, when the faithful of the Lord have to flee to the mountains and hills, because of the final persecution raised against them. There, the rocks will be a refuge and shield, reminding them of the gracious protection of their Lord.
20 Come, my people, enter thou into thy chambers, and shut thy doors about thee: hide thyself as it were for a little moment, until the indignation be overpast.
21 For, behold, the Lord comes out of his place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity: the earth also shall disclose her blood, and shall no more cover her slain.
The time for this “hiding” is when the Lord “comes out of His place,” or simply put, when Christ leaves the temple in heaven to return to this earth. Another chapter in Isaiah speaks of the same time:
10 Now will I rise, saith the LORD; now will I be exalted; now will I lift up myself.
Previously Christ had been sitting at the right hand of the Father in heaven, on the Father’s throne of grace. Now He rises up (see also Daniel 12:1), and returns as King of glory. The chapter goes on to describe the actions of God’s children at that time, and shows them again hiding in the “munitions of rocks”:
14 The sinners in Zion are afraid; fearfulness hath surprised the hypocrites. Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings?
15 He that walks righteously, and speaks uprightly; he that despises the gain of oppressions, that shakes his hands from holding of bribes, that stops his ears from hearing of blood, and shuts his eyes from seeing evil;
16 He shall dwell on high: his place of defense shall be the munitions of rocks: bread shall be given him; his waters shall be sure.
17 Thine eyes shall see the king in his beauty: they shall behold the land that is very far off.
I have tried to convey that thought in the third verse of this song.
The fourth verse carries the idea that “hiding in the cleft of the Rock” is a principle that endures throughout eternity. It means never losing sight of our utter dependence upon God. Even when we have sinless bodies and minds, we can only maintain that condition by eternally being aware of our constant need and dependence on God.
Were we to lose sight of that, we would repeat the sin of Lucifer in heaven, who lost sight of the fact that all his gifts came from God, and instead became enamored with his own beauty. This led to pride, which in turn gave birth to every other sin. Hiding in the Rock of Ages means never losing sight of God’s glory, and that it is His righteousness that makes us beautiful.
Isaiah also prophesies that when Christ will return from heaven in the sight of all men, the wicked will flee from His presence. They also hide themselves in the cleft of the rock, but not to find restoration and union with God, but rather to run away from Him, because they joined themselves to their sins, and would not prepare for His kingdom of righteousness and holiness:
17 And the loftiness of man shall be bowed down, and the haughtiness of men shall be made low: and the LORD alone shall be exalted in that day.
18 And the idols he shall utterly abolish.
19 And they shall go into the holes of the rocks, and into the caves of the earth, for fear of the LORD, and for the glory of his majesty, when he ariseth to shake terribly the earth.
20 In that day a man shall cast his idols of silver, and his idols of gold, which they made each one for himself to worship, to the moles and to the bats;
21 To go into the clefts of the rocks, and into the tops of the ragged rocks, for fear of the LORD, and for the glory of his majesty, when he ariseth to shake terribly the earth.