“We Are Going Down the Valley”

"Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints" (Ps. 116.15)

     INTRO.: A song which likens the death of the saints to walking in the valley of shadow is "We Are Going Down The Valley" (#438 in Sacred Selections for the Church). The text of stanzas 1, 2, and 3 was written by Jessie H. Brown Pounds (1861-1921). The tune (Going Down The Valley) was composed by James Henry Fillmore (1849-1936). The song was copyrighted in 1890 by Fillmore Brothers Music Co.  Stanza 4 was apparently written by Elmer Leon Jorgenson (1886-1968). It was added in his 1937 Great Songs of the Church No. 2. Among other hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ, the song also appeared in the 1948 Christian Hymns No. 2 and the 1966 Christian Hymns No. 3 both edited by L. O. Sanderson; and the 1963 Abiding Hymns edited by Robert C. Welch; as well as the original edition of Hymns for Worship. Today it may be found in the 1971 Songs of the Church edited by Alton H. Howard; and the 1978/1983 (Church) Gospel Songs and Hymns edited by V. E. Howard; as well as Sacred Selections, and the 2007 Sacred Songs of the Church edited by William D. Jeffcoat.

     The song refers to death by using a number of figures.

I. In Stanza 1, at death we face the setting of the sun
"We are going down the valley one by one,
With our faces toward the setting of the sun,
Down the valley where the mournful cypress grows,
Where the stream of death in silence onward flows."
 A. The end of life is often compared to the end of a day with the going down of the sun: Ps. 50.1
 B. Therefore, as we come to the end of life’s day, we think of walking through the valley of the shadow of death: Ps. 23. 4
 C. This is when we face the final realization that it is appointed for men to die once: Heb. 9.27

II. In Stanza 2, at death the labors of the weary day are done
"We are going down the valley one by one,
When the labors of the weary day are done;
One by one, the cares of earth forever past,
We shall stand upon the river brink at last."
 A. Those who die in the Lord are said to rest from their labors: Rev. 14.13
 B. Then will be past forever all the cares of this earth that plague us through life: Lk. 8.14
 C. Religious poets often picture death as standing on the river’s brink just as the people of Israel crossed over Jordan into the promised land: Josh. 3.14-17

III. In Stanza 3, at death we face the end of life without human comrade
"We are going down the valley one by one:
Human comrade you or I will there have none;
But a tender hand will guide us lest we fall:
Christ is going down the valley with us all."
 A. In death, no human comrade can go with us because it is one burden or load that we must bear ourselves: Gal. 6.5
 B. However, we shall not be completely alone because God’s tender hand will guide us: Ps. 139.9-10
 C. Christ will go down the valley with faithful Christians because in death they depart to be with Him: Phil. 1.20-23

IV. In Stanza 4, there will be some who will be alive when the Lord returns and never face death
"We are going down the valley one by one:
Yet before the shadowed vale may come the dawn,
When with rapture we shall gather in the sky;
‘We shall all be changed,’ but some shall never die!"
 A. The "dawn" of this stanza evidently refers to the second coming of Christ when the dead shall be raised: Jn. 5.28-29
 B. At that time, the righteous shall gather in the sky: 1 Thess. 4.15-17
 C. However, there will be those who are alive at His coming who will not experience death but be changed: 1 Cor. 15.51-52

     CONCL.: The chorus continues to remind us of the fact that we are all heading towards life’s end.
"We are going down the valley, going down the valley,
Going toward the setting of the sun;
We are going down the valley, going down the valley,
Going down the valley one by one."
The older we become, the more we see friends, loved ones, and others whom we know passing from this life, and the more we are reminded that "We Are Going Down The Valley."


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