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Daily Distinctives, April 17, 2015 (How Firm A Foundation)

April 17, 2015

Daily Reading:

How Firm A Foundation

How firm a foundation ye saints of the Lord,
Is Laid for your faith in in His excellent WORD!
What more can He say than to you He hath said,
You unto Jesus for refuge have fled.

In every condition, in sickness, in health,
In poverty’s vale or abounding in wealth,
At home or abroad, on the land or the sea,
As thy days may demand, so thy succor shall 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 thee, 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 sorrow shall not thee o’erflow,
For I will be with thee, thy troubles to bless,
And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.

When through fiery trials thy pathway 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.

E’en down to old age, all my people shall prove,
My sovereign, eternal, unchangeable love;
And then, when gray hair shall their temples adorn,
Like lambs shall they still in my bosom be borne.

The soul that on Jesus hath leans for repose,
I will not, I cannot, desert to his foes;
That soul, through all hell should endeavor to shake,
I’ll never, no never, no never forsake!

Daily Distinctive:

From time-to-time I will deviate from devotional time in the study of God’s WORD and reflect on some form of worship and praise music. Today is such a day. So if you read the hymn above you might be questioning why there are no verses, but what looks like a poem instead. This is why. If you listen to the radio broadcasts of J. Vernon McGee, the song may be somewhat familiar to¬†you. It has an interesting history and and even enigmatic origins as the author appears to be attributed to someone with the initial “K.”

Interested in the origins and history of the hymn, which I learned is a discipline in Christian studies called “Hymnology,” I discovered that back in the late 1700’s (1787 to be exact), John Rippon, the pastor of Carter Lane Baptist Church in London, had published a book called, A Selection of Hymns from the Best Authors in 1787. It was Rippon who attributed the works to the mystery writer “K.” William Reynolds, a prominent¬†Hymnologist, noted that the 1822 edition designated the author to be “Kn,” later attributing the work to “Keen” in 1835. It was not until an 1884 edition was the final authorship given to “Kirkham” for the hymn.

What I found of personal interest regarding the history of the poem was that it was a favorite of one my late relatives, General Robert E. Lee, who commanded the Confederate Army during the Civil War. He loved the hymn so much that he requested that it be played at his funeral. But deeper than the connection with my ancestors is the connection that the hymn has with my own soul. And so what I thought I would do is look at the hymn in it’s entirety and simply spend my devotional time meditating on the wealth and abundance of blessing that is, “How Firm A Foundation.

How firm a foundation ye saints of the Lord,
Is Laid for your faith in in His excellent WORD!
What more can He say than to you He hath said,
You unto Jesus for refuge have fled.

It is true that we have an immovable foundation in the LORD. We are told in 1 Corinthians 3:11 and in 2 Timothy 2:19 the following….

[1Co 3:11 NKJV]
For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.

[2Ti 2:19 NKJV]
Nevertheless the solid foundation of God stands, having this seal: “The Lord knows those who are His,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity.”

We build the foundation of our faith on the immutable WORD of God Himself! And so we flee to the LORD for our refuge and live according to the hope that He provides us. We take shelter in the One who gave His life so that we might have life and that more abundantly.

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

We read of a similar encouragement in the words of the great Apostle Paul who said in Philippians 4:12-13…

[Phl 4:12 NKJV]
I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.

[Phl 4:13 NKJV]
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

God is faithful to His children no matter their condition, whether it be in sickness, health, rich or poor, here or there, it is of no consequence to God, for He is the omnipresent and follows us to the deepest depths and greatest heights of our humanity and gives His aid to us in whatever our state.

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

Almost verbatim the hymn writer quotes from the Book of Isaiah in this stanza of the hymn, look at Isaiah 41:10, it is here that we read…

[Isa 41:10 NKJV]
Fear not, for I [am] with you; Be not dismayed, for I [am] your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’

The words of the Prophet Isaiah are just as true for me today. The LORD has commanded us to not be afraid, because He is with us. God is the author of the cosmos and all of eternity, we have nothing to fear. God is our strength and our protector and if He promises to hold us up in His righteous right hand, then we have no firmer foundation, no greater security, no power greater to whom we should cling for safety.

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

God does indeed call each of His saints to tread through the deep and tumultuous waters of this life. When there seems that there is no sure footing and we are certain to be swept away by the current we need only press in to the LORD who carries through the deepest waters, the hottest flames and the most troublesome of trials. It would appear that again the hymn writer draws from Isaiah, this time from Isaiah 43:2 where we read….

[Isa 43:2 NKJV]
When you pass through the waters, I [will be] with you; And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, Nor shall the flame scorch you.

God has designed for us many trials that prove us and shape us as a part of the sanctification process. One the greatest analogies of these trials is found in the fires of the Refiner Himself.

When through fiery trials thy pathway 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.

When I read of this I am immediately drawn to the passage of Scripture concerning the three Hebrew boys, Shadrach, Meshack, and Abednigo, who refused to bow down to the king and were cast into the fiery furnace. Christ walked with them through the fire as He will with us when we encounter the flames. The youths emerged unscathed by the fire and so shall we so long as we are walking with Jesus. But a refiners fire does still impact us deeply. It removes the dross, or sin in our lives and purifies us so that we walk in newness of life and in the image of our Creator Jesus.

E’en down to old age, all my people shall prove,
My sovereign, eternal, unchangeable love;
And then, when gray hair shall their temples adorn,
Like lambs shall they still in my bosom be borne.

While we are, none of us, promised another breath of life, God sustains us moment by moment according to His sovereign will, His Grace and His love. Now it may be argued that God does promise us a number of days (Psalm 90:10; Genesis 6:3), but it is not guaranteed to us. I have known saints that have gone early to the grave by our accounting; still it is God who determines the number of our days. In a song that I wrote long ago I sang about this exact thing. My lyrics go…

Father God, You know the number of my days,
And when I wake, You know it’s You alone I praise
Father God, You count the hairs upon my head,
And when they’ve grayed, You’ll know I’ve followed where You’ve lead.

The point is simply this; if we reach an age where our hairs are gray we will have reached that ripe old age solely by the love and grace of God who has ordained our days before the foundations of the world were ever laid. And we read in the final stanza…

The soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose,
I will not, I cannot, desert to his foes;
That soul, through all hell should endeavor to shake,
I’ll never, no never, no never forsake!

I take great comfort in the knowledge that come hell or high water I will not be moved. For my foundation is built upon the solid rock of Jesus Christ in whom I place my faith and security. Jesus said that He would never leave me nor forsake me (Deuteronomy 31:6; Deuteronomy 31:8; Joshua 1:5; 1Kings 8:57; 1Chronicles 28:20; Psalms 37:28; Psalms 94:14;  Isaiah 41:17; Isaiah 42:16; Hebrews 13:5, and the list goes on). The point is simply this; God will never leave us nor forsake us. His WORD is His proof and He will not deny His promises; it is not in His nature to do so. We can rest securely then on the firm foundation which is laid by Jesus Christ and How Firm A Foundation it is indeed!

Daily Muse:

His love is so bountiful towards me I cannot contain the joy for knowing it. I think about my life before I surrendered to Christ and even then I see His hand was upon me to bring me to Himself. The joy, shear joy. He is faithful and He is working in me to create a being like no other. Uniquely prepared for a purpose and kept by Him for that day when He shall call me out and I shall go before His saints to minister and be ministered to. Already I am in ministry according to His purpose and His will, but I rest in the knowledge that the best is yet to come. Praise be to God my firm foundation!

Daily Prayer:

LORD, You are the rock of my foundation, in Your clefts I dwell. I find my peace and security in You alone. Your love for me reaches to the heavens and I cannot be moved for You uphold me with Your right hand. I am strengthened in my weakness and healed in my infirmity, You have borne my stripes so that I could be freed from the wages of my sin and the rightful condemnation I deserve. By grace I have been saved through my faith in You and I rest in the assurance of my salvation, looking to You daily for my direction, my strength, my sustenance, my peace. To You be the glory LORD Jesus, forever and ever.    -Amen

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