O Sometimes
the Shadows are Deep

A Hymn

MountainO Sometimes the Shadows are Deep,
And rough seems the path to the goal,
And sorrows how often they sweep,
Like tempests, down over the soul!

MountainO then to the Rock let me fly,
To the Rock that is higher than I
O then to the Rock let me fly,
To the Rock that is higher than I.

MountainO! sometimes so long seems the day,
And sometimes so heavy my feet;
But, toiling in life's dusty way,
The Rock's blessed shadow, how sweet!

MountainO! near to the Rock let me keep,
Or blessings or sorrows prevail,
Or climbing the mountain‑way steep,
Or walking the shadowy vale.

These are the words of Erastus Johnson, an American who lived a varied life and had experience as a teacher, student of the Bible, sailor, farmer as well as being involved in the oil business in Pittsburgh. It appears he only wrote one book of poetry which was not widely distributed at the time.

The chorus of this hymn seems clearly to take at its source Psalm 61:2. But what does it mean? The Bible commentator Barnes suggests that the hymn was written by King David when he was in exile because of the rebellion of Absalom his son. A vale would be a place where he would be exposed to his enemies and the opposite would be a high place a refuge a place of safety and security from a higher, greater source than he–his heavenly Father.

Psalm 61:1‑4 Hear my cry, O God; attend unto my prayer. From the end of the earth will I cry unto thee, when my heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For thou hast been a shelter for me, and a strong tower from the enemy.I will abide in thy tabernacle for ever: I will trust in the covert of thy wings. Selah.

Psalm 18:31‑32 (RSV) For who is God, but the LORD? And who is a rock, except our God?—the God who girded me with strength, and made my way safe.

Psalm 18:46 The LORD liveth; and blessed be my rock; and let the God of my salvation be exalted.

Isaiah 9:2 The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.

Isaiah 32:1‑2 Behold, a king shall reign in righteousness, and princes shall rule in judgement. And a man shall be as an hiding place from the wind, and a covert from the tempest; as rivers of water in a dry place, as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land.

Proverbs 18:10 (RSV) The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous man runs into it and is safe.

Psalm 107:10 Such as sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, being bound in affliction and iron.

Luke 3:5 …and the rough ways shall be made smooth.

Job 27:20 Terrors take hold on him as waters, a tempest stealeth him away in the night.

Psalm 71:3 Be thou my strong habitation, whereunto I may continually resort: thou hast given commandment to save me; for thou art my rock and my fortress.

2 Samuel 22:2‑3,32 He said, The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; the God of my rock; in him will I trust: he is my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my high tower, and my refuge, my saviour; thou savest me from violence…For who is God, save the LORD? and who is a rock, save our God?

Psalm 148:14 He also exalteth the horn of his people, the praise of all his saints; even of the children of Israel, a people near unto him. Praise ye the LORD.