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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Thursday, May 21, 2020  

Today’s Hymn

How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,
if laid for your faith in God’s excellent Word!
What more can be said than to you God hath said,
to you who for refuge to Jesus have fled?

“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.”

“How Firm a Foundation” (vv. 1–2)
from John Rippon's A Selection of Hymns (1787)
Hymn 463, Glory to God: The Presbyterian Hymnal

One of the biggest questions of human existence is “What is foundational for you?” When the bottom drops out of life, what is there to catch you, to hold you, to harbor you? This hymn’s message carries a reminder of the firm foundation of our lives, which is laid by Jesus. It reminds us that when our trust is shaken, we can turn to scripture, to the story of God’s activity in this world as the sure foundation.

And what is the foundational scripture that is laid for our faith? In this hymn it is the prophet Isaiah, whose words ring out in the second verse: “Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.” It is important to note that Isaiah was writing to a people in exile, a people far from home, and his message to those displaced souls was “Do not be afraid.” And that is just for starters, because that same message—Do not be afraid—shows up some 365 times in the Bible. Enough reminders to sustain us every day of the year! So when we sing this hymn, our confidence is rallied in the assurance that not only is God there to abate our fear but also to pull us out of the pits of despair and draw us face-to-face, standing before the One who loves us aplenty.

What is foundational for you? When life plunges you into situations that you never imagined, may this hymn buoy your spirit and cause you to stand, because you are upheld by God’s ever-loving hands!

O God, our rock and our foundation, on this day give us trust that nothing will separate us from you; that a time of exile or loneliness or just plain uncertainty will last the night but that your joy will come in the morning. We are so grateful that you are there, holding us tenderly and with great bounty. Amen.

Written by Lucy Forster-Smith, Senior Associate Pastor for Leadership Development and Adult Education

Reflection and Prayer © Fourth Presbyterian Church

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