God of Our Fathers, Known of Old

(Portrait of Rudyard Kipling)

GOD OF OUR FATHERS, KNOWN OF OLD

“God of our fathers, art not Thou God in Heaven?” (2 Chronicles 20:6)

     INTRO.:  A hymn which identifies the God of our fathers with the God of heaven is “God of Our Fathers, Known of Old.”  The text was written by Joseph Rudyard Kipling, who was born on December 30, 1865, at Malabar Point, Bombay (now Mumbai), in the Bombay Presidency of British India, to John Lockwood Kipling and Alice (née MacDonald) Kipling.  His father, a sculptor and pottery designer, was the Principal and Professor of Architectural Sculpture at the newly founded Sir Jamsetjee Jeejebhoy School of Art in Bombay.  Kipling’s days in Bombay ended when he was five and he and his three-year-old sister Alice (“Trix”) were taken to Southsea, Portsmouth, in the United Kingdom to live for the next six years with a couple who boarded children of British nationals living abroad.  In the spring of 1877, Alice returned from India, removed the children, and took them to Goldings Farm at Loughton.  In January 1878, Kipling was admitted to the United Services College at Westward Ho!, Devon, a school recently founded to prepare boys for the army.  Near the end of his schooling, Kipling’s father obtained a job for him in Lahore, where the father served as Principal of the Mayo College of Art and Curator of the Lahore Museum. Kipling was to be assistant editor of a local newspaper, the Civil and Military Gazette.

     From 1883 to 1889, Kipling worked in British India for local newspapers such as the Civil and Military Gazette in Lahore and The Pioneer in Allahabad.  Kipling was discharged from The Pioneer in early 1889 after a dispute.  Kipling decided to move to London, as the literary centre of the British Empire.   In London, Kipling had several stories accepted by magazines.   In the next two years, he published a novel, The Light That Failed, and a collection of his short stories on the British in India, Life’s Handicap. On January 18, 1892, Carrie Balestier (aged 29) and Rudyard Kipling (aged 26) married in London at All Souls Church, Langham  Place.  Kipling and his wife settled upon a honeymoon that took them to the United States, settling near Brattleboro, VT, where they lived from 1892 to 1896.  Their first child, Josephine, was born here on the 29th of December, 1892. It was also here that the first dawnings of The Jungle Books came to Kipling.  In a mere four years he produced, along with The Jungle Books, a book of short stories (The Day’s Work), a novel (Captains Courageous), and a profusion of poetry, including the volume The Seven Seas.  In July 1896, the Kiplings packed their belongings, left the United States, and returned to England.  Kipling was now a famous man, and in the previous two or three years had increasingly been making political pronouncements in his writings. The Kiplings had welcomed their first son, John, in August 1897.

     Kipling had begun work on two poems, “Recessional” (1897) and “The White Man’s Burden” (1899), which were to create controversy when published.  In 1907, he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.  At the beginning of the First World War, like many other writers, Kipling wrote pamphlets and poems enthusiastically supporting the U.K. war aims of restoring Belgium, after it had been occupied by Germany.  After the war, Kipling was skeptical of the Fourteen Points and the League of Nations.  In 1920, Kipling co-founded the Liberty League which focused on promoting classic liberal ideals as a response to the rising power of communist tendencies within Great Britain.  Kipling scripted the first Royal Christmas Message, delivered via the BBC’s Empire Service by George V in 1932.  Kipling kept writing until the early 1930s, but at a slower pace and with less success than before. On the night of January 12, 1936, he suffered a hemorrhage in his small intestine. He underwent surgery, but died at Middlesex Hospital in Fitzrovia, London, England, less than a week later on January 18, 1936, at the age of 70, of a perforated duodenal ulcer, and was buried at Westminster Abbey.

     Kipling’s poem “Recessional” has been used as a hymn.  I first saw it was in The New Hymnal for American Youth edited by H. Augustine Smith and published in 1930 by the D. Appleton-Century Co. Inc. of New York City, NY, with a tune (Lest We Forget) composed, apparently for Kipling’s words, in 1898 by George Frederick Blanchard (1856-1926).  Cyberhymnal suggests an anonymous tune (Folkingham) taken from the Supplement to the New Version compiled by Nahum Tate and Nicholas Brady in 1700, and gives as an alternate a tune (Melita) composed by John Bacchus Dykes in 1861 for the hymn “Eternal Father, Strong to Save.”  The Broadman Hymnal of 1940, edited by Benjamin B. McKinney and published by Broadman Press of Nashville, TN, sets the first three stanzas of Kipling’s text to a tune (St. Catherine) composed by Henri F. Hemy and usually associated with Frederick W. Faber’s hymn “Faith of Our Fathers.”  So far as I know, “God of Our Fathers, Known of Old” has never appeared in any hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church for use among Churches of Christ.  

     The song reminds all nations of their dependence on God

I. Stanza 1 points out that God is Lord of al

God of our fathers, known of old,

Lord of our far flung battle line,

Beneath whose awful hand we hold

Dominion over palm and pine—

Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,

Lest we forget—lest we forget!

 A. Jehovah is the God of our fathers, known of old: 1 Chron. 29:18

 B. He is Lord of heaven and earth: Acts 17:24

 C. Yet He has given man dominion over the creatures of earth: Gen. 1:28

II. Stanza 2 points out what sacrifice God wants

The tumult and the shouting dies;

The captains and the kings depart:

Still stands Thine ancient sacrifice,

An humble and a contrite heart.

Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,

Lest we forget—lest we forget!

 A. The nations of earth will always have their tumults that last a while and then die: Amos 3:9

 B. Their captains and kings come and go: Ps. 68:11-14

 C. But God still accepts the sacrifice of a humble and contrite heart: Ps. 51:16-17

III. Stanza 3 points out that God is the ultimate Judge

Far called, our navies melt away;

On dune and headland sinks the fire:

Lo, all our pomp of yesterday

Is one with Nineveh and Tyre!

Judge of the Nations, spare us yet,

Lest we forget—lest we forget!

 A. Navies cannot ultimately protect us: 1 Ki. 22:48

 B. Those who depend on military power may end up like Nineveh and Tyre: Zeph. 2:13-15, Zech. 9:1-4

 C. The Lord is the judge of all the nations on earth: Ps. 110:6-7

IV. Stanza 4 points out that God’s law is for all nations

If, drunk with sight of power, we loose

Wild tongues that have not Thee in awe,

Such boastings as the Gentiles use,

Or lesser breeds without the Law—

Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,

Lest we forget—lest we forget!

 A. A nation can be drunk with power: Nah. 3:11

 B. It can boast of its invulnerability: Obadiah vs. 2-4

 C. Yet no nation is above God’s law: Hos. 8:1-3

V. Stanza 5 points out how much we need God’s mercy to protect us

For heathen heart that puts her trust

In reeking tube and iron shard,

All valiant dust that builds on dust,

And guarding, calls not Thee to guard,

For frantic boast and foolish word—

Thy mercy on Thy people, Lord!

 A. There are those who trust in the armaments of mankind alone to protect them: Isa. 31:1

 B. Like many nations of old, they have forgotten God: Ps. 9:17

 C. Instead, we should look to the Lord’s mercy to save us: 2 Ki. 19:14-19

     CONCL.: The words of this hymn were originally written and published in the London Times during Queen Victoria’s Jubilee celebration.  Kipling wrote, “That poem gave me more trouble than anything I ever wrote. I had promised the Times a poem on the Jubilee, and when it became due I had written nothing that satisfied me. The Times began to want that poem badly, and sent letter after letter asking for it. I made more attempts, but no further progress.  Finally the Times began sending telegrams. So I shut myself in a room with the determination to stay there until I had written a Jubilee poem. Sitting down with all my previous attempts before me, I searched through the dozens of sketches till at last I found just one line I liked. That was ‘Lest we forget.’ Round these words ‘The Recessional’ was written.”  In whatever nation we may live, we should always encourage everyone to remember, look for guidance and direction to, and seek favor from the “God of Our Fathers, Known of Old.”

In the Shadow of the Cross

(Photograph of Bernice M. Brostrom)

 “IN THE SHADOW OF THE CROSS”

“He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Phil. 2:8)

      INTRO.:  A song which emphasizes the importance of the cross of Christ to the lives of His people is “In The Shadow Of The Cross” (#692 in Hymns for Worship Revised, #320 in Sacred Selections for the Church).   The text was written by Bernice Mable Walton Brostrom (Hymns for Worship incorrectly gives the name as Bronstrom), who was born on May 9, 1913, at Rock Creek in Pine County, MN, to George Oliver Walton (1859-1942) and Pearl Lucy Meyers Walton (1894-1975).  She had six siblings, an older sister named Irene; younger brothers George, Howard, and Lawrence; younger sister Ora Louise; and baby brother Robert.  The tune for “In the Shadow of the Cross” was composed by Wesley H. Daniel (1912-1996).  The song was first published in 1938 by Stamps-Baxter Music Co. in Guiding StarHymns for Worship gives the copyright date as 1936, but that is also incorrect.  Daniel was a twentieth century hymn writer who was born in the state of Georgia, apparently lived much of his life in Memphis, TN, and also composed the tune for Jessie Randolph Baxter’s 1940 song “God Shall Wipe Away All Tears.”

     According to the 1940 census, Bernice Brostrom, then aged 26, was living in the vicinity of Rush City- Chisago City, MN, with her husband, Eric Gunnar Brostrom (1906-1990) and four-year-old son Richard Dennis Brostrom (1936-1970).  Hymnary.org lists her as the author of six more songs, “I’ve heard the call of the Savior,” “Jesus came from heaven that you might be forgiven,” “Like a shepherd true and kind,” “Oft we meet with disappointment,” “Sometimes the day begins with heavy burdens,” and “We are looking for our Savior.”  Evidently, at some point the Brostroms must have moved west because she died on Nov. 12, 1958, at Seattle in King County, WA, and was buried at the Washington Memorial Park in SeaTac, WA, where her son and husband were both later buried as well.  The copyright for “In the Shadow of the Cross” was renewed in 1966 by Stamps-Baxter Music.  

     Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church for use in churches of Christ, the song has appeared in the 1963 Christian Hymnal edited by J. Nelson Slater; the 1978/1983 Church Gospel Songs and Hymns edited by V. E. Howard; and the 2007 Sacred Songs of the Church edited by William D. Jeffcoat; in addition to Hymns for Worship and Sacred Selections.

     The song encourages Christians to live in harmony with what the cross of Christ stands for.

I. Stanza 1 talks about suffering pain and loss

As we journey on toward heaven’s shining goal,

We may suffer pain and loss;

Burdens only bring us blessings if we live,

In the shadow of the cross.

 A. Christians are pressing on toward the goal of heaven: Phil. 3:13-14

 B. However, on this journey, we shall suffer in various ways: 1 Pet. 5:10

 C. But our suffering will bring blessings if it is for being a Christian: 1 Pet. 4:15-16

II. Stanza 2 talks about looking to Christ’s example

On that tree of sorrow Jesus died for all,

Took up on Himself our dross;

As I see Him there I long to ever live,

In the shadow of the cross.

 A. Jesus died for all mankind on the tree: 1 Pet. 2:24

 B. He suffered for us, taking our dross, that He might bring us to God: 1 Pet. 3:18

 C. Therefore, we should look to Him as the Author and Finisher of our faith: Heb. 12:1-2

III. Stanza 3 talks about saving lost souls

There are souls to rescue, there are souls to save,

On the sea of life they toss;

May we be a light and them how to live,

In the shadow of the cross.

 A. Jesus came to seek and save the lost: Lk. 19:10

 B. The lost are pictured as being tossed on the sea of life and need a captain to save them: Heb. 2:10

 C. We can serve as lights to point them to the cross: Matt. 5:14-16

     CONCL.:  The chorus asks each of us if we are truly living as the cross dictates:

Are you living in the shadow of the cross,

Where the Savior took your place?

By the cross He’ll lead us to that home above,

There we’ll see Him face to face.

In my experience, many congregations which have tried to sing the song seem to have a lot of trouble with the “blues notes” (flatted third or mi), and to some this gives it a “honkey-tonk” type of sound.  That doesn’t necessarily make it sinful, but it does cause them to wonder, simply as a matter of judgment, if it is really appropriate for congregational worship.  Whatever one’s opinion of the song might be, it is important for us as Christians to make sure that we live “In the Shadow of the Cross.”

Paradise Valley

“PARADISE VALLEY”

“To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God” (Rev. 2:7)

     INTRO.:   A song which looks forward to being in the midst of the paradise of God in heaven is “Paradise Valley” (#688 in Hymns for Worship Revised, #436 in Sacred Selections for the Church). The text was written by Noah White.  It was possibly arranged and the tune was composed by Virgil Oliver Stamps (1892-1940; see #618).  The song was first published in 1935 by the Stamps-Baxter Music and Printing Co. in Thankful Hearts.  The copyright was renewed in 1963 and is now owned by Brentwood-Benson Music Publishing Inc. of Nashville, TN.  Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church for use in churches of Christ, it has appeared 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; the 1978 Hymns of Praise both edited by Reuel Lemmons the 1978/1983 Church Gospel Songs and Hymns edited by V. E. Howard; the 1992 Praise for the Lord edited by John P. Wiegand; the 2007 Sacred Songs of the Church edited by William D. Jeffcoat; the 2009 Favorite Songs of the Church and the 2010 Songs for Worship and Praise both edited by Robert J. Taylor Jr.; and the 2012 Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs edited by Steve Wolfgang et. al.; in addition to Hymns for Worship and Sacred Selections.

     It draws on the figurative language of the Apocalypse to describe the beauties of eternal life.

I. Stanza 1 contrasts the trouble and strife of earth with heaven

As I travel through life, with its trouble and strife,

I’ve a glorious hope to give cheer on the way;

Soon my toil will be o’er, and I’ll rest on that shore,

Where the night has been turned into day.

 A. Life on earth will always have its share of trouble and strife: Job 14:1

 B. However, it is possible to have a glorious hope to give us cheer: 1 Pet. 1:3-5

 C. This hope is of a shore where there will be no night: Rev. 21:23-25

II. Stanza 2 compares the beauty of this earth with heaven

As I roam the hillside, or I list to the tide,

As I pluck the sweet flowers that grow in the dale,

A faint picture is there of a land bright and fair,

Where perennial flowers ne’er fail.

 A. God created the sweet flowers and other plants for the benefit of mankind on earth: Gen. 1:11-12

 B. But these things are a faint picture of the land bright and fair seen in a vision by John: Rev. 21:1-3

 C. This place is pictured as a garden where the plant life is perennial, yielding its fruit every month: Rev. 22:1-2

III. Stanza 3 both compares and contrasts a garden on earth with heaven

Though your garden is rare, it is not to compare

With the flowers that bloom in the garden above.

In the midst of it grows Sharon’s perfect sweet Rose;

‘Tis the wonderful Flower we love.

 A. The gardens of earth are often quite lovely: Eccl. 2:5

 B. However, the garden above is perfect because it is incorruptible, undefiled, and unfading: 1 Pet. 1:3-5

 C. The central feature of this garden is Jesus, who is as fair and beautiful as the rose of Sharon is reputed to be: S. of S. 2:1

     CONCL.:  The chorus expresses the desire to live in the garden above:

Up in paradise valley, By the side of the river of life

Up in paradise valley, We’ll be free from all pain and all strife;

There we’ll live in the garden, ‘Neath the shade of the evergreen tree.

How I long for the paradise valley, Where the beauty of heaven I’ll see.

After being burned a few times trying to lead some of them, I have just never been a big fan of the Stamps-Baxter type of country music gospel singing convention song.   However, while I would still question, as a matter of judgment, its general appropriateness for public worship services in the Lord’s church, this song has always been appealing to me personally because of its upbeat message and music.   In any event, the hope of the Christian is to dwell eternally with God and the redeemed of all ages in the “Paradise Valley.”

Salvation Has Been Brought Down

 “SALVATION HAS BEEN BROUGHT DOWN”

“Now is come salvation…and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ” (Rev. 12:10)

     INTRO.:  A song which points out that now has come salvation in the kingdom of God through the power of Christ is “Salvation Has Been Brought Down” (#686 in Hymns for Worship Revised, #650 in Sacred Selections for the Church).    The text was written and the tune was composed both by Albert Edward Brumley (1905-1977).  The song was first published in 1940 by Stamps-Baxter Music in Golden Key.  Brumley became a member of the Lord’s church.   I recall reading a statement by him that before he published a song, he always checked with the local preacher to make sure the words were scriptural.  He had originally entitled this song, “Salvation Will Be Brought Down,” but the preacher told him that salvation had already been brought down, so he changed it.

     The copyright was renewed in 1968 and is now owned by The Brentwood-Benson Co. Inc. of Nashville, TN.  Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church for use in churches of Christ, “Salvation Has Been Brought Down” has appeared in the 1971 Songs of the Church and the 1990 Songs of the Church 21st C. Ed. both edited by Alton H. Howard; the 1978/1983 Church Gospel Songs and Hymns edited by V. E. Howard; the 1992 Praise for the Lord edited by John P. Wiegand; the 2007 Sacred Songs of the Church edited by William D. Jeffcoat; and the 2009 Favorite Songs of the Church edited by Robert J. Taylor Jr.

     The song discusses salvation from three standpoints—past, present, and future.

I. Stanza 1 talks about what Jesus did in the past to make salvation possible

Jesus gave His life a ransom yonder on Calvary.

On Mount Calvary, cruel Calvary.

Paved the way by blood that we might win a bright shining crown.

Praise His holy name, salvation has been brought down (O glory).

 A. Jesus gave His life a ransom: Matt. 20:28

 B. This He did on Calvary: Lk. 23:33

 C. He paved the way by the blood which He shed for remission of sins: Matt. 26:28

II. Stanza 2 talks about the present blessings which salvation brings to us

All alone without a friend, He suffered to pay it all.

Yes, He paid it all, Jesus paid it all.

In His blessed promises sweet victory can be found.

Praise His holy name, salvation has been brought down (O glory).

 A. We remember that Jesus suffered for us: 1 Pet. 3:18

 B. Because of what He did, we now have exceeding precious promises: 2 Pet. 1:4

 C. One of these promises is sweet victory over the world through faith: 1 Jn. 5:4

III. Stanza 3 talks about what the future holds for those who gain salvation

There’s a blessed home prepared way over in glory-land,

In bright glory-land, blessed glory-land.

I have trusted in His love and now I am heaven bound

Praise His holy name, salvation has been brought down (O glory).

 A. Jesus is preparing His people a home: Jn. 14:1-3

 B. This home is in glory-land, where He Himself has been received: 1 Tim. 3:16

 C. Therefore, we have a hope reserved in heaven for us: 1 Pet. 1:3-5

     CONCL.:  The chorus offers praise to the Lord for this great salvation:

Praise the Lord, salvation has been brought down.

Go and shout and tell it the world around.

Tell it today (to people in sorrow), tell it today (and tell it tomorrow).

Preach the word of God that we might win a shining crown.

Tell the lost salvation is full and free.

Spread the news all over the land and sea.

Tell it afar (in every nation), tell it afar (all over creation).

Praise the Lord, salvation has been brought down.

Of course, this song, and many others like it, were not written for congregational singing but for country music gospel singing conventions.  Because of its complexity, many congregations simply do not have the musical knowledge and means necessary to render it effectively.  Several years ago, I recall reading an article by a gospel preacher who had evidently heard some objections to using the song.  He asked the objectors to bring forth their scriptural reasons for opposing the song.  I do not know of anyone who has any scriptural objections to the wording of the song.  However, there are those of us who feel that due to the very nature of this and similar songs, with heavy emphasis on special parts and highly syncopated rhythms, they are really not appropriate for congregational worship.  Yet, we also recognize that to some degree this is a matter of judgment, and not everyone reaches the same conclusions.  In any event, we can all rejoice that “Salvation Has Been Brought Down.”

The Lord Our Rock

“THE LORD OUR ROCK”

“Be Thou my strong rock, for an house of defense to save me.  For Thou art my rock and my fortress” (Ps. 31:2-3)

     INTRO.:  A song which describes the Lord as a strong rock and fortress is “The Lord Our Rock” (#685 in Hymns for Worship Revised).  The text is anonymous.  It was arranged and the tune was composed both by J. P. Lane (1856-1910).  Sometimes Lane is listed as the author.  I have been unable to find any further information about him except that Hymnary.org identifies him as having produced texts for 27 other songs.  “The Lord Our Rock” was first published in the 1898 Songland Melodies: a New Song Book for Revivals edited by Horace N. Lincoln (1858-1948).  Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church for use in churches of Christ, the song has appeared in the 1940/1944 New Wonderful Songs for Work and Worship edited by Thomas S. Cobb;  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; the 1994 Praise for the Lord edited by John P. Wiegand; the 2007 Sacred Songs of the Church edited by William D. Jeffcoat; and the 2009 Favorite Songs of the Church and the 2010 Songs for Worship and Praise both edited by Robert J. Taylor Jr.; in addition to Hymns for Worship.

     The song pictures the Lord as a rock of defense, shield, and retreat.

I. In stanza 1, the Rock is a defense

O the Rock, ’tis a cleft and strong sure defense,

From the dark, gathering tempest so threatening and dense;

In the Rock we are safe, we will suffer no fear,

But in peace that is changeless, we rest sweetly here.

 A. A defense is a place of protection: Ps. 59:9

 B. We need a defense or protection from the dark, gathering tempest which represents the trials and tribulations of life: Jas. 1:2

 C. But in spite of the tempest, our defense allows us to dwell in peace: Phil. 4:7

II. In stanza 2, the Rock is a shield

O the Rock safely shields from the foes that surround,

Though the perils are many and tempters abound;

In the Rock, all secure, from all harm we abide;

Since He shields us and keeps us, no ill can betide.

 A. This Rock will shield us from our foes: Ps. 3:1-3

 B. These foes are often tempters and put us in spiritual perils, thus accomplishing the will of the supreme tempter: 1 Thess. 3:5

 C. However, as our shield, the Rock will keep us safe as we keep ourselves in Him: Jude vs. 21-24 

III. In stanza 3, the Rock is a retreat

O the Rock, blessed Rock, what a calm, blest retreat,

We will rest in the shade all secure from the heat;

In the Rock we’re contented, we’re happy and free;

Sinner, flee for thy life, O to this Refuge flee.

 A. A retreat is a refuge: Ps. 46:1

 B. Like a rock in the desert, our Rock provides shade from the heat of the day: Ps. 121:5-6

 C. Therefore, we are encouraged to flee to this Rock that is higher than we: Ps. 61:2

     CONCL.:  The chorus identifies the Lord as this Rock.

For the Lord is our Rock and is mighty and strong,

And in Him we are safe, He’s our help and our song.

In the Rock we will rest till the storms all are past;

He will guide through the gloom, ’til the light dawns at last.

As we journey through this life towards eternity, we should always look for refuge to “The Lord Our Rock.”

In the Kingdom of the Lord

“IN THE KINGDOM OF THE LORD”

“Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God” (Rev. 12:10)

     INTRO.:  A song which seeks to explain what saints can expect in the kingdom of our God is “In The Kingdom Of The Lord” (#684 in Hymns for Worship Revised).  The text was written by Palmer Hartsough (1844-1932).  Other songs by Hartsough that have appeared in our books are “O Savior Mine,” “Jesus Is Calling, Calling, Calling,” and, probably the best-known, “I Am Resolved.”  The tune (Blessed Land) for “In the Kingdom of the Lord” was composed by F. Clark Perry.  The song was first published in 1916.  I have not been able to locate any biographical information about this person, other than that Hymnary.org lists him as the author of fourteen texts.  Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church for use in churches of Christ, “In the Kingdom of the Lord” has appeared 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; the 1978 Hymns of Praise edited by Reuel Lemmons; the 1978/1983 Church Gospel Songs and Hymns edited by V. E. Howard; and the 2009 Favorite Songs of the Church and the 2010 Songs for Worship and Praise both edited by Robert J. Taylor Jr.; in addition to Hymns for Worship.

     The song focuses our minds on the kingdom of the Lord.

I. In stanza 1, we find that this kingdom is a place of peace

In the kingdom of the Lord, Dwell the good, dwell the blest,

In the kingdom of the Lord, There is peace, there is rest.

To that (blessed) land my soul shall fly, When this pilgrimage is o’er,

I shall dwell beyond the sky, With my Savior evermore.

 A. Often when we hear the phrase, “the kingdom of the Lord,” we may think of the church, which is God’s kingdom on earth and is a place of righteousness, peace, and joy: Rom. 14:17

 B. However, by saying “To that land my soul shall fly, when this pilgrimage is o’er,” the song is obviously referring to the everlasting kingdom of God in heaven: 2 Pet. 1:11

 C. In that heavenly kingdom, we shall dwell beyond the sky with the Savior evermore: Jn. 14:1-3

II. In stanza 2, we find that this kingdom should occupy our thoughts

In the kingdom of the Lord, Finds my thoughts its employ,

In the kingdom of the Lord, Is my hope, is my joy.

Of that (blessed) land so fair and bright, As I’m traveling along,

I can almost catch the sight, I can almost hear the song.

 A. We are to set our affections or mind on things above where Christ is: Col. 1:1-2

 B. The reason is that this heavenly kingdom is where our hope is reserved: 1 Pet. 1:3-5

 C. And if we listen with the ears of faith, we can almost hear the song being sung around the throne: Rev. 5:8-10

III. In stanza 3 we find that this kingdom will be our home

In the kingdom of the Lord, Through the bowers I shall roam,

In the kingdom of the Lord, In my bright heavenly home.

To that (blessed) land are my desires, There’s my Savior’s blest abode,

Unto Thee my heart aspires, Dearest homeland of my God.

 A. Like the patriarchs of old, we seek a homeland: Heb. 11:13-16

 B. What makes heaven the place of our citizenship is that from it we look for the Savior to return from His blest abode to take us there: Phil. 3:20-21

 C. Thus, we look forward to having a homeland with God Himself: Rev. 21:1-3

     CONCL.: The chorus reminds us that our time on earth is short so we need to prepare for eternity.

When the sun is sinking low,

So oft I sing, so sweetly sing,

O that land, to which I go,

Where my Father is the King.

Christians can certainly look forward to the eternal blessings that we shall enjoy “In the Kingdom of the Lord.”

Sing and Be Happy

(Portrait of Emory S. Peck) 

“SING AND BE HAPPY”

“Serve the Lord with gladness; come before His presence with singing” (Ps. 100:2)

    INTRO.:  A song which encourages us to serve the Lord with gladness and come before His presence with singing is “Sing and Be Happy” (#683 in Hymns for Worship Revised, #653 in Sacred Selections for the Church).  The text was written and the tune was composed both by Emory Speer Peck (1893-1975).  I have been able to find no biographical information about this person, except that Hymnary.org lists him as the author of two additional texts, “As another day is done, at the setting of the sun,” and “I am traveling to the country.”   “Sing and Be Happy” was first published in 1940 by Stamps-Baxter Music and Printing Co. in Pearly Gates.  The copyright was renewed by Stamps-Baxter in 1968 and is now owned by the Brentwood-Benson Music Publishing Co. Inc. of Nashville, TN.

     Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church for use in churches of Christ, the song has appeared in the 1971 Songs of the Church, the 1990 Songs of the Church 21st C. Ed., and the 2994 Songs of Faith and Praise all edited by Alton H. Howard; the 1978 Hymns of Praise edited by Reuel Lemmons; the 1978/1983 Church Gospel Songs and Hymns; the 1992 Praise for the Lord edited by John P. Wiegand; the 2009 Favorite Songs of the Church and the 2010 Songs for Worship and Praise both edited by Robert J. Taylor Jr.; and the 2012 Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs edited by Steve Wolfgang et. al.; in addition to Hymns for Worship and Sacred Selections.

     The song contrasts the sadness and sorrow which we often experience with the joy and gladness which God offers.

I. Stanza exhorts us to trust God

If the skies above you are gray, You are feeling so blue,

If your cares and burdens seem great All the whole day through,

There’s a silver lining that shines In the heavenly land,

Look by faith and see it my friend, Trust in His promises grand.

 A. Gray skies and feeling blue are terms associated with sorrow and sadness: Ps. 13:1-2

 B. Often the reason for our sorrow and sadness is that our cares and burdens seem great, like the Israelites in Egypt: Exo. 2:11

 C. However, we can find a “silver lining” from heaven if we just trust in God: Ps. 37:3-5

II. Stanza 2 exhorts us to take courage

Often we are troubled and tried, Sick with sorrow and pain,

There are others living in sin Blest with earthly gain,

Take new courage we cannot tell What the morrow may bring,

When the dark clouds vanish away Then your heart truly can sing.

 A. Some of the problems in life that we face are troubles, sickness, and pain: Job 14:1

 B. We especially note such problems when we see those living in sin who seem blest: Jas. 5:1-6

 C. But if we take courage and are strong, we can be successful before God: Josh. 1:7-8

III. Stanza 3 exhorts us to have hope

Oft we fail the see the rainbow Up in heaven’s fair sky,

When it seems the fortunes of earth Frown and pass us by,

There are things we know that are worth More the silver and gold,

If we hope and trust Him each day, We shall have pleasure untold.

 A. God put the rainbow in the sky as a symbol of His care for mankind: Gen. 9:12-17

 B. It reminds us that there are things which are worth more than silver and gold: Matt. 16:26

 C. Therefore, we should maintain our hope of the inheritance in heaven: 1 Pet. 1:3-5

     CONCL.:  The chorus continues the thought of rejoicing in the Lord.

Sing and you’ll be happy today, Press along to the goal,

Trust in Him who leadeth the way, He is keeping your soul,

Let the world know where you belong, Look to Jesus and pray,

Lift your voice and praise Him in song, Sing and Be Happy Today!

Noting the date of the song, some people have dismissed it as a Great Depression era, religious version of “Don’t Worry, Be Happy,” while others have liked its positive, upbeat message.  The style of the song may not appeal to everyone, but it should always be the Christian’s desire in his relationship with God to “Sing and Be Happy.”

The Great Speckled Bird

(Photo of Roy Acuff album featuring “The Great Speckled Bird”)

THE GREAT SPECKLED BIRD

“Mine heritage is unto Me as a speckled bird, the birds round about are against her…” (Jer. 12:9)

      INTRO.:  A hymn which pictures the church as a speckled bird whose enemies are against her is “The Great Speckled Bird.” The text was written by a minister named Guy Smith.  Other than his being a traveling evangelist in the Springfield, Missouri, area, I was not able to find any biographical information about this author.  Based on Jeremiah 12:9, about Israel and how her enemies were lined up against her, the lyrics are an allegory referencing Fundamentalist self-perception during the Fundamentalist –Modernist Controversy.  Both the song and the passage from Jeremiah may be a poetic description of mobbing behavior.  The tune is an apparently traditional English melody transcribed by singer Charlie Swain.  It seems to be the same traditional melody used in the song “Thrills That I Can’t Forget,” recorded by Welby Toomey and Edgar Boaz for Gennett in 1925, and the song “I’m Thinking Tonight of My Blue Eyes,” originally recorded by the Carter Family for Victor in 1929.   In 1936 Roy Acuff heard “The Great Speckled Bird” sung by an obscure musical group called The Black Shirts. 

     By the time Acuff recorded the song in early 1938, Roy had written four additional stanzas to go with the song’s original six.  The same melody was later used in the 1952 country hit “The Wild Side of Life,” sung by Hank Thompson, and the even more successful “answer song” performed by Kitty Wells called “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels” in the same year. A notable instrumental version is found on the Grammy Award-Nominated album 20th Century Gospel by Nokie Edwards and The Light Crust Doughboys on Greenhaw Records.  “The Great Speckled Bird” was also later recorded by Johnny Cash and Kitty Wells (both in 1959), Pearly Brown (1961), Hank Locklin (1962), Marty Robbins (1966), Lucinda Williams (1978), Bert Southwood (1990), Marion Williams, and Jerry Lee Lewis. George Jones and The Smoky Mountain Boys also recorded it in the early 1970s (although that recording was not released until 2017).

     With all these recordings, it is thus difficult to determine exactly what text Guy Smith actually wrote.  But the tune appears to be attested from the 1920s (and appears already then to be unattributed and traditional), and the text must be from 1936 or earlier since that was the year Roy Acuff first heard it.  The 1977 Brentwood-Benson hymnal New Songs of Inspiration, Volume Ten simply calls the text “Traditional,” and for the tune simply says “Arr. by W. Elmo Mercer, Copyright 1965 by Singspiration, Division of the Zondervan Corporation.  Another arrangement was made in 1971 by Albert E. Brumley for his Olde Time Camp Meetin’ Songs.  This was used in the 1977 Special Sacred Selections edited by Ellis J. Crum.  There are also some differences between these arrangements and the Acuff recording.  Guy Smith’s great-great grandson wrote, “Guy Smith is my Great-Great Grandfather. I checked with a source (my grandfather/ his grandson) who said the words were put to music from another country song during that time.”

     The song applies the figure of “’The Great Speckle Bird” to the persecution of the church.

I. Stanza 1 says that this figure is recorded in God’s Holy Word

What a beautiful thought I am thinking

Concerning a great speckled bird;

Remember her name is recorded

On the pages of God’s Holy Word.

 A. We need to think or meditate on things that are right before God: Phil. 4:8

 B. God often used birds to teach important lessons: Matt. 10:29-31

 C. God’s holy word which reveals such things is the inspired Scriptures: 2 Tim. 3:16-17

II. Stanza 2 says that this figure pictures the church

All the other birds are flocking ’round her,

And she is despised by the squad;

But the great speckled bird in the Bible

Is one with the great church of God.

 A. Under the Mosaic covenant, Israel was God’s chosen people:  Exo. 19:5-6

 B. However she was surrounded and despised by enemies: Ps.80:4-6

 C. There is a sense in which all this prefigures the church which Jesus promised to build: Matt. 16:18

III. Stanza 3 says that this figure implies persecution

All the other churches are against her;

They envy her glory and fame.

They hate her because she is chosen

And has not denied Jesus’ name.

 A. “Other churches” would be religious bodies which have departed from the faith: 1 Tim. 4:1-3

 B. Like the world in general, they hate the true disciples of Christ: Jn. 15:18-21

 C. The reason for such persecution is that the true disciples have not denied Jesus’ name: Rev. 3:7-8

IV. Stanza 4 says that this figure refers to false brethren

Desiring to lower her standards,

They watch every move that she makes;

They long to find fault with her teachings,

But really they find no mistakes.

 A. Those who preach a different gospel desire to lower the church’s standards: Gal. 1:6-7

 B. They watch every move that the faithful make, looking for opportunities to draw away disciples after them: Acts 20:29-30

 C. And they try to find fault with the church’s teachings in order to deceive and exploit people: 2 Pet. 2:1-3

V. Stanza 5 says that this figure looks forward to the future

She is spreading her wings for a journey;

She’s going to leave by and by.

When the trumpet shall sound in the morning,

She’ll rise and go up in the sky.

 A. Someday the church will leave this earth when it is destroyed: 2 Pet. 3:10

 B. This will occur when the trumpet shall sound: 1 Cor. 15:50-54’

 C. At that time all the dead shall rise: Jn. 5:28-29

VI. Stanza 6 says that this figure will find its fulfillment in heaven

When He cometh descending from heaven

On the cloud as He writes in His Word,

I’ll be joyfully carried to meet Him

On the wings of that great speckled bird.

 A. Someday Jesus will come descending from heaven: Jn. 14:1-3

 B. He will come on a cloud as stated in His word: Acts 1:9-11        

 C. Then the church will rise to meet Him in the air: 1 Thess. 4:16-17

     CONCL.:  Here a couple of other stanzas:

6. In the presence of all her despisers,

With a song never uttered before,

She will rise and be gone in a moment,

Till the great tribulation is o’er.

7. I am glad I have learned of her meekness;

I am proud that my name is on her book,

For I want to be one never fearing

On the face of my Savior to look.

The tune, which some think bears a little resemblance to the traditional folk melody “Red River Valley,” is now thought possibly to have been derived from “The Prisoner’s Song,” a work copyrighted by Vernon Dalhart in 1924 in the name of Dalhart’s cousin Guy Massey, who had sung it while staying at Dalhart’s home and had in turn heard it from his brother Robert Massey, who may have heard it while serving time in prison.  While Bible scholars are divided over the meaning of Jeremiah’s statement, some people might find it interesting to think of the Lord’s church in terms of “The Great Speckled Bird.”

The New Song

 Christopher C. Stafford

(Photo of Christopher C. Stafford)

“THE NEW SONG”

“And they sing the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb” (Rev. 15:3)

     INTRO.:  A song which seeks to describe the song of Moses and the Lamb is “The New Song” (#682 in Hymns for Worship Revised, #463 in Sacred Selections for the Church).   The text was written by Jessie Randolph Baxter Jr. (1887-1960).  The tune was composed by Christopher Columbus Stafford, who was  born on May 10, 1893, to William Manual Stafford (1858-1929) and  Susan Leona Roberson Stafford (1865-1956). I have not been able to find a whole lot of information about this individual.   He was a musician, teacher, and composer of sacred songs who lived in Dallas, TX. His wife’s name was Francis.   He provided the music for “Nothing But Love” by B. B. Edmiaston.  Hymnary.org lists Stafford as the author of thirteen texts.  “The New Song” was first published in 1926 by Stamps-Baxter Music and renewed by them in 1954; it is now owned by the Benson Company of Nashville, TN.  Stafford also composed the tune for Morris Lynwood Smith’s 1964 hymn “O Lord, our Lord, how excellent and mighty,” and died on July 7, 1977, at Rayville, LA.

    Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church for use in churches of Christ, “The New Song” has appeared in the 1940/1944 New Wonderful Songs edited by Thomas S. Cobb; the 1963 Christian Hymnal edited by J. Nelson Slater; 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; the 1978 Hymns of Praise edited by Reuel Lemmons; the 1978/1983 Church Gospel Songs and Hymns edited by V. E. Howard; the 1992 Praise for the Lord edited by John P. Wiegand; the 2007 Sacred Songs of the Church edited by William D. Jeffcoat; and the 2009 Favorite Songs of the Church and the 2010 Songs for Worship and Praise both edited by Robert J. Taylor Jr.; in addition to Hymns for Worship and Sacred Selections.

     The song is designed to help us understand what “The New Song” may involve.

I. Stanza 1 compares the songs of praise we now sing to “The New Song”

It thrills my soul to hear the songs of praise, we mortals sing below,

And though it takes the parting of the ways, yet I must onward go;

I hope to hear throughout unnumbered days, the song earth cannot know,

They sing in Heav’n a new song, of Moses and the Lamb.

 A. While on earth, those who love God sing songs of praise: Heb. 2:12

 B. Of course, there will come the parting of the ways in death: Eccl. 12:7

 C. Then, the faithful Christian hopes to hear “the new song” which earth cannot know: Rev. 14:3

II. Stanza 2 compares the fact that we may not always be able to sing with a strong voice to “The New Song”

The greatest joy that I have ever known, is praising Him in song,

I know some day when I have older grown, my voice will not be strong;

But if good seed for Jesus I have sown, with angels I’ll belong,

They sing in Heav’n a new song, of Moses and the Lamb.

 A. We can find great joy in praising the Lord in song: Jas. 5:13

 B. However, the time often comes in this life as we grow older that our voices are not as strong: Eccl. 12:3-5

 C. But our hope is that when this life is over we can dwell with the angels around God’s throne: Rev. 5:11-12

III. Stanza 3 compares the song sung when Christ was born to “The New Song”

The sweetest song that earth can ever boast, was sung when Christ was born,

Yet He who walked the Galilean coast, sometimes was sad, forlorn;

He left the earth to send the Holy Ghost, to guide us till that morn,

They sing in Heav’n a new song, of Moses and the Lamb.

 A. Though the Bible never actually uses the words “song” or “sing” with reference to the angels’ announcement of Christ’s birth, many have imagined that they might have communicated their message by singing: Lk. 2:8-14

 B. In spite of this joyful beginning, the life of Christ on earth had its moments when He was sad and forlorn: Lk. 9:58

 C. But when He left the earth He sent the Holy Ghost to guide the apostles, and us through their word, to lead us to heaven: Jn. 16:7-13

     CONCL.:  The chorus expresses the desire to hear and participate in “The New Song.”

O to hear the angels singing,

To bid me welcome to mansions bright and fair;

O to hear the glad harps ringing,

With voices blending rich and rare;

O to see the Master bringing,

A precious life crown that I may own and wear;

I want to hear that mighty chorus sweetly sing,

I want to hear that mighty chorus sweetly sing,

I want to hear that mighty chorus sweetly sing,

To hear it swell and ring!

When I was in college, beginning in 1972, this song was very popular.  And admittedly it sounds really good when everyone knows exactly what he or she should be doing and when and where.  However, several years later, a gospel preacher, who is good friend of mine, said that, while he really liked the song because of its joy and good message and often sang it with his family in their home, he wondered, with its special parts, extremely fast rhythm, and sometimes confusing repeats, if it is appropriate for the public worship of the church.  People’s opinions will obviously differ on this question.  However, all Christians can certainly look forward to being in heaven and singing “The New Song.”

Jesus, Hold My Hand

“JESUS, HOLD MY HAND”

“For I the Lord thy God will hold thy right hand…I will help thee” (Isa. 41:13)

     INTRO.:  A hymn which asks the Lord to hold our hand that He might help us is “Jesus, Hold My Hand” (#679 in Hymns for Worship Revised, #147 in Sacred Selections for the Church).   The text was written and the tune was composed both by Albert Edward Brumley (1905-1977).  Brumley is perhaps best-known for “I’ll Fly Away,” one of his first songs.  “Jesus, Hold My Hand” was copyrighted in Gems of Gladness published by the Hartford Music Co. in 1933.  The copyright was renewed in 1961 by A. E. Brumley and Sons.   Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church for use in churches of Christ, the song has appeared in the 1940/1944 New Wonderful Songs edited by Thomas S. Cobb; the 1971 Songs of the Church edited by Alton H. Howard; the 1978 Hymns of Praise edited by Reuel Lemmons; the 1978/1983 Church Gospel Songs and Hymns edited by V. E. Howard; the 1992 Praise for the Lord edited by John P. Wiegand; and the 2012 Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs edited by Steve Wolfgang et. al.; in addition to Hymns for Worship and Sacred Selections.

     The song identifies several reasons why we need Jesus to hold our hand.

I. Stanza 1 talks about this pilgrim land

As I travel thru this pilgrim land

There is a Friend who walks with me,

Leads me safely thru the sinking sand,

It is the Christ of Calvary;

This would be my prayer, dear Lord, each day

To help me do the best I can,

For I need Thy light to guide me day and night

Blessed Jesus, hold my hand.

 A. This world is a pilgrim land to Christians: 1 Pet. 2:11

 B. The Friend who will walk with us is the Christ of Calvary: Jn. 15:13-14

 C. Through Him we can pray for God’s help in time of need: Heb. 4:14-16

II. Stanza 2 talks about the light divine

Let me travel in the light divine

That I may see the blessed way;

Keep me that I may be wholly Thine

And sing redemption’s song some day;

I would be a soldier brave and true

And ever firmly take a stand,

As I onward go and daily meet the foe,

Blessed Jesus, hold my hand.

 A. We need to travel or walk in the light: 1 Jn. 1:7

 B. If we do, someday we can join in the redemption song: Rev. 5:8-10

 C. While walking in this path, we must be soldiers brave and true: 2 Tim.  2:3-4

III. Stanza 3 talks about the valley dim

When I wander thru the valley dim

Toward the setting of the sun,

Lead me safely to a land of rest

If I a crown of life have won;

I have put my faith in Thee, dear Lord,

That I may reach the golden strand,

There’s no other friend on whom I can depend,

Blessed Jesus, hold my hand.

 A. The “valley dim” is probably the same as the valley of the shadow of death: Ps. 23:4

 B. For the faithful, the end of this valley will be a crown of life: Rev. 2:10

 C. Thus, the hope of those in Christ is to reach the golden strand of the river of life: Rev. 22:1-2

     CONCL.:  The chorus continues to ask Jesus to hold our hands.

(Blessed) Jesus, hold my hand,

(Yes,) I need Thee every hour,

Through (this land,) this pilgrim land

Protect me by Thy (saving) power;

Hear my (plea, my) feeble plea,

O Lord, (dear Lord,) look down on me,

When I kneel in prayer, I hope to meet you there,

Blessed Jesus, hold my hand.

I recall that about thirty to thirty-five years ago some members of the congregation with which I was working had a “get together” in a community room somewhere.  We ate, visited, and then sang a while.  After singing some fairly standard hymns and gospel songs, someone suggested, “Let’s sing a really spiritual song like ‘Jesus, Hold My Hand.’”  Well, I guess everyone has his or her own personal idea as to what “a really spiritual song” is.  There is certainly nothing wrong or unscriptural about the words or thought of this song.  It’s just that the few times I tried to lead it, I felt as if I were screeching at the top of my lungs in the chorus, “Blessed Jesus…Through this land…By Thy saving power…Hear my plea.”  And, of course, you have to have altos who know what they’re doing.  Still, it should always be my desire throughout life to say, “Jesus, Hold My Hand.”