Silhouetted on a frightening sky, unmanned ropes whip wildly from each of the lost ship’s masts. Helplessly they wrap and unwrap themselves; they tangle and untangle through the night without help. The sails have long been shredded. The timbre of her timbers hammer horror through the hull. Massive crests mount up and climb each side, dwarfing the very ship that once boasted of her might at the harbor. With unsteady surprise, the wind and waves play catch with her, threatening at any moment to cast her aside like an unwanted old toy.
It’s the perfect scene to teach fear - to describe the pounding drum of our worries, the anxious sweat from unfamiliar circumstances, the movable moments of our lives that perplex us when we beg life to just stay the same, the painful memory of our sins.
But it’s an even better scene to teach faith. “When ev’ry earthly prop gives way, He then is all my hope and stay.”
Inside the ship’s belly, the crew communes with unshakable confidence. There are no hopeless huddles here, only relaxed songs and joyous laughter as they rehearse their immovable state: “On Christ, the solid rock I stand; all other ground is sinking sand.” Each scream of the storm is met with the peaceful silence in their souls. Every violent quake is answered with unstirred calm because of the Lord. Let the storm rage and flood. Let the gale be high and stormy. Neither sinful conditions nor weather conditions determine confidence in this boat, Christ does.
Dear Christian friends, keep singing this audacious anthem of faith that shines on the darkness, stills the storm of our sins, and ties up every troubled thought. Each verse of this hymn is carried by a tune that rises and falls, yet growing ever higher like surging waves that prepare to overwhelm us. But God has given us repose. In the midst of hopeless destruction, he fills faith’s eyes with his Son. Our answer is Jesus: his blood and righteousness, that is, his active and passive obedience to God the Father for us. The answer is sworn by God and made secure by faith, as the hymn-writer sweeps us to safety in the sentences of Hebrews 6-9 and shouts with us: “his oath, his covenant and blood...” Your answer is anchored in heaven. The refrain returns us to the security of the solid Rock, no matter the storm that surrounds us.
Let us then fix our eyes on Jesus and be the merry crew that worships in the nave!1
The nave is the main area of a sanctuary where the congregation sits and worships. It comes from the Latin navis, meaning ship. ↩︎