"THE UNCLOUDED DAY"
"The tree of life…yielding her fruit every month" (Rev. 22.2)
INTRO.: A song that describes the eternal city where the tree of life yields her fruit every month is "The Unclouded Day" (#221 in Hymns for Worship Revised, and #408 in Sacred Selections for the Church). The text was written and the tune was composed both by Josiah Kelley Alwood, who was born in the vicinity of Cadiz, Harrison County, OH, on July 15, 1828. Becoming a minister with the Church of the United Brethren in Christ, he spent many years as a circuit rider, travelling on horseback to his several preaching appointments. Because he held a great deal of revival meetings and lectures on Christian doctrine, he would be gone from his family for weeks at a time. Later, he became a presiding elder in the North Ohio Conference and was a delegate to several general conferences.
This hymn was produced sometime around 1880. While Alwood was returning home from a preaching appointment on a cloudless, moonlit night, the words came to him as he rode along on horseback. The next morning, he set them down on paper and picked out the melody on a small parlor organ. Always a staunch supporter of the original constitution of his denomination, Alwood was a delegate to the general conference at the time of the separation of the church into two groups at York, PA, in 1889. Sometime later, he met Ft. Wayne, IN, born John F. Kinsey (1852-1915). Kinsey had founded the Echo Music Company of Chicago, IL, producing a number of songs and compiling more than thirty collections.
Alwood showed his song to Kinsey, who served as editor of The Echo, a musical journal, for a number of years. Kinsey harmonized Alwood’s tune and decided to publish the song, which seems to have first appeared in Kinsey’s 1890 book Living Gems. Further arrangement was done by Edwin Othello Excell (1851-1921). Alwood died at Morenci, MI, on Jan. 13, 1909. His son, O. G. Alwood, was like his father a minister with the Church of the United Brethren in Christ, serving also as an elder and a bishop. His granddaughter, Mrs. Marjorie Alwood Johnson, the daughter of O. G. Alwood, lived in Hillsdale, MI. In 1987, Willie Nelson sang this song in a "Farm Aid" concert that was broadcast all over the United States.
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 1937 Great Songs of the Church No. 2 edited by E. L. Jorgenson; and the 1963 Abiding Hymns edited by Robert C. Welch. 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; 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.
This hymn portrays the beauty of heaven.
I. Stanza 1 says that heaven is a home far beyond the skies
"O they tell me of a home far beyond the skies,
O they tell me of a home far away;
O they tell me of a home where no storm clouds rise,
O they tell me of an unclouded day."
A. In the scriptures, heaven is pictured as being far beyond the skies, in the third heaven: 2 Cor. 12.2
B. It is also pictured as a home, a dwelling place that Jesus is preparing for His people: Jn. 14.1-3
C. While there will be no storm clouds, it is the place from which Jesus will descend in the clouds: Rev. 1.7
II. Stanza 2 says that heaven is a home where the saints have gone
"O they tell of a home where my friends have gone,
O they tell me of that land far away,
Where the tree of life in eternal bloom
Sheds its fragrance through the unclouded day."
A. In Sacred Selections, Ellis Crum, as usual, changed the first line of this stanza to "where the saints have gone," but we expect the friends whom we expect to see in heaven will be those who have died in the Lord: Rev. 14.13
B. Heaven is land that now seems far away, but it is a country that God has promised His people: Heb. 11.13-16
C. There, the redeemed of all ages will once again have access to the tree of life that was originally in the Garden of Eden: Gen. 2.9, 3.22-24
III. Stanza 3 says that heaven is the city where the King sits in His beauty
"O they tell me of the King in His beauty there,
And they tell me that mine eyes shall behold
Where He sits on the throne that is whiter than snow,
In the city that is made of gold."
A. The King is obviously Jesus Christ, who promises that we shall sit with Him on His throne: Rev. 3.21
B. Ellis Crum made another change in this verse, changing the third line to "Where He sat on the throne," seeming to think that because Christ will deliver the kingdom to the Father (1 Cor. 15.24) he will cease to sit on the throne; yet the Bible says that in judgment the King will sit on His throne, and that He shall reign forever and ever: Matt. 25.31, Rev. 11.15
C. The beauty in which the King sits is emphasized by the fact that the city is made of pure gold: Rev. 21.18
IV. Stanza 4 says that heaven is a place where there will be no sorrows and no tears
"O they tell me that He smiles on His children there,
And His smile drives their sorrows away;
And they tell me that no tears ever come again,
In that lovely land of unclouded day."
A. Without stanza 3, stanza 4 does not make as much sense, since the "He" who smiles on His children there is the "King" who sits upon the throne, and He smiles on His children to an even greater degree than He can now because the tabernacle of God will be with men: Rev. 21.3 (this song is a good example of one where the third stanza should NOT be omitted)
B. His smile will drive all their sorrows away so that there will be no tears in heaven: Rev. 21.4
C. The concept of the "cloudy day" represents all the things that cause crying and pain, so without such things heaven will be a place of "unclouded day" with God Himself as the light: Rev. 21.22-25
CONCL.: The chorus continues to emphasize the idea of cloudless day.
"O the land of cloudless day,
O the land of an unclouded sky;
O they tell me of a home where no storm-clouds rise,
O they tell me of an unclouded day."
The slight arrangement by Excell that is found in some books avoids the need for ties and slurs in the music. But in either version, the song is written in such a way as to help create within us a desire for the land of "The Unclouded Day."