‘Beulah’ songs (and Fiji rugby)

I grew up in rural West Virginia churches [that’s a good ways from Fiji, by the way … which is where this is going] singing lots of songs about ‘Beulah.’ I also knew that ‘Beulah’ means ‘married’ and comes from Isaiah 62.4 [KJV]:

“You shall no longer be termed ‘Forsaken,’ nor shall your land any more be termed ‘Desolate’; but you shall be called ‘Hephzibah,’ and your land ‘Beulah’; for the LORD delights in you, and your land shall be married.”

I learned this at an early age because our leaders in worship explained things in the songs we sang that may not have been commonly known from our daily experiences.

We don’t have to forsake our Scriptural and historical traditions in the interests of being cultural ‘contextual’; sometimes the ‘contextual’ just needs to be schooled and brought up to date on our Scriptural and historical traditions.

So, singing about ‘Beulah’ was frequent in our hymnody … except we didn’t call it ‘hymnody’ – we called it ‘The Broadman Hymnal.’ The Broadman Hymnal was the hymnal of choice for us independent Baptists who were more doctrinally inclined toward the Doctrines of Grace and the local church. It was the more formal hymnal in a wider culture that tended more toward the Stamps-Baxter Southern Gospel genre.

For example, some of the ‘Beulah’ songs we sang were:

Beulah Land

“I’ve reached the land of corn and wine, and all its riches freely mine / Here shines undimmed one blissful day, for all my night has passed away / O Beulah land, sweet Beulah land, as on thy highest mount I stand / I look away across the sea, where mansions are prepared for me / and view the shining glory shore, my Heaven, my home forevermore.”

And, yes, we sang the fourth verse about “The zephyrs seem to float to me sweet sounds of Heaven’s melody / as angels, with the white-robed throng join in the sweet redemption song.” When I would sing that verse and wonder what ‘zephyrs’ are, I would ask Mom; and she would give us her stock reply: “Go look it up in the dictionary.” Thus we learned new words and how to use the dictionary.

Is Not This the Land of Beulah?

“I am dwelling on the mountain where the golden sunlight gleams o’er a land of wondrous beauty far exceeds my fondest dreams / Where the air is pure, ethereal, laden with the breath of flowers / They are blooming by the fountain, ‘neath the amaranthine bowers / Is not this the Land of Beulah, blessed, blessed land of light / where the flowers bloom forever and the sun is always bright?”

And yes, it was by singing this song that I early learned the meaning of ‘ethereal’ and ‘amaranthine.’ I wouldn’t discover until a few years later that ‘amaranthine’ is the Greek word ‘ἀμάραντον / amarantos’ that Peter uses in 1 Peter 1.4 to refer to our inheritance that ‘does not fade away.’ The amaranth was a flower that “never withers or fades, and when plucked off revives if moistened with water; hence it is a symbol of perpetuity and immortality (see Paradise Lost iii. 353 sqq.)” [Greek Lexicon, Joseph Henry Thayer].

Dwelling in Beulah Land

But the ‘Beulah’ song I’ve had brought back to my memory here of late is C. Austin Miles’s “Dwelling in Beulah Land” which begins with…

“Far away the noise of strife upon my ear is falling, then I know the sins of earth beset on every hand / doubt and fear and things of earth in vain to me are calling, none of these shall move me from Beulah Land / I’m living on the mountain underneath a cloudless sky (Praise God!) I’m drinking at the fountain that never shall run dry / O yes! I’m feasting on the manna from a bountiful supply / For I am dwelling in Beulah Land!”

Now when we sang these songs about ‘Beulah Land,’ we understood that we have not yet come fully into the enjoyment of these experiences. We have been introduced into them and enjoy the firstfruits of them by our present salvation and the Grace of Jesus Christ, but we are still living only in the ‘now’ – and longing for the full enjoyment of the ‘not yet.’

But still, we sing about ‘Beulah Land’ and long with hope for that day and that land!

So, as I say, I still recall and sing these songs from memory in my mind and soul to encourage myself.

So … what does that have to do with Fiji rugby?

But then, a couple days ago, I saw a post on Twitter featuring the 7-man rugby team from Fiji, and they were singing. I was mesmerized by their singing. Here are strong, rugged men who play physical old-fashioned ‘footy’ rugby, crashing and slamming against each other with no helmets or pads, getting bruised, bloody, and broken – and they sing! And they sing a lot! And they sing out…give it all they’ve got! They sing like they play rugby – leave it all on the field! And they sing good! They sing before their matches [the Fijian hymn ‘This is My Prayer’] and after their matches [‘We have overcome…by the blood of the Lamb and the Word of the Lord’].

So I just spent more time than I should have and did some searching on YouTube for ‘Fiji rugby team singing.’

I so enjoy watching these strong grown men singing with passion, gusto, throwing their heads back and belting out their songs with all they’ve got. Often with tears of feeling and emotion streaming down their faces. I appreciate their unabashed patriotism and love of their homeland and country. And I most appreciate how they recognize and confess God in their singing. Their common and favorite post-game song as they gather, link arms, and sing with all their hearts: “We have overcome! We have overcome! By the blood of the Lamb and the Word of the Lord, we have overcome!”

Then, as I was playing some of their singing, I came across the rendition of their national anthem before a match. As I listened and watched these guys belting out their national anthem, I immediately recognized the tune from the first measure. I kept listening, and sure enough … their national anthem is sung note for note to the tune of C. Austin Miles’s “Dwelling in Beulah Land.” So my first thought was, “Well, C. Austin Miles must have adopted an older, more historical tune for his song.” But, no … when I looked up ‘Fiji national anthem’ I discovered that they adopted the tune of Miles’s song for their national anthem when it was adopted in 1970.

So, I’ll have to admit, I have really formed a strong personal appreciation, affection, and bond with these guys I’ve never met and never will. But it wouldn’t be beyond me – if such a thing were conveniently possible – to make a bucket-list wish that they would let me join and sing with them just one time. I already know the English to that post-game song they sing. Hey, I’d even be willing to try to learn the Fijian lyrics so I could keep in time with them.

[In case you’re interested, here are the lyrics to that pre-game hymn they sing: “Noqu Masu / This is My Prayer.”]

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