Posted by: rcottrill | April 14, 2017

Knocking, Knocking, Who Is There?

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Words: Adapted from a poem by Harriet Beecher Stowe (b. June 14, 1811; d. July 1, 1896)
Music: George Frederick Root (b. Aug. 30, 1820; d. Aug. 6, 1895)

Wordwise Hymns (Harriet Beecher Stowe)
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: Harriet Beecher Stowe is justifiably famous, and George Root was well-known in Christian circles, having written words and music for a number of gospel songs, and composing the music for the texts of many others. We do not know the name of the eight-year-old girl who added a significant final stanza to the song, but she was certainly clever and perceptive.

When an individual knocks on a door it usually expresses a desire to enter, or to speak with some person within. Though, in the case of the police, it may be a demand to enter, in order to interview a person of interest with respect to a crime. Knocking can also be metaphorical, as when we say “opportunity knocks.”

I Hear You Knocking (“but you can’t come in”) was a hit rhythm and blues song in the 1950’s. And knock-knock jokes have been popular with children since the 1930’s. When did the latter start? One author points to a series of knock-knock quips in a soliloquy by the porter of Macbeth’s castle, in Shakespeare’s play. That would take them back four centuries!

Most recent knock-knock jokes are built around silly puns, ones that make us groan, as the knocker is asked to identify himself. (Knock knock. Who’s there? Canoe. Canoe who? Canoe help me with my homework?) In the 1960’s knock-knock jokes became a rapid-fire staple of a weekly comedy show on television called Laugh-in.

In the Bible, knocking at a door is connected with a number of interesting accounts. In the Song of Solomon, a romantic oriental poem, we see the Shulamite maiden sleeping, as she awaits the wedding which will unite her in marriage to her beloved Solomon. She dreams he’s knocking at the door, but is upset to find, when she opens the door in her dream, that he’s gone (Song 5:2-6).

In the Gospels, Jesus uses knocking as a picture of prayer. “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you….If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!” (Matt. 7:7, 11).

In the book of Acts, when Peter is miraculously delivered from prison, he goes to where he knows other Christians are meeting, and knocks on the door. When a girl named Rhoda hears his voice through the door, she is so excited she runs to tell the others, leaving Peter in the street! Those gathered think she’s either crazy, or has seen a ghost. But Peter persists in knocking, and they finally let him in, astonished to see him (Acts 12:13-16).

Finally, in Revelation, there’s the Lord’s message to a “lukewarm” and self-satisfied church that had, in fact, left Christ out and had no personal relationship with Him. His assessment of them: “You say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’–and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked” (Rev. 3:17). Jesus is pictured outside the door, seeking admittance.

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine [fellowship] with him, and he with Me” (vs. 20).

That Bible verse, addressed, in the context, to a church, has been used in several gospel songs as an appeal to individuals to trust in the Saviour for personal salvation. One of these, Knocking, Knocking, Who Is There? was published in 1867. The author was Harriet Beecher Stowe, who wrote the now-famous anti-slavery novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

After the song’s publication, and on the way home from a meeting where it was used, a young girl told her mother she was bothered by the last stanza of the song because it “leaves the Saviour still standing outside.” When they reached home, the girl went to her room and composed a new final stanza. Her mother thinking it was excellent work, sent it to a religious publication. It was not only published but was later added to the song in a hymn book.

CH-1) Knocking, knocking, who is there?
Waiting, waiting, oh, how fair!
’Tis a Pilgrim, strange and kingly,
Never such was seen before,
Ah, my soul, for such a wonder,
Wilt thou not undo the door?

CH-3) Knocking, knocking–what, still there?
Waiting, waiting, grand and fair!
Yes, the piercèd hand still knocketh,
And beneath the crownèd hair
Beam the patient eyes, so tender,
Of thy Saviour waiting there.

4) Enter, enter, heavenly Guest!
Welcome, welcome to my breast.
I have long withstood Thy knocking,
For my heart was full of sin;
But Thy love hath overcome me,
Blessèd Jesus, O come in!

1) Is there something wrong in your life the Saviour wants you to deal with today?

2) Why is it so difficult for some to open the door to the Lord Jesus?

Wordwise Hymns (Harriet Beecher Stowe)
The Cyber Hymnal


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