Posted by: rcottrill | March 29, 2017

Somebody Cares

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Words: Fanny Edna Stafford (details unknown)
Music: Home Alvan Rodeheaver (b. Oct. 4, 1880; d. Dec. 18, 1955)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Homer Rodeheaver)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: The words of this song were written by Fannie Edna Stafford, of whom we know little. We do know she was a semi-invalid for many years, and was subject to discouragement and depression. But one day the Lord spoke to her heart and brought special peace and comfort. Wanting to share the blessing, she wrote some lines of verse on a postcard, and sent them to gospel musician Homer Rodeheaver–whom she’d never met. Timidly she asked if the words were worth setting to music. He thought they were, and he did.

A politician said recently, “Many people are telling me…” “Who are these people?” countered an interviewer. “What facts and statistics do they cite? What’s the source of their information?” (Questions to which there was no response.) It’s an old trick. Be ambiguous and vague, and you can claim almost anything. Experts say, or somebody did so-and-so, but we’re not told who did.

When I was a college instructor, students had to write papers for me on a variety of subjects. One important feature of each paper was to be what’s called attribution. In footnotes, the student had to identify who made a statement he quoted, or where the key ideas and theories presented came from. The absence of this information weakened the paper, and lowered the grade given.

This kind of retreat into ambiguity appears with regard to spiritual things too. Middleweight boxing champion Rocky Graziano called his 1955 autobiography Somebody Up There Likes Me. One supposes he meant God, but was it the God of the Bible, or some other god? As to music, in 1951 a Johnny Lange song was recorded by Mahalia Jackson, Elvis Presley, and others. It’s subject was Somebody Bigger Than You and I, but not once in the song was this “Somebody” named.

What’s the reason for the avoidance of the Lord’s name? Is it meant to be a kind of guessing game–we’re given some clues, and left to figure it out for ourselves? Or does the song-writer not really know much at all about the Lord? Or is the author or the singer lacking in courage, and unwilling to appear too “religious”? Or is it a matter of money–that clearly identifying the God of the Bible might turn off those of other faiths, and decrease record sales? (It’s likely a mixture of these.)

The Bible urges us to speak with clarity about spiritual things. “For if the trumpet makes an uncertain sound, who will prepare himself for battle?” (I Cor. 14:8). God says, “I am the LORD [Jehovah], that is My name; and My glory I will not give to another” (Isa. 42:8). We need to identify the Lord by name, in order that hearers can consider Him, and their responsibility to Him.

When Paul was in Athens, he used religious vagueness as a springboard for preaching the gospel, saying, “As I was passing through and considering the objects of your worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Therefore, the One whom you worship without knowing, Him I proclaim to you” (Acts 17:23). He identified the true God as the Maker of all things, and called people to repentance and faith in Him (vs. 24-31).

This brings us to the present gospel song, published in 1905. The song, called Somebody Cares, says some wonderful things, things well worth pondering. My only concern is that the “Somebody” is not identified until the second-to-last line of the final stanza. If this Somebody “wants you to know Him,” as the writer says in stanza one, then she should make Him better known!

Pharaoh asked Moses, “Who is the Lord, that I should obey His voice?” (Exod. 5:2). Likely the question was asked sarcastically, since he subsequently showed no sincere desire to become a believer (cf. Job 21:14-15). But there are surely others who are open to the gospel, and desirous of knowing more about God.

It wasn’t necessary for Stafford to name the Lord Jesus Christ seventeen times, as Luther Bridgers does in He Keeps Me Singing, or eighteen times, as Robert Lowry does in Nothing But the Blood of Jesus (counting repeated refrains in both). But calling Him by name in each stanza would help a great deal.

CH-1) Somebody knows when your heart aches,
And everything seems to go wrong;
Somebody knows when the shadows
Need chasing away with a song;
Somebody knows when you’re lonely,
Tired, discouraged and blue;
Somebody wants you to know Him,
And know that He dearly loves you.

CH-3) Somebody loves you when weary;
Somebody loves you when strong;
Always is waiting to help you,
He watches you—one of the throng
Needing His friendship so holy,
Needing His watch-care so true;
His name? We call His name Jesus;
He loves everyone, He loves you.

Questions:
1) What are the things you would most want others to know about the Lord Jesus Christ?

2) What hymns do you know that say, clearly, a lot of important things about Him?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Homer Rodeheaver)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org


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