By Olen Holderby
The deep craving of the heart is often seen in the songs that we sing; and these, most often, offer scenes of peace calm and quite moments. Moments to relax, to think, to plan, with a serenity that breeds confidence and hope. We sing about this in the context of roads (On The Jericho Road), valleys (Peace In The Valley), lands (Where We’ll Never Grow Old), mountains (Hilltops Of Glory), and flowers (Where The Roses Never Fade). Gardens often get our attention here. “The Beautiful Garden of Prayer” is often heard ringing in the halls of praises; and, what a calm this can bring to the soul! Then, there is the old favorite that reads, “I come to the garden alone, while the dew is still on the roses; And the voice I hear, falling on my ear; the Son of God discloses. And He walks with me, and He talks with me, and He tells me I am His own. And the joy we share as we tarry there, none other has ever known.” In spite of all this, there is a scene that appears to make an even greater appeal.
Sitting by the river! We sing about the “Home on the Banks of the River,” or, “There Will be Light at the River.” This may be followed with, “Shall We Gather at the River?” Another song begins, “When peace like a river, attendeth my way.” Psalm 23 is, perhaps, the best known, with its, “He leadeth me beside the still waters.” This is not limited to spiritual matters; for we see it in secular writings. One is seen walking through half-knee-high grass toward the river. He reaches the river and finds a shade near its bank; he sits down, with a tree to his back, and calmly tosses pebbles into the quiet stream. Nothing seems to disturb him; he is peacefully thinking, planning, solving the problem that sent him there. And, we expect him to return refreshed and ready to look the devil in the face. Alas, it ’twas not always this way!
“By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion.” But, read on, “We hanged our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof. For there they that carried us away captive required of us a song; and they that wasted us required of us mirth, saying, Sing us one of the songs of Zion. How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land? If I forget thee, 0 Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning. If I remember not thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth; if I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy”(Psa.137). Their “sitting by the river” was not a calm, peaceful, refreshing moment; but one of bitterness and anxiety. Their weeping was a little on the late side; and, the scene of sadness was brought on by their own conduct.
Some day, my friend, you will be “sitting by the river.” What kind of a scene will it be?
Guardian of Truth XXXVIII: 12, p. 15
June 16, 1994