Battle #1: Desert Song by Hillsong Versus How Firm A Foundation

As all around us every day it seems like there is more bad news about our economy, more bad news about the state of our social affairs, I think it is fitting for the first battle to pick songs about confidence during tough times. According to, Top 100 CCLI Songs, Desert Song comes in as number 5 on the list of Songs with the Greatest Gain. As many take comfort in this song which points to the hope that God is with us through the tough times, the deserts of life, Desert Song is rising fast up the charts.  It is for these reasons that Desert Song is our first contender in our Battle of the Songs series.

The challenger I have picked is to face this rising star is How Firm a Foundation by Rev. John Rippon. How Firm a Foundation is from the 18th century. In years past, it has been sung at presidents and statesmen’s funerals because of its popularity and poignancy at the time. According to Brown’s historical account, this song seemingly at the height of its popularity in 1898, was reportedly sung by the entire Corps of the United Sates Army as they were encamped in Havana, Cuba.

The Lyrics, Side by Side

On the left are the lyrics to Desert Song (by Hillsong, 2008) as found on On the right are the lyrics to How Firm A Foundation (John Rippon, 1787) as found on

Desert Song by Hillsong How Firm A Foundation by Rev. John Rippon
Verse 1:
This is my prayer in the desert
And all that’s within me feels dry
This is my prayer in my hunger and need
My God is the God who providesVerse 2:
And this is my prayer in the fire
In weakness or trial or pain
There is a faith proved
Of more worth than gold
So refine me Lord through the flamesChorus:
And I will bring praise
I will bring praise
No weapon formed against me shall remain
I will rejoice
I will declare
God is my victory and He is here

Verse 3:
And this is my prayer in the battle
When triumph is still on it’s way
I am a conqueror and co-heir with Christ
So firm on His promise I’ll stand

All of my life
In every season
You are still God
I have a reason to sing
I have a reason to worship

Verse 4:
This is my prayer in the harvest
When favor and providence flow
I know I’m filled to be emptied again
The seed I’ve received I will sow

Verse 1:

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,
You, who unto Jesus for refuge have fled?


Verse 2:

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


Verse 3:

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


Verse 4:

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


Verse 5:

When through fiery trials thy pathways 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.


Verse 6:

Even down to old age all My people shall prove
My sovereign, eternal, unchangeable love;
And when hoary hairs shall their temples adorn,
Like lambs they shall still in My bosom be borne.


Verse 7:

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


The Analysis

Both How Firm a Foundation and Desert Song point to God as our comfort and confidence in tough times.  The greatest difference however is the point of view from which each song is written.  Desert Song speaks from our point of view as those going through the trial; the majority of How Firm a Foundation is God speaking to those going through the trial.  “This is my prayer” from Hillsong gives a man-to-God directionality. On the other hand, “What more can He say, than to you He has said” from How Firm a Foundation connotes a God-to-man direction.  How Firm a Foundation contains allusions, as well as direct quotes, from passages in Isaiah. For example, Isaiah 41:10 “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” is echoed in verse 3.

Yes, Desert Song tells us “In every season, You are still God. I have a reason to sing, I have a reason to worship.” But, How Firm a Foundation is more compelling, more explicit about what our reason for rejoicing is. “Even down to old age… [God’s ] sovereign, eternal, unchangeable love” is what is going to keep us rejoicing and praising. Compare “still God” with “sovereign, eternal, and unchangeable.”

The Verdict

I think this battle is over. My verdict: TKO! How Firm a Foundation wins it, hands down! What do you think? Leave me a comment. I’d love to hear from you.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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