How Firm A Foundation

foundation-layingHow firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,
Is laid for your faith in His excellent Word!
What more can He say than to you He hath said,
You, who unto Jesus for refuge have fled?

In every condition, in sickness, in health;
In poverty’s vale, or abounding in wealth;
At home and abroad, on the land, on the sea,
As thy days may demand, shall thy strength ever be.

Fear not, I am with thee, O be not dismayed,
For I am thy God and will still give thee aid;
I’ll strengthen and help thee, and cause thee to stand
Upheld by My righteous, omnipotent hand.

When through the deep waters I call thee to go,
The rivers of woe shall not thee overflow;
For I will be with thee, thy troubles to bless,
And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.

When through fiery trials thy pathways shall lie,
My grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply;
The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design
Thy dross to consume, and thy gold to refine.

Even down to old age all My people shall prove
My sovereign, eternal, unchangeable love;
And when hoary hairs shall their temples adorn,
Like lambs they shall still in My bosom be borne.

The soul that on Jesus has leaned for repose,
I will not, I will not desert to its foes;
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I’ll never, no never, no never forsake.

Words by John Rippon, 1787
Music by Joseph Funk, 1832

 


“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”
Matthew 7:24 – 27

Be my rock of refuge, to which I can always go; give the command to save me, for you are my rock and my fortress.
Psalm 71:3

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand
Isaiah 41:10

He will sit like a refiner of silver, burning away the dross. He will purify the Levites, refining them like gold and silver, so that they may once again offer acceptable sacrifices to the LORD.
Malachi 3:3

By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames.
1 Corinthians 3:10 – 15


 

We have all heard the story about the leaning tower of Pisa. How it was built straight but due to the foundation being set on unstable ground, over time it has tipped. A pretty telling story of the need for a solid foundation and anyone who has built a structure knows how true it is. The key to a building surviving is that it has a solid foundation. A truth that also applies to our lives. We need a solid foundation to keep our lives from completely falling apart. This is the theme of John Rippon’s hymn, “How Firm A Foundation.”

So the hymn begins with the words, “How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord, Is laid for your faith in His excellent Word!” You see, a shaky foundation will never hold what is built upon it, but a solid foundation will support anything that is built upon it. So just as the foundation is the critical key upon which any structure is built, so the Word of God is the critical key upon which the Christian faith is built. Jesus himself gives us this image in Matthew 7:24 – 27  where He says, “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” We can never expect our faith to last if we do not have the right foundation.

The hymn continues, “What more can He say than to you He hath said, You, who unto Jesus for refuge have fled?” Here the hymn reflects the message of Psalm 71:3 which declares of the Lord, “Be my rock of refuge, to which I can always go; give the command to save me, for you are my rock and my fortress.” So our minds are drawn to the image of fortress, a fortress that again would not stand without the firm foundation. That fortress, that rock, that refuge is Jesus Christ, the Living Word. (John 1:1, Hebrews 4:12)

The hymn then continues, “Fear not, I am with thee, O be not dismayed, For I am thy God and will still give thee aid; I’ll strengthen and help thee, and cause thee to stand Upheld by My righteous, omnipotent hand.” One of the things to note about this hymn is that it is written from the perspective of God to His people. So rather than many hymns where we sing the praises of God to or about Him, here we are granted a glimpse of the incredible blessing that God bestowed upon us. In this verse we have God’s very word, taken straight from scripture, to those who believe. It comes from Isaiah 41:10 where we read, “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” We are reminded that not only is God’s Word our foundation of faith and Jesus Christ our refuge, but that God will always be there for us to uphold and strengthen us not matter the situation.

As we move through the hymn we reads, “The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design Thy dross to consume, and thy gold to refine.” When we first hear these words it can seem a little like a change from where we were.  We have been speaking of foundation, refuges and standing strong, but suddenly we  find our selves speaking of a fire.  Our first thought may lead us to Malachi 3:3 where we read, “He will sit like a refiner of silver, burning away the dross. He will purify the Levites, refining them like gold and silver, so that they may once again offer acceptable sacrifices to the LORD.” And while this is a picture of our growing in faith, we ask how does it fit with the theme of a foundation? When we turn to 1 Corinthians 3:10 – 15 we read, “. . . If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames.” When our foundation is built on the Word, we can confidently build on it.  What we build may at times be of God’s design with lasting materials, but far to often we build of our own design with things that can not last. When the the fire come, that which we built of our own will not remain, but we can find confidence in knowing that the foundation will continue.

Yes, there are many things we can build our lives upon. But at some point, each of these will fail. But we need not be dismayed, for God has given us a foundation that will not fail.  A foundation found in His Word. When we have put our faith in Jesus Christ and allow Him to build on the foundation, we can believe with confidence that it will stand and we will never be alone. We can know that God tells us that He will “never, no never, no never forsake.”

 

 

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