It is based on the text in Genesis that talks about Jacob’s dream at Bethel. Jacob was on his way to his uncle Laban’s house, when one evening he lay down to sleep.
The Bible tells, "Taking one of the stones there, he put it under his head and lay down to sleep. He had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. There above it stood the LORD. And the Lord spoke to Him there at Bethel and repeated the promise that had been given to Abraham: 'All peoples on earth will be blessed through your offspring. I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go.'"
Today as Christians we can claim this same promise of God’s presence for He has said in the book of Hebrews: "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you."
The words to the hymn are a prayer that God would bring us close to Himself and close to His presence, even if it be through grief or pain. Any suffering that brings us closer to God is a joy. The hymn reads:
Nearer my God to thee, nearer to thee
E’en though it be a cross that raiseth me
Still all my song shall be Nearer My God To Thee.
Though like the wanderer, the sun gone down
Darkness be over me, my rest a stone
Yet in my dreams I’d be nearer my God to thee.
There let the way appear, steps unto heav’n,
All that Thou sendest me in mercy given
Angels to beckon me Nearer my God to Thee.
Then with my waking thoughts bright with Thy praise
Out of my stony griefs, Bethel I raise
So by my woes to be Nearer My God To Thee.
This song is available on our Joyful Harps 1865 CD or as a download from Amazon or iTunes.