The safest place we could ever be is beside our mighty savior, Jesus Christ but that doesn’t mean that we have to be literally beside Him to be safe. We neither see nor feel the Lord but our Christian faith allows us to be truly with Him. Calling out His name and thanking Him each day would bring us closer to Christ. Let the beautiful lyrics of the hymn “Nearer, My God, to Thee” be our perfect call to Jesus.
Before moving further with the story behind the composition of the song, let’s first discuss one interesting tale associated with it. Probably, most of you, dear readers, have watched the 1997 epic romance and tragedy film Titanic. But, did you know that “Nearer, My God, to Thee” was the last tune played by the band before the gigantic ship sank? As the ship began to take a plunge into the icy North Atlantic, Bandmaster Wallace Hartley shortly halted the popular dance tunes and waltzes that calmly dominated the ship’s decks during the first few hours. Hartley then started tapping his bow against the violin as he led his musicians to a solemn strain of the hymn “Nearer, My God, to Thee.” With the looming danger, the tune was, most probably, their greatest call to the savior. As the band was playing, different parts of the ship kept on collapsing while the slant of the deck grew steeper.
A Brief Song Background
Penned by Sarah Flower Adams, the song was based on a pastor’s sermon that was taken from Genesis 28:11-19. The Biblical verse contains the story of Jacob’s ladder also known as Jacob’s dream. Jacob was among those less admirable characters in the Bible. The son of Isaac and twin brother of Esau, Jacob displayed undesirable traits such as cheating, lying, and betraying.
One night, Jacob had a dream where he saw a ladder between heaven and earth. Descending and ascending on it were God’s angels and above the ladder was God standing. There, God had once again uttered the same promise of protection He made to Jacob’s father and grandfather. When Jacob woke up, he made a vow to God with a condition.
“If God will be with me…then the Lord shall be my God…” (Genesis 28:21-22, ESV).
Years passed and Jacob remained doubtful with his faith in the Almighty. It was only after physically wrestling with the Lord that Jacob was able to finally understand the true meaning of trusting God. Ultimately, Jacob learned to completely put his faith in Him. His dream was a great help in directing his path to God.
Going back to the composition of the hymn, Sarah wrote the lyrics in a week. Her sister Eliza composed the tune, thereafter. Today, the hymn is usually sung to the tune of “Bethany” that Lowell Mason composed.
Let’s listen to an a cappella version of “Nearer, My God, to Thee” from the group BYU Vocal Point featuring BYU Men’s Chorus below.
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BYU Vocal Point, Jacob's Ladder/Dream, Nearer My God To Thee, Sarah Flower Adams