By Josh Buttram —
I love old music. I spent my early years singing old songs in a tiny Missionary Baptist church in the mountains of West Virginia. These songs and the memories of singing them with the folks there are still with me. Some of the best-loved songs were about Immanuel’s Land. Like a compass pointing north, they would pull the singers’ gaze to the Promised Land, on the far banks of the Jordan, to Heaven’s bright shore. These songs were born in dark valleys and were dearly loved by people who knew constant hard times. The songs pointed sufferers to hope in God. They invited fearful people to bank on His promises by picturing those promises fulfilled. During the past few weeks of fear and uncertainty, I’ve become re-aquatinted with these songs. One of my very favorites is On Jordan’s Stormy Banks. Here are the lines of that song:
On Jordan's stormy banks I stand and cast a wishful eye
To Canaan's fair and happy land, where my possessions lie.
O'er all those wide extended plains shines one eternal day;
There God the Son forever reigns and scatters night away.
No chilling winds or poisonous breath can reach that healthful shore;
Sickness and sorrow, pain and death, are felt and feared no more.
When shall I reach that happy place and be forever blessed?
When shall I see my Father's face, and in his bosom rest?
I am bound for the Promised Land; I am bound for the Promised Land;
Oh, who will come and go with me? I am bound for the Promised Land.
Here are some of the features of the Promised Land that I’m most looking forward to:
It will be a land of sweet delight, of feasting and plenty.
It will be a land of strong, unfading health and death will be swallowed up in victory.
It will be an era of happy reunions and no more partings.
We will be beautiful and will thrive in overwhelming beauty.
We will behold our Father’s face and rest in his embrace.
People who sang and loved these songs were, like our spiritual ancestors, “looking forward to a country they can call their own” (Hebrews 11:4). These desert days remind us that the best is yet to come. Scripture strengthens us with the truth that our destiny is unshakable. Even though everything in our present situation may be at risk, our inheritance is never at risk. It is “imperishable, undefiled, and unfading – kept in Heaven for you” (1 Peter 1:4). We are citizens of the new heaven and the new earth and one day we will be home to stay. Until then, we hope in God. We cast a wishful, yet confident eye to Canaan’s shore. Our enduring possessions are in that beautiful and happy land.