Which preposition correctly places God’s Heavenly throne?

Until this past Sunday I’d never noticed that poet and pastor Robert Lowry got his geography very wrong when he wrote the spiritual “Shall We Gather at the River.” This song, which I’ve sung my entire adult life, enthusiastically affirms in the chorus, “Yes, we’ll gather at the river … that flows by the throne of God.”

Call me a quibbler, but that’s not what the Bible says. Lowry’s lyrics imply that God placed the throne beside the banks of that lovely, crystal river where he can sit and perhaps enjoy the babbling water. But Revelation 22: 1-2, on which this song is based, proclaims a truth far more powerful.

The throne isn’t sitting by the river. These pure waters flow from the throne. God’s throne is the source of the river; one little preposition makes a huge difference! Revelation wants us to understand that the water of life flows from God’s very throne. God doesn’t sit beside the healing water. God is the source of the healing water. God is living water, offering and providing the water that quenches completely.

I’m not sure why Lowry chose by instead of from. The song would have retained the same meter and rhythm while powerfully proclaiming what the Apocalypse of John wants us to know.

Which adverb describes people’s awareness of death?

Many obituaries these days seem to be written by family and friends. It’s interesting, I suppose, to learn that the deceased consumed seven chocolate-covered Krispy Kreme donuts in one sitting, but not particularly noteworthy. But that’s not my point. Many writers today are writing that the person died unexpectedly. I understand, I think, what they’re trying to convey, but they’re using the wrong adverb.

Only the most naïve person dies unexpectedly. Almost everybody knows — from a very early age — that death is coming. Death very rarely comes unexpectedly. Some people will die suddenly, but surely most of us will not die unexpectedly. The great hymn writer Charles Wesley in “Come, Let Us Join Our Friends Above” — a powerfully hopeful hymn about gaining heaven — writes, “Ten thousand to their endless home this solemn moment fly, and we are to the margin come, and we expect to die.”

My death might be lingering or it might be sudden. But let it not be said of me that I died unexpectedly. Like Charles Wesley and all Christians, I expect to die … and to meet friends and family in heaven.

Noah’s Ark sues for flood damage. I know this sounds like the beginning of a joke, but it’s true: News from Kentucky reveals that owners of the ark “replica” have filed a federal lawsuit against their insurance company because torrential rains washed out the access road to the ark and the insurers aren’t paying off. The irony of this lawsuit is too good to ignore. One can’t help asking, “WWND?” (What would Noah do?)

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