“The Rock That Is Higher Than I”

"THE ROCK THAT IS HIGHER THAN I"

by Wayne S. Walker

     "From the end of the earth I will cry to You, when my heart is overwhelmed; lead me to the rock that is higher than I" (Psalm 61:2).  I have been told that people travelling through the desert often look for high rocks.  There are at least a couple of reasons for this.  Often, water is available near rock outcroppings.  Even if that is not the case, a high rock casts shade that provides a welcome relief from the burning desert sun.  Especially during a sandstorm, the lea side of the rock would give shelter.  Thus, looking to the Lord for His protection are likened to resting in the shadow a high rock.  The Psalmist continues, "For You have been a shelter for me, a strong tower from the enemy.  I will abide in Your tabernacle forever; I will trust in the shelter of Your wings" (vs. 3-4).

     In 1871, there was a Y. M. C. A. convention at Carlisle, PA.  A strong Bible-believing businessman, John Wanamaker, who basically invented the concept of the "department store," was president of the convention.  One of the delegates was Erastus Johnson (1826-1909).  Johnson’s brother William and William G. Fischer served as song directors.  During the week, a telegram came with news that the bank of Jay Cook, in which Wanamaker had $70,000, had failed.  Reports soon followed of other bank failures, indicating the start of a general panic, which threw a pall of gloom over the convention because nearly all the members were businessmen.  As an expression of the common feeling, Johnson wrote a hymn for which Fischer provided music.

"1. O sometimes the shadows are deep, And rough seems the path to goal;

And sorrows, how often they sweep Like tempests down over the soul.

2. O sometimes how long seems the day, And sometimes how weary my feet;

But toiling in life’s dusty way, The Rock’s blessed shadaow, how sweet!

3. O near to the Rock let me keep, If blessings or sorrows prevail,

Or climbing the mountain way steep, Or walking the shadowy vale.

Chorus: O then to the Rock let me fly, To the Rock that is higher than I;

O then to the Rock let me fly, To the Rock that is higher than I."

     The song im­me­di­ate­ly be­came pop­u­lar at the con­ven­tion, es­pe­cial­ly with Mr. Wan­a­mak­er, who called for it sev­er­al times. It was first published in 1873 and soon found its way into ma­ny other pub­li­ca­tions.  It has been used in practically all major hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ, and I remember singing it quite frequently when I was growing up.  This life, with all its trials and tribulations, is like a desert, but as I travel through it I can always look for refuge to "The Rock that Is Higher than I."

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