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Words: Jesse Randall Baxter, Jr. (b. Dec. 8, 1887; d. Jan. 21, 1960), and W. B Stevens (data unknown)
Music: Jesse Randall Baxter, Jr., and W. B Stevens (data unknown)
Note: In 1937 a gospel song was published by J. R. Baxter, Jr. Known to his friends as “Pap,” Baxter was a song writer and music publisher, who founded the Stamps-Baxter Company in 1926. The Cyber Hymnal lists more than 560 songs Baxter produced. With the help of a pastor named W. B. Stevens, he wrote the song called Farther Along.
Hymnary.org has a song which is obviously the same one, but some stanzas are added, and changes have been made to other stanzas. This version is said to be the work of Stevens, with an assist from Barney Warren (1867-1951), who was the author of the song Joy Unspeakable and Full of Glory, and many others. This article deals with the Baxter-Stevens version.
Around 1950, Canadian evangelist Barry Moore planned to hold meetings in a number of European cities, in association with the work of Youth for Christ. He wanted a gospel quartet to go with him, and my father was asked to train one. I can remember, as a boy, being in a recording studio as the quartet put a number of songs on disk. One of them was Farther Along.
It happens occasionally when we plan a trip for the coming day. We wake up to find that a thick fog has settled in. We can’t even see clearly to the end of the driveway. Finding our way to a distant destination would be dangerous and virtually impossible. Sometimes the morning sun burns the fog away and we’re able to set out on our journey later. But other times it remains, and all we can do is wait for a clearer view to emerge.
It can happen in the Christian life as well. Things take place that pain and puzzle us. What is God doing? Why has He allowed this to happen to us? “Now we see in a mirror dimly,” says Paul (I Cor. 13:12).
Job is an example of that. A great and godly family man, with enormous wealth (Job 1:1-3). But suddenly he lost everything. It almost seemed that God had turned against him. We see from first two chapters of the book that it was actually Satan that afflicted Job, but there’s no evidence that Job ever learned that. The Lord may have revealed the devil’s work to Job’s biographer, years after Job was gone.
As Job sits alone in the town garbage dump, scraping his putrefying sores with a piece of broken pottery, three of his friends come, seeking to “comfort” him (2:8, 11). There follows chapter after chapter of soaring debate. Job’s friends have a simplistic theology that says if you’re good, God will bless you right away. And if you’re wicked, God will push you, right away. Instant justice!
In their minds, because Job has suffered great disasters, he clearly has committed some great wickedness. But he has not. Job reaffirms his faith (13:15). And through the mists of his time of suffering he tries to understand God, and understand what is happening to him. When answers do not come, he submits himself humbly to the will of God.
Job says, in the end, “I…repent in dust and ashes” (42:6). But that word “repent” (nacham, in Hebrew) has been greatly misunderstood. Job is not suddenly agreeing with his friends that he is a wicked sinner. No. The Hebrew word can mean either repent or comfort, depending on the context. In Psalm 23, it’s used in the latter sense. “Your rod and Your staff, they comfort [nacham] me” (vs. 4). It’s used seven times in the book of Job (Job 2:11; 7:13; 16:2; 21:34; 29:25; 42:6; 42:11), and every other time nacham is translated comfort. In my view, it also needs to be translated that way in Job 42:6.
Given what we know of godly Job, and of all that happened to him, this is a fitting paraphrase of Job 42:6:
“Lord, I humbly withdraw my insistence that You explain the reason for my trials. I am satisfied that You know what You are doing. Even here, in the dust and ashes, I find comfort in You alone. I need nothing and no one but You.”
That is the point of the book. God is enough. An important lesson for us all. We do not need to know all the answers. Even if some mists remain, we know that one day God’s children will stand in His presence, and see more clearly the reason for it all. “Now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known” (I Cor. 13:12). Job seems to have grasped that, recognizing that what seemed so mystifying would be revealed at the resurrection.
“I know that my Redeemer lives, and He shall stand at last on the earth; and after my skin is destroyed, this I know, that in my flesh I shall see God” ((Job 19:25-26).
The song Farther Along beautifully expresses the thoughts shared here.
1) Tempted and tried we’re oft made to wonder
Why it should be thus all the day long,
While there are others living about us,
Never molested though in the wrong.
Farther along, we’ll know all about it,
Farther along we’ll understand why;
Cheer up, my brother, live in the sunshine,
We’ll understand it all by and by.
1) Is there something happening in your life whose purpose seems to be hidden at the moment?
2) How have you dealt with this present uncertainty?