“Lord, I’m Coming Home”

"I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned…" (Lk. 15.18)

     INTRO.: A song which expresses the attitude of the prodigal son who returned to his father is, "Lord, I’m Coming Home" (#288 in Hymns for Worship Revised and #598 in Sacred Selections for the Church). The text was written and the tune (Coming Home) was composed both by William James Kirkpatrick (1838-1921). Kirkpatrick usually provided music for the words of others, so this is one of the rare instances where he ventured into lyrics. It is said that he produced this song at a camp meeting in Rawlinsville, PA, with the specific purpose of winning the soul of his soloist, an unbeliever. After praying for the young man one day, Kirkpatrick wrote these words quickly as they came to him. That night, the soloist sang them and afterwards became a believer. The song was first published in the 1892 Winning Songs, compiled by Kirkpatrick, John Robson Sweney, and Henry Lake Gilmour for John J. Hood and Co. of Philadelphia, PA. Following its renewal in 1920, it became the property of Hope Publishing Co. after Kirkpatrick’s death.

     Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church for use in churches of Christ it appeared in the 1923 Choice Gospel Hymns edited by Thomas B. Mosley; the 1937 Great Songs of the Church No. 2 edited by E. L. Jorgenson; the 1963 Abiding Hymns edited by Robert C. Welch; the 1963 Christian Hymnal edited by J. Nelson Slater; and the 1966 Christian Hymns No. 3 (in a three-four time arrangement by the editor) edited by L. O. Sanderson. Today it may be found in the 1971 Songs of the Church, the 1990 Songs of the Church 21st C. Ed., and the 1994 Songs of Faith and Praise all edited by Alton H. Howard; the 1978/1983 (Church) Gospel Songs and Hymns (in the Sanderson arrangement) edited by V. E. Howard; and the 1992 Praise the Lord edited by John P. Wiegand; in addition to Hymns for Worship (which uses an arrangement that the editor R. J. Stevens did in six-four time), Sacred Selections, and the 2007 Sacred Songs of the Church (in a three-four time arrangement similar to that of Sanderson) edited by William D. Jeffcoat.

     Given the fact that several arrangements are available, I still personally prefer the original. I assume that the arrangements have been made to make the song sound more "pleading." I recall one song leader who would lead the first and third lines of each stanza in a slow and pleading way, then lead each instance of "Lord, I’m Coming Home" in the stanzas quickly and boldly. However, the song does not plead with the sinner to come but expresses the desire of the penitent to return home, so my opinion is that the song should be sung joyfully and relatively fast, as the original 4/4 time would seem to indicate.

     The song expresses several reasons why the sinner should want to come home.

I. In stanza 1, the sinner wishes to escape the paths of sin
"I’ve wandered far away from God, Now I’m coming home;
The paths of sin too long I’ve trod, Lord, I’m coming home."
 A. All responsible people have wandered away from God at one time or another, just as the prodigal son left home: Lk. 15.11-12 (cf. Isa. 53.6)
 B. The reason is that all have gone into the paths of sin: Rom. 3.23
 C. When in sin we tread the way that leads to destruction: Matt. 7.13-14

II. In stanza 2, the sinner wishes to change his ways
"I’ve wasted many precious years, Now I’m coming home;
I now repent with bitter tears, Lord, I’m coming home."
 A. All the time spent in the paths of sin is wasted, just as the prodigal son wasted his substance in riotous living: Lk. 15.13
 B. Repentance is necessary in order to return to the Father: Lk. 13.3, Acts 3.19
 C. The term "bitter tears" refers to the godly sorrow which produces repentance: 2 Cor. 7.10

III. In stanza 3, the sinner wishes to trust in the Lord
"I’m tired of sin and straying, Lord, Now I’m coming home;
I’ll trust Thy love, believe Thy word, Lord, I’m coming home."
 A. Before the sinner can return to the Lord, he must become tired of straying, just as the prodigal son came to himself: Lk. 15.17
 B. Then as the sinner turns to the Lord, he realizes that he must trust in God’s love because it is through God’s love that we are saved: Jn. 3.16, Rom. 5.8, Eph. 2.4-5
 C. But it is not enough just to trust in God’s love; the returning sinner must also believe His word: Acts 16.30-34, 2 Thess. 2.10-12

IV. In stanza 4, the sinner wishes to be restored to a right relationship with God
"My soul is sick, my heart is sore, Now I’m coming home;
My strength renew, my hope restore, Lord, I’m coming home."
 A. Before anyone will return to the Lord, he must come to the state where he finds his soul is sick and his heart is sore, just as the
prodigal son found himself in dire want and the pigpen: Lk. 15.14-16
 B. When a person has this realization, he will want the Lord to renew his strength: Isa. 40.31
 C. And such a person will want the Lord to restore his hope: Ps. 51.12, Gal. 6.1, 1 Pet. 1.3-5

V. In stanza 5, the sinner wishes to receive the benefits of Jesus’ death
"My only hope, my only plea, Now I’m coming home,
That Jesus died, and died for me, Lord, I’m coming home."
 A. Our only hope and plea with regard to salvation is Jesus Christ, just as the prodigal knew that his only hope was to return to his father: Col. 1.27 (cf. Lk. 15.19)
 B. This is because Christ died for us: 1 Cor. 15.1-3
 C. But it is important to remember that Christ died for each one of us because God loved us: Rom. 5.8

VI. In stanza 6, the sinner wishes to have the blood of Christ applied
"I need His cleansing blood, I know, Now I’m coming home;
O wash me whiter than the snow, Lord, I’m coming home."
 A. It is the blood of Christ which provides remission of sins or redemption, and we need that just as the prodigal needed to arise and go to his father: Matt. 26.28, Eph. 1.7 (cf. Lk. 15.20)
 B. Therefore, because Christ shed His blood, we can be washed from our sins: Acts 22.16, Eph. 5.26-27
 C. The result is that we can be made whiter than the snow: Isa. 1.16-18

     CONCL.: The chorus continues to express the desire of the penitent sinner to return to the Lord:
"Coming home, coming home, Never more to roam;
Open wide Thine arms of love, Lord, I’m coming home."
This song has long been used for its intended purpose, to encourage people, both those outside of Christ and those children of God who have gone back into the world, to come to the Lord for pardon. We would hope that each person in sin would have such an attitude that he would say, "Lord, I’m Coming Home."


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