Posted by: rcottrill | November 14, 2014

What a Gathering

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Words: Frances Jane (Fanny) Crosby (b. Mar. 24, 1820; d. Feb. 12, 1915)
Music: Ira David Sankey (b. Aug. 28, 1840; d. Aug. 13, 1908)

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: This gospel song was published in 1887. The tune was written by D. L. Moody’s music director, Ira Sankey. The sprightly melody matches well the joyful theme, and cascading lines of poetry that demonstrate the author’s skill with words, and her understanding of Scripture. It’s a little surprising that more hymn books don’t include this fine song. shows only three books that do, when they sometimes have dozens that include a song. However, they don’t mention Ira Sankey’s massive Sacred Songs and Solos which, not surprisingly, includes it. Nor do they mention two books edited by hymn writer John Peterson, Great Hymns of the Faith, and the Crowning Glory Hymnal, both of which have it.

I know of no story behind the writing of the words. But Fanny’s penchant for seizing the moment and turning it into a song certainly suggests one. In the many camp meetings, and evangelistic rallies she attended, it seems quite possible that someone–perhaps her friend Ira Sankey–looked over the swelling crowd of people and exclaimed, “What a gathering!”

The word “gathering” is used fifteen times in the hymn (including the repeated refrain). It’s a word Paul uses when he refers to “the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him” (II Thess. 2:1). In Sankey’s hymnal he heads the song with:

“The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be” (Gen. 49:10, KJV).

This is believed by many commentators to be a messianic promise. However, modern versions, including the New King James Version, translate the Hebrew yiqqahah as “obedience,” rather than “gathering.” Nevertheless, “what a gathering” that will be!

This is a hymn that is simply loaded with quotations from Scripture, or allusions to the prophetic truths it contains.

In CH-1 we have the coming of “the Son of Man” in His glory. This is promised by the Lord Jesus in Matthew 24:30, “They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.” The inclusion of those “from every clime and nation is reflected in the heavenly song of the redeemed, “You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation” (Rev. 5:9).

CH-1) On that bright and golden morning, when the Son of Man shall come,
And the radiance of His glory we shall see;
When from ev’ry clime and nation He shall call His people home,
What a gath’ring of the ransomed that will be!

What a gath’ring, what a gath’ring,
What a gath’ring of the ransomed in the summer land of love!
What a gath’ring, what a gath’ring,
Of the ransomed in that happy home above.

In CH-2 there is a reference to those who “sleep in Jesus,” which comes from First Thessalonians 4:14, “If we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus [i.e. Christians who have died before the rapture].” Our celestial (heavenly) resurrection bodies are described as being like the glorified body of Christ (Phil. 3:20-21). To be fitted for the eternal kingdom “this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality” (I Cor. 15:53). Our meeting in the skies occurs at the rapture of the church:

“For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord” (I Thess. 4:16-17).

CH-2) When the blest, who sleep in Jesus, at His bidding shall arise
From the silence of the grave, and from the sea,
And with bodies all celestial they shall meet Him in the skies,
What a gath’ring and rejoicing there will be!

In CH-3 we have the heavenly city, variously called “the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem” (Heb. 12:22), and “the holy city, New Jerusalem” (Rev. 21:2), with its “mansions” or dwelling places for the saints (Jn. 14:2-3), and the crystal purity of the river of life (Rev. 22:1).

CH-3) When our eyes behold the city, with its many mansions bright,
And its river, calm and restful, flowing free;
When the friends that death hath parted shall in bliss again unite,
What a gath’ring and a greeting there will be!

In CH-4 we have the One who is coming identified as “the King” (Rev. 19:16), and the instant transformation of mortal saints at Christ’s return “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye” (I Cor. 15:51-52). The imminence of Christ’s return is hinted at with “the time is drawing nigh” (cf. Jas. 5:9; Rev. 22:12) and the prospect that, when He comes, “we shall always be with the Lord” (I Thess. 4:17).

CH-4) O the King is surely coming, and the time is drawing nigh,
When the blessèd day of promise we shall see;
Then the changing “in a moment,” “in the twinkling of an eye,”
And forever in His presence we shall be.

What an amazing compendium of prophetic Scriptures in a single hymn!

1) Other than seeing the Saviour, what is the most exciting expectation you have about Christ’s return and what follows?

2) Can you say with confidence that you will be included in “our gathering together to Him”? (If not, please check out the Plan of Salvation.)

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal


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