"I’LL BE LISTENING"
"…As He which hath calles you is holy, so be ye holy…" (1 Pet. 1:15)
INTRO.: A song which encourages us to be holy in preparation for the Lord’s coming is "I’ll Be Listening" (#352 in Sacred Selections for the Church). The text and the tune are both usually identified as an anonymous "American Spiritual" from traditional sources. Sometimes either words or music or both are attributed to Eduardo J. Lango, but it is more likely that he simply adapted the spiritual for some publication. However, I have not been able to locate any further information about him or how he is connected with the song. Several arrangements of the song have appeared through the years. Concerning the single-stanza one beginning "When He Calls Me" in the 1937 Great Songs of the Church No. 2 edited by E. L. Jorgenson, Forrest M. McCann wrote in Hymns and History, "Anonymous American gospel song text. In GS (1937) copyright was credited to C. B. Clark as of 1935. In GS, 1940 printing, arr. credited to E. L. Jorgenson."
Probably the best known arrangement, beginning "When the Savior calls," was made by Virgil Oliver Stamps (1892-1940). It was copyrighted in 1937 by the Stamps-Baxter Music Co. and first appeared in their Harbor Bells No. 6; the copyright was renewed by them in 1965. Several country music stars have recorded it, and different versions have been recorded by gospel choirs. Among other hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ, the Stamps arrangement appeared in the 1978 Hymns of Praise edited by Reuel Lemmons. 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 (in the last there are some slight variations in the harmony of the chorus for which the arrangement is credited to Howard); and the 1992 Praise for the Lord edited by John P. Wiegand; in addition to Sacred Selections and the 2007 Sacred Songs of the Church edited by William D. Jeffcoat.
The song reminds us of the importance of making sure that our lives are right with the Lord now so that we shall be ready for His coming.
I. Stanza 1 says that He will call for us
"When He calls for me I will answer, When He calls for me I will hear,
When He calls for me I will answer, I’ll be somewhere listening for my name."
A. The call of this song is evidently referring to the time when all who are in the tombs shall hear His voice and come forth: Jn. 5:28-29
B. While all will come forth, the "hearing" of the song apparently refers to those who will come forth to everlasting life and thus attain to the resurrection from the dead (ones): Phil. 3:11
C. Therefore, we need to be ready in order to give an answer: Matt. 24:44
II. Stanza 2 says that hearts must be right
"If my heart is right when He calls me, If my heart is right I will hear,
If my heart is right when He calls me, I’ll be somewhere listening for my name."
A. In order to be ready, we need to make sure that our hearts are right: Acts 8:21
B. And in order for our hearts to be right that we might hear His call to come forth to everlasting life, we must hear Him now: Matt. 17:5
C. In this way we can know that our hearts are right, having been sprinkled from an evil conscience: Heb. 10:22
III. Stanza 3 says that our robes must be white
"If my robe is white when He calls me, If my robe is white I will hear,
If my robe is white when He calls me, I’ll be somewhere listening for my name."
A. The redeemed are pictured as having robes washed and made white in the blood of the Lamb: Rev. 7:9-14
B. White is often used in the Bible to symbolize purity, having been cleansed from sin: Isa. 1:18
C. Those whose robes are made white in the blood of the Lamb here can have the hope of being clothed with white with the Lord: Rev. 3:4-5
IV. Stanza 4 exhorts others to be listening (not in the Stamps arrangement)
"When He calls for you will you answer? When He calls for you will you hear?
When He calls for you will you answer? O be somewhere listening for your name."
A. Someday each one of us will have to give an answer before the Lord: Rom. 14:12
B. At that time each one will hear the final judgment of God for him or her: Matt. 25:34, 41
C. Therefore, each one needs to be preparing now by listening to the gospel because it is God’s power of salvation and the faith by which we are justified comes by hearing it: Rom. 1:16, 10:17
CONCL.: The chorus repeats and summarizes the basic thought of the stanzas.
"I’ll be somewhere listening, I’ll be somewhere listening,
I’ll be somewhere listening for my name;
I’ll be somewhere listening, I’ll be somewhere listening,
I’ll be somewhere listening for my name."
While the "call" of the song is not necessarily the call of the gospel message to salvation but the final call of Christ when He returns, the song is still often used as an invitation song to remind us of the need to be prepared for Christ’s coming. From a personal standpoint, this song just about maxes out my limit for continual repetition, but (and perhaps this is just due to the fact that I grew up hearing it sung) I think that it can still be useful to help me remember that I must always live in such a way as to be ready so that when Jesus does come back and call me to be with Him, "I’ll Be Listening."