Bound for the Promised Land (Deut. 12:10)

Our story begins at the end – “I am bound for the Promised Land, On Jordan’s stormy banks I stand, I am bound for the Promised Land.” The words of this eighteenth century gospel hymn will be the foundation of our Epiphany study. Only within that blessed assurance of being bound for the Promised Land do we find the true peace that only Christ can give. It is within this assurance that all of the other recordings of Johnny Cash will harken back towards. An assurance of God’s grace despite what may come.

The short biography of J. R. Cash (as he was known as a boy) is that he was born into a devout Southern Baptist but poor Arkansas cotton farming family. The only way off of the farm was the ministry, the military, or music. His older brother, Jack, wanted to become a minister and worked in a lumber mill to earn the money for school. He died at the age of fifteen in that mill. J.R. wanted to carry out his brother’s calling in the ministry but through song. After a short time in the Air Force, J.R. set out for Memphis to record gospel hymns. At the same time, Sam Phillips at Sun Records was looking for the next Elvis Presley and saw his next star in J.R. (whom he renamed “Johnny”) Cash. Cash signed with Sun Records and recorded his first album Johnny Cash and His Hot and Blue Guitar. Cash would go on to record several gospel albums to carry out his ministry in song, including: Hymns by Johnny Cash (1959), Hymns from the Heart (1962), The Holy Land (1969), Believe in Him (1986), and My Mother’s Hymn Book (2004).

We will open our study with his recording of I’m Bound for the Promised Land. Please listen to the song. (The lyrics are below.) Imagine a young boy helping in the Arkansas cotton fields humming this hymn picking cotton or imagine an older man reflecting on his life of success and failures recording this song on a minor record label having been dropped by the major labels because he was an old has-been. But both can sing with great joy. The bank of the Jordan, on this side of the Resurrection, is full of life’s storms – heartbreak, regret, failure, and death – but we can see the other side. We can see that fair and happy land where sorrow and pain are no more, neither sighing, but life ever lasting. Will you come and go with me.

On Jordan’s stormy banks I stand,
And cast a wishful eye,
To Canaan’s fair and happy Land
Where my possessions lie

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.

O’er all those wide extended plains,
Shines one eternal day,
There God the Son forever reigns,
And scatters night away.

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.

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.

Go over the Jordan, and live in the land which the Lord your God has promised as your inheritance, and he will give you rest from all your enemies round about, so that you will live in safety. Deuteronomy 12:10

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