"MEET ME THERE"
"In the midst…on either side of the river, was there the tree of life…" (Rev. 22.2)
INTRO.: A song about heaven that mentions the river on either side of which is the tree of life is "Meet Me There" (#441 in Sacred Selections for the Church). The text was written, under the penname of Henrietta E. Blair, by Frances Jane Crosby VanAlstyne, who for professional reasons used her maiden name of Fanny J. Crosby (1820-1915). The tune was composed by William James Kirkpatrick (1838-1921). The song was first published in Kirkpatrick’s 1885 Songs of Joy and Gladness. The copyright was renewed in 1913 by Hope Publishing Co.
Fanny J. Crosby was such an enormously popular writer of gospel song texts during the late 1800’s and even into the early 1900’s that her primary publisher, Biglow and Main of New York City to whom she was under contract, was finding that many of it collections consisted almost entirely of her songs. Therefore, wanting the buyers of their books to think that they were not limited to a single author, they used pennames for many of her hymns. Other publishers, such as Kirkpatrick’s Praise Publishing Co. of Philadelphia, had to use pennames for many of her songs for them as well because of her contract to Biglow and Main.
Among songbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use among churches of Christ , this song first appeared, so far as I know, in the 1956 Sacred Selections. To my knowledge, it was not included in any of the most popular books during that time, including both of the "Great Songs" volumes edited by E. L. Jorgenson, the Gospel Advocate’s "Christian Hymns" series, and books published by the Firm Foundation. Today, it is found in the 1971 Songs of the Church edited by Alton H. Howard and the 1992 Praise for the Lord edited by John P. Wiegand; as well as the 2007 Sacred Songs of the Church edited by William D. Jeffcoat.
The song both expresses the desire for heaven and the encouragement of others to go.
I. In stanza 1, heaven is a place of joy
"On the happy, golden shore, where the faithful part no more,
When the storms of life are o’er, meet me there;
Where the night dissolves away into pure and perfect day,
I am going home to stay, meet me there."
A. In the figurative language of Revelation, the throne of God is pictured as being surrounded by a sea of glass like crystal: Rev. 4.6;
thus in poetry, the eternal state of the redeemed is often pictured as being "on the other shore."
B. It is a place of joy because when the storms of life are over, the faithful will part no more but will serve and reign forever: Rev. 22.3-6
C. Another reason for this joy is that the night will dissolve away into pure and day, there being no night there because the glory of God and the Lamb illuminate it: Rev. 21.23-25
II. In stanza 2, heaven is a place of peace.
"Here our fondest hopes are vain, dearest links are rent in twain,
But in heaven no throb of pain, meet me there;
By the river sparkling bright, in the city of delight,
Where our faith is lost in sight, meet me there."
A. Heaven is contrasted with life on earth where our fondest hopes are vain and dearest links are rent in twain because of death: Heb. 9.27
B. However, heaven will be a place of peace because in it will be no throb of pain: Rev. 21.4
C. This peace will be enjoyed by the river sparkling bright where our faith is lost in sight; faith involves things not seen: Heb. 11.1;
however, in heaven the unseen world will become reality, so the poets often speak of heaven as a place where faith is lost in sight
III. In stanza 3, heaven is a place of fellowship
"Where the harps of angels ring, and the blest forever sing,
In the palace of the King, meet me there;
Where in sweet communion blend heart with heart, and friend with friend,
In a world that ne’er shall end, meet me there."
A. The redeemed will be with the angels, whose harps will ever ring; all of our books which have this song follow the change made by Ellis Crum in Sacred Selections, "Where the songs of angels ring." I assume that this change was made because some claim that since the book of Revelation mentions harps in heaven we can have instrumental music on earth. Of course, we understand that the "harps" of Revelation are not intended to be literal but symbolic of the beautiful music there. However, it seems to me that if we can read those passages in Revelation which talk about harpers harping on their harps and understand this to be figurative, we can sing songs about harpers harping on their harps and understand them to be figurative also (unless someone wants to go through and change all the "harp" references in Revelation to "songs" as well): Rev. 14.1-2
B. The redeemed will also be with the blest of all ages: Matt. 8.11
C. And the redeemed will be with the King in His palace, because that is where Christ is sitting upon His throne: Heb. 8.1
CONCL.: The chorus continues to emphasize the beauty and glory of heaven that makes us want to go there:
"Meet me there, meet me there,
Where the tree of life is blooming, meet me there;
When the storms of life are o’er, on the happy golden shore,
Where the faithful part no more, meet me there."
The last time that I ever heard the beloved James Cope, well-known gospel preacher and late President of Florida College, speak was at the 1990 Florida College lectures where the theme was "Reemphasizing Bible Basics in Current Controversies" and his closing speech on Thursday night was "The End of the Journey." As he concluded with "A Glimpse of Heaven," he made reference to this song, saying, "While time and opportunity yet afford, I want us to sing about meeting each other there. It is a song our fathers and mothers know well. While we remain here, we can profit greatly by carrying its sentiments constantly in our hearts. Let us sing ‘Meet Me There.’" After this, brother R. J. Stevens led the audience in singing this song. As I think about my own desire to go to heaven, as well as all the faithful who have gone on before and all those who will come hereafter, I should want to encourage as many as possible to "Meet Me There."