Shall we gather at the river,
Where bright angel feet have trod
With its crystal tide forever
Flowing by the throne of God.
Refrain: Yes, we’ll gather at the river.
The beautiful, the beautiful river;
Gather with the saints at the river
That flows by the throne of God.
On the margin of the river,
Washing up its silver spray,
We will walk and worship ever,
All the happy golden day.
Soon we’ll reach the shining river,
Soon our pilgrimage will cease;
Soon our happy hearts will quiver
With the melody of peace.
- Robert Lowry wrote this hymn during the Civil War. He was ruminating on the horrors of the war and the phrase “river of death” which recurred frequently in reports of the war. That phrase reminded him of another river described in Revelation. Why would the horror of war lead to a yearning for the river in Revelation (see Revelation 22:1-5)
- What grows on the banks of the river that flows from the throne of God where the hymnwriter asserts that we can walk and worship in the future? (Nobody seems to know why the hymn says that the river flows “by” the throne of God when the Bible is clear that it flows “from” the throne of God. Maybe it was a typo.)
- The river flows through the New Jerusalem. Why does the hymnwriter think that being beside this river will inspire songs of peace? (See Revelation 21:22-27 and review the passage about the river.)
- Why is it good for Christians to sing a song like this? What sorts of events in life make you long for a setting like the image of the river of life in the New Jerusalem? Why is it good to think about this image?