How Firm a Foundation

This praise song is from 1787 (over 225 years ago!). The author was daring to put words into God's mouth, but "K" knew his/her Bible well. Every phrase is thoroughly biblical, as I've tried to show below. You can listen to the entire song at the T4G Conference here or at the Resolved  Conference here.

V1 How 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 To you who for refuge to Jesus have fled

V2 "Fear not, I am with you; oh be not dismayed For I am your God and will still give you aid I’ll strengthen you, help you, and cause you to stand Upheld by My righteous, omnipotent hand

V3 "When through the deep waters I call you to go The rivers of sorrow shall not overflow "When through the deep waters I call you to go The rivers of sorrow shall not overflow

V4 "When through fiery trials your pathways shall lie My grace all sufficient shall be your supply The flame shall not hurt you; I only design Your dross to consume and your gold to refine

V5 "The soul that on Jesus has leaned for repose I will not, I will not desert to his foes That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake I’ll never, no never, no never forsake"

Words by “K” in Rippon’s Hymns (1787). Traditional American melody. Public domain. From Together for the Gospel Live.

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V1 How 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 To you who for refuge to Jesus have fled

Relevant texts: Matthew 7:24-27, Psalm 19:7-10, Revelation 22:18-19, Isaiah 25:1-5 (esp. v4)

The Word of God, the Word of Christ, is the firm foundation, the rock upon which our faith and life is laid. And the Word is indeed excellent in every way, perfect in all its ways and the richest nourishment for the soul. The Scriptures stand complete, and nothing that God wanted to record has been withheld from us.

Verse 1 says two times (ye saints, to you who for refuge to Jesus have fled) that this promise is for believers and believers only. It is a helpful and necessary reminder. God gives these unfailing promises to His children and His children alone. How blessed are we who are in Christ! How we ought to thank Him!

V2 "Fear not, I am with you; oh be not dismayed For I am your God and will still give you aid I’ll strengthen you, help you, and cause you to stand Upheld by My righteous, omnipotent hand

Relevant texts: Isaiah 41:10, 13

"Fear not!" is one of the most common commands/encouragements in the Scriptures. And overwhelmingly, it is said like this: "Fear not! Because God is with you, for you, will support you!" ( Ge. 15:1. De. 20:1; 31:6–8. Jos. 1:9. 2 Ch. 20:17; 32:8. Ps. 27:1; 46:1-2, 7. Lu. 1:30). When there is fear of circumstance or of possible danger and uncertainty, God presents Himself as the solution. He is the remedy to faithless fear.

In the original context of the book of Isaiah, God spoke Isaiah 41:10 corporately to the nation of Israel (see Isaiah 41:8-9). However, it is not too much of a stretch to say that this promise holds true for believers. Why? Because God is the same God, and the Church, too, is His chosen people. What God says in Isaiah 41:10 holds true to all of His children.

V3 "When through the deep waters I call you to go The rivers of sorrow shall not overflow For I will be with you, your troubles to bless And sanctify to you your deepest distress

Relevant texts: Isaiah 43:2, 2 Corinthians 1:8-9, Genesis 50:20, Romans 5:3-5, Romans 8:28

The author here mixes a physical reality with a metaphor: physical deep waters (such as when God called Israel to walk through the Red Sea) and the symbolic deep waters of trial and despair (Ps 66:12). The imagery is perfect. We know the feeling — that drowning, hopeless, gasping-for-air despair that the ship of our soul sinks in. It feels like we're trapped, stuck in a sinking ship with no way out, imprisoned by our fear and the impending failure.

Yet again, God says, "I will be with you!" And not only will He be with us, He will restrain the waters from drowning us. And not only will He preserve us, He will redeem the troubles and distresses and drowning waters for our blessing, for our sanctification. What a God, who turns even the things intended as evil into things for His glory and our good!

V4 "When through fiery trials your pathways shall lie My grace all sufficient shall be your supply The flame shall not hurt you; I only design Your dross to consume and your gold to refine

Relevant texts: Isaiah 43:2, 2 Corinthians 12:9-10, 1 Peter 1:6-8

In the same way that God calls us to walk through deep waters of trial, He also brings us through the fire of affliction. How will we ever survive? What will bring us through the fiery tests and tribulations? Grace, and grace alone. For when we despair of our own strength and lean on God's grace, we give glory to God alone.

All who love Jesus Christ desire to live holy lives (in fact, the absence of this desire is reason enough to question the quality of our faith), but do we understand what it will take? Dross and sin are burned off under intense heat. Gold and faith are purified and proven genuine in the furnace. This link between suffering and sanctification has always been a part of God's sovereign plan for His saints; we ought to embrace it, and rejoice that the Lord does it for our eternal benefit!

V5 "The soul that on Jesus has leaned for repose I will not, I will not desert to his foes That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake I’ll never, no never, no never forsake"

Relevant texts: Matthew 28:20, Ephesians 1:13-14, Romans 8:29, Romans 8:38-39

Jesus Christ is our Savior not only from past sin but from future judgment. He has reconciled us to the Father irrevocably. And God has sworn on His own name (Hebrews 6:13-19) to bring our hope of eternal glory to fruition. And if God has sworn it, what could ever change His mind?

Nothing, not in heaven above or hell below or anything else in between can undo what Jesus Christ has already done. Nothing, not in the past, the present, or in the future will ever take us away from the love of God. God will never forsake us. Never.

And that is the greatest promise. Through the gospel, God has reconciled us to Himself. Through the gospel, we are owned by God, and we have Him as Father. He has sworn to be with us and for us — forever. And if the Lord is with us, who can stand against us?

No one. Be strong and courageous, Christian! For the Lord is with you. God casts out fear.

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