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Words: Austris A. Wihtol (b. Jan. 24, 1889; d. Apr. 3, 1974)
Music: Austris A. Wihtol
Wordwise Hymns (none)
The Cyber Hymnal (none)
Note: Russian concert pianist and composer Austris Wihtol was born in Latvia, but he emigrated to the United States around 1909, and lived later in California. He used the pen name I. B. Sergei for some of his compositions. In 1935, Mr. Wihtol wrote the words and music for this simple gospel song about the believer’s friendship with God. In addition to the hymn book mentioned by Hymnary.org, Living Hymns contains the song (#322), as does the Country Western Gospel Hymnal (#104).
The saying has been around for at least two hundred and fifty years, likely longer. “The dog…is the best friend man can have,” wrote French philosopher Voltaire, in 1764.
While dogs are trained to do many amazing things on farms, in law enforcement, and in dealing with disease and disability, by far most of the millions of dogs in North America are family pets–often elevated to the status of being members of the family. No disrespect is intended to cat lovers, or those who dote on goldfish, but the family dog is on a pinnacle all its own.
Dogs can be very intelligent; some have an understanding of several hundred words, and they can learn to do astonishing things. More than that. Scientists have found that dogs have the unique power to empathize with human emotions. If you’re sad, your dog will be sad with you. If you’re happy, your dog will be too.
These furry companions exhibit an unconditional affection that is remarkable. Man or woman, old or young, rich or poor, educated or not, sick or well, your dog will take you as you are. Dogs are faithful friends of their owners, and have been known to come to their defense, or rescue them, when they are threatened–even at a risk to the dog’s own safety.
When it comes to the friendship of one human being with another, our dogs can perhaps teach us a thing or two! However, there are dimensions of human friendship beyond canine abilities. Being “BF” (best friends), or “BFF” (best friends forever) with another human being is a special bond that we ought to nurture and cherish.
In fiction, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson seem to have a friendship like that. Though polar opposites in many ways, their companionship and mutual support is evident. In biblical history, David and Jonathan had an unbreakable bond of friendship and loyalty to one another (I Sam. 18:1, 3)–remarkable because, at the time, Jonathan’s father, King Saul, was trying over and over to kill David.
The Lord Jesus was ridiculed for being a friend of tax collectors and sinners (Lk. 7:34; 15:1-2), but He remained so, because they were the ones who recognized their need of Him–which most of the Jewish leaders definitely did not.
“It happened, as Jesus sat at the table in the house, that behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Him and His disciples. And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to His disciples, ‘Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?’ When Jesus heard that, He said to them, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick’” (Matt. 9:10-12).
And as He neared the time of His death, the Lord spoke of those who had walked and talked with Him for three years as His “friends” (Jn. 15:12-15). He promised that He would be with His followers “to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:20), and expressed a desire that we all would be with Him eternally in heaven (Jn. 14:3; 17:24). And there too He will keep company with His own (Rev. 7:14-17).
That will be one of the greatest joys of heaven, but it’s an area we need to be cautious about speculating on. Deity has infinities that no created being can approach or comprehend. We must be careful not to try recreating God in our own image.
The author of this song, for example, talks of “jesting” with the Lord. But though a jest can be a witty remark, it also has the connotation of taunting and ridicule, however mild. The Bible says we should engage in, “Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting” (Eph. 5:4). Jesting may well be inappropriate when it comes to the believer’s relationship with Almighty God.
The only time we read of God laughing it is in mockery of His enemies (Ps. 2:1-4). However, while we might fault the song for humanizing the Lord too much, it does give us a sense of the delight we can have in the companionship with the Lord the Bible speaks of.
1) My God and I go in the fields together,
We walk and talk as good friends should and do;
We clasp our hands, our voices ring with laughter–
My God and I walk through the meadow’s hue.
3) My God and I will go for aye together,
We’ll walk and talk, and jest as good friends do;
This earth will pass, and with it common trifles–
But God and I will go unendingly.
1) Can you picture yourself “jesting” with God? (Why? Or why not?)
2) What elements of human friendship can rightly be applied to our friendship with the Lord?
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The Cyber Hymnal (none)