The story behind - Take us to the River

The story behind - Take us to the River

Most of the songs that I write come out of a time in my walk with God when certain elements or facets of my relationship with him, or part of His works in my life, become more crystallised in my thoughts.

In this case it was a combination of two themes. The very presence of God and the contemplation of Mercy. These are two themes which may not appear at first to relate together, but the relationship between the themes was reinforced for me when I was listening to a radio broadcast by Derek Prince. This was around the time that the song was forming in my thoughts.

In the middle of a talk on heaven he posed the question, ‘What is the cry of heaven?’ It was a rhetorical question and he answered it after a brief pause by saying ‘The cry of heaven is mercy.’ I believe I actually said ‘Yes!’ as I listened.

I went on to complete the song with the key elements of Heaven, God's presence and mercy uppermost.

The Bible uses pictures that we are familiar with to relate to us the sense of the heavenly presence of God. The writers who got glimpses of Gods glory and Heavens majesty were totally overwhelmed with what they saw, and (it seems) struggled to find the words to describe the indescribable beauty of the Lord.

The scripture talks about a river, ‘the streams of which make glad the city of God.’ The river speaks of life, eternity, refreshment, relief of thirst and, most especially, the never ending flow of Gods love, grace and mercy. Thus verse one.

The Bible also talks about the throne room of heaven, where the Father and the Son sit side by side in all their glory. In the book of Revelation John saw this majesty and then, when he looked again, he sees that ‘one like a lamb that was slain, is on the throne’. The second verse speaks of a desire to be in that Throne Room and understand the incredible depth of mercy which ‘triumphs over judgement’. The mercy made possible by the Lamb on the throne.

Perhaps the most unusual verse in the song, and the one that draws most questions, is the third. In it I refer to the mighty angel standing with one foot on the ocean and one on the land. This picture of power, authority and the fulfilment of Gods purposes on his creation, is from Revelation 10.

I had been reading Revelation at the same time as my heart was being drawn to the themes of the song. In Revelation 10 it speaks of this great angel with a scroll in his hand. The apostle John wants to write down the things that are written on the scroll, but the voice of heaven stops him and he is instructed, rather, to take the scroll and eat it. ‘It will be sweet to the lips but bitter to the stomach.’ This picture of the angel and the little scroll is in the middle of a time of great tribulation for the earth.

You can read in chapter 10 how John takes the scroll and says that, indeed , it was sweet to the lips but bitter to the stomach. I began to ponder the significance of this act and what the scroll meant. What could be sweet on the lips but bitter to the stomach?

My bible study guide suggested ‘some sort of good news bad news thing’ which was a bit limp, I thought!  I felt that it was more than that for me. Perhaps not in the context of the whole passage and it's ‘end of days’ theme (so please don't write in!), but for me at that time as I, with God's grace, composed my praise song.

My thoughts were drawn to the story of the Prodigal son and his older brother. When the brother saw the mercy poured out on the younger prodigal he was bitter in heart. He complained. No doubt he was pleased for the safe return of the boy and maybe expressed this publicly, but in the moment alone the thought, ‘Why the special treatment?’ The mercy was sweet on the lips, but was bitter in the stomach.

In the country that I live in sometimes it can be hard to see Mercy being poured to people we figure do not deserve mercy. Even in our Christian walk, and especially among musicians, how often have we felt pangs of bitterness when 'new blood' has come to the fore and been especially blessed, when in our opinion, they didn't deserve it! We express our joy at God's grace and mercy but we harbour bitterness and resentment in our hearts.

What a thing!! Who deserves mercy at all? Who is deserving of the heavenly mercy of God?

For me, the picture speaks of God's mercy. Of the agent of God striding forth across the continents with 'Mercy' written in his hands.

Interestingly enough the start of chapter 10 describes the angel as having a rainbow around his head. The rainbow is another sign of Gods fantastic mercy, the sign He gave to Noah . Some other commentators believe that the one who John described as an angel, was, in fact, the mighty Son of God, our Lord Jesus Christ. What a picture! Jesus with mercy in his hands! Thus the third verse.

The link in the song is the short refrain. The call on our lives to bring heaven into the lives of others. ‘The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon us; this is the year of the Lord.’

Let's sing of the cry of Heaven, mercy.


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