“Only a Shadow Between”

"Seek Him that…turneth the shadow of death into the morning…" (Amos 5.8)

     INTRO.: A hymn which reminds us that the shadow of death can, and for Christians will, be turned into the morning is "Only A Shadow Between" (#242 in Hymns for Worship Revised and #430 in Sacred Selections for the Church). The text was written by Earnest Clay Baird (1872-1961). The tune was composed by J. C. Blaker, sometimes misspelled as Blacker.  The song was copyrighted in 1927 by the Standard Publishing Co. of Cincinnati, OH, a firm associated with the independent Christian Churches
and instrumental Churches of Christ. It was published in their 1933 Favorite Hymns edited by J. E. Sturgis.

     I have been unable to locate any other information about the origin and history of the song or any biographical material on either the author or the composer. However, it would appear that both Baird and Blaker were associated with Standard Publishing Co. and the independent Christian Churches/instrumental Churches of Christ, because Standard’s Favorite Hymns Revised of 1953 has a song "Love’s Wonderful Door" with words by Baird copyrighted 1925 by Standard, a version of "Whispering Hope" with music arranged by Blaker copyrighted 1924 by Standard, and another song "His Message of Love" with words by Baird and music by Blaker copyrighted 1923 or 1925 (the printing is unclear) by Standard.

     Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ the song appeared in the 1935 Christian Hymns (No. 1), the 1948 Christian Hymns No. 2, and the 1966 Christian Hymns No. 3 all edited by L. O. Sanderson; the 1963 Abiding Hymns edited by Robert Welch; and the 1963 Christian Hymnal edited by J. Nelson Slater. Today, it can be 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; in addition to Hymns for Worship, Sacred Selections, and the 2007 Sacred Songs of the Church edited by William D. Jeffcoat.

     The song points our minds to what is on the other side of that "shadow between."

I. In stanza one, it is presented as a home
"I have a home in a fair summer-land; Its beauties I never have seen.
I have a place on an evergreen strand; There’s only a shadow between."
 A. In many of our songs, heaven is pictured as a "fair summer land;" all of the unpleasant things that we associate with the darkness of winter will not be there because there will be no night: Rev. 21.23-25
 B. Of course, none of us has seen its beauties yet because no man has yet ascended into heaven: Jn. 3.13
 C. But we have the assurance that there is a place on an evergreen strand, where the leaves of the tree of life grow at all times: Rev.

II. In stanza two, it is presented as a mansion
"Jesus has promised a home to prepare; Through faith on this promise I lean.
I have a mansion that’s wondrously fair; There’s only a shadow between."
 A. The Bible promises that God has prepared a place for the righteous to live forever: Matt. 25.34
 B. And when God makes such a promise, we can lean on it by faith: 2 Cor. 5.17, Heb. 6.13-18, 1 Jn. 2.25
 C. This promise involves a "mansion" that is wondrously fair; the word "mansion" basically means a dwelling place, and that is what Jesus promised to prepare in the Father’s house: Jn. 14.1-3

III. In stanza three, it is presented as a place with the ransomed
"When I have finished my task here below, I pass through this shadowy screen,
Be with the ransomed forever I know; There’s only a shadow between."
 A. Someday we shall finish our task here below when life comes to its end in death: Heb. 9.27
 B. Then, we shall pass through this shadowy screen as the angels carry our spirits to Abraham’s bosom: Lk. 16.22
 C. And there will come a time when we shall be forever with those ransomed who have gone on before: 1 Thess. 4.16-17

     CONCL.: The chorus repeats the idea that there’s
"Only a shadow, a shadow between, Only a shadow between;
One step to go, O the way’s all aglow; There’s only a shadow between."
This is the poet’s way of expressing the concept that there is in a sense only a step between us and death because our salvation is nearer than when we first believed (1 Sam. 20.3, Rom. 13.11). When we are younger with jobs, families, and other responsibilities to occupy our time, we may not think about heaven as much. But as we grow older and realize that the number of steps to go are becoming fewer and fewer, we are reminded that there is truly "Only A Shadow Between."

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