This is a medley of Israel, Israel, God is Calling, and Redeemer of Israel. The combined messages of these hymns recently caught my attention. As with many hymns the combination of these two depicts a progression through life that includes the initial invitation to the Gospel, the first blush of testimony, falling into sin and being admonished to repent, and eventually rejoicing within the walls of Zion. The third verse is very...minor. So have a good listen before introducing this to your choir or congregation.
Full disclaimer: in order to get the narrative that I wanted I had to take several liberties with the lyrics.
I feel like I need to say something about verse 3. I suspect that many who find this arrangement will be turned off by the dark mood evoked by this verse ("canst thou linger...in gloomy ways"). Certainly this will be a deal breaker for many who would otherwise like to use it in a church setting. Of myself I can only say that I prefer music that tells a realistic story. The reality is that many who have been invited to "come to zion" and accept that invitation (the first two verses) will be tempted, stumble, and possibly fall away, distancing themselves from Zion. This is the world we live in, and all have "fallen short" of the glory of God.
The great joy of this piece, for me, begins in the short interlude between the third and fourth verses, which depicts the difficult personal struggle as the sinner strains to climb a rocky slope back to Zion. This is the only interlude where the choir does not sing, because it is an intensely personal, intimate journey, back to Zion. Eventually a point is reached where we once again feel "peace [in our] desolate heart." All of us to one degree or another have experienced this journey. I chose to make it a prominent part of this narrative because of the promise of the "joy in the soul that repenteth". It is their voices with which Zion's walls will "ring with praise!"
Written for SATB choir with organ accompaniment.