History of the Hymn
In 1 Corinthians 10:4 Paul describes Christ as our rock: he is our firm foundation, a sure and steady anchor in times of trouble, and the immovable cornerstone of our faith. This idea is beautifully reflected in “My Hope Is Built”, an archetypal gospel hymn written by Edward Mote in 1834, which draws consistently on this picture of Christ as our rock. It describes him as the only solid and unchanging hope for our souls. Mote also took inspiration for this hymn from the Parable of the Wise and Foolish Builders in Matthew 7:24-27:
Everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house 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.
With Christ as our rock, we can find rest, hope and grace even amidst the trials and floods of this life. The repeated refrain of the hymn warns us that building upon anything other than the foundation of Christ will give way, just like the sinking sand of the parable.
On Christ the solid rock I stand
All other ground is sinking sand
Reflections for us
The hymn states that the grace of God is the foundation of the believer’s hope and confidence, which is then applied to the storms and gales of this life in the middle verses, before heralding the ultimate realisation of God’s grace at Christ’s return. This is very much a testimony to Mote's own conversion story; for at its core, the hymn is a description of “The Immutable Basis of a Sinner’s Hope” (his original title for the song). Of course, these truths will resonate in the hearts and lives of every Christian, knowing that while we face trials and suffering of many kinds, our Father of mercies will comfort us in every affliction (2 Corinthians 1:3-4). As such, the words of this hymn encourage us to take heart in what is certain and unchanging, amidst the uncertainty and confusion of the world we live in.
Reflections for the Church
As well as being a song of personal consolation, this hymn has been newly arranged so that we might worship Christ our rock in solidarity with one another. In recent times, the church has needed (perhaps more than ever) songs that speak into times that test and challenge our faith. We need words to give voice to the pain, confusion and uncertainty which constantly surrounds us. In singing these words together, we declare our faith in Christ alone, rather than in the shifting promises and politics of this world: in global pandemics, in floods and natural disasters, in wars and threats of war, in the quiet and unseen struggles of sickness and loss. We need to sing with and pray for our brothers and sisters who know all too well the reality of trusting Jesus when the things we think of as certain—our families, homes, relationships, jobs and even churches—become sand that sinks and falls away. We remind one another that in the troubles and storms of this life comfort is found in the promise that we will stand faultless before Christ’s eternal throne of glory.
Questions for Reflection
- Make a note of the ways the lyrics of this hymn expand on the image of Christ our rock.
- How does the picture of Christ our rock particularly encourage you?
- Which phrase from the lyrics could you memorise this week for personal meditation on this picture?
- Where are you tempted to trust in things other than Christ's sure and unchanging promises?