This week’s song is Swing Low, Sweet Chariot. Find lyrics here & here.
Scriptures for this song:
2 Kings 2: 7-11 This song references Elijah and Elisha crossing the Jordan river and then being taken up to heaven.
A traditional negro spiritual, this song is credited to Wallis Willis.
The story behind the song:
This site had some interesting insight into negro spirituals. You may want to read a little more on it. Many of the songs written during that time were by slaves who were allowed by their masters to sing, provided they sang nothing that hinted of uprising. A lot of the negro spirituals encased more than one meaning. Apparently Swing Low, Sweet Chariot had reference to the Underground Railroad as well as its more obvious Christian reference. The reference to the Jordan river also meant the Red River. The chariot symbolized transportation and the angels carrying were the good people who helped to hide slaves and “carry” them along to the next safety point.
It is also interesting to note what a large role the Jordan River plays in Christianity. Many miracles occurred there. How many can you name? See here for more details.
In recent history, English Rugby fans have adopted the song as their own. After the 2003 World Cup, the English Rugby team flew home on a plane called “Sweet Chariot”. Below you can see a video of the song performed by the popular group UB40. I found it interesting that this very Christian song is cherished now by Christians and non Christians alike through this sport. It still carries with it the same message of Christ, even if those who are hearing it in this different setting are unaware of the deeper meanings.
I am doing a little research online to find these things out. I also have a book entitled "Our Latter-day Hymns The Stories and the Messages" by Karen Lynn Davidson from which I am finding information on these songs. If you want more info, the aforementioned book and the internet search engines can get you much more than the little bit I shared.