“For the LORD your God has blessed you in all that you have done; He has known your wanderings through this great wilderness. These forty years the LORD your God has been with you; you have not lacked a thing.”Deuteronomy 2:7
With its haunting and slow melody, “I Wonder as I Wander” has always been a song that captures my attention. In looking up the history, I discovered that John Jacob Niles first heard it sung from a little disheveled daughter of a traveling evangelist. When put in this perspective, so much of the context comes to light when I hear the phrase “I wonder as I wander.”
This little girl knew about wandering. When Mr. Niles met her, the family was squatted around a town monument, camping, eating, washing, and using the fountain as a clothesline while holding evangelistic meetings nightly. As they were being evicted, little Annie began to sing this haunting melody:
I wonder as I wander out under the sky,
How Jesus the Savior did come for to die.
For poor on’ry people like you and like I…
I wonder as I wander out under the sky.
How many nights had she stretched out under the sky, struggling to sleep in the extreme temperatures, and left to wonder about the words she had heard her daddy preach?
This little girl knew something about wondering. Unlike many of us this time of year, she had time to think about the birth of the Savior. Why did He perform this selfless act for “on’ry” folk like us?
Mr. Niles added the second and third stanzas after Annie taught him the first. And here we see the beautiful story of Christ’s birth prophesied in the Old Testament and fulfilled in the New. In this little folk song, you find all that is required for a gospel presentation to an unbeliever. The richness of King Jesus giving up His position for a little while to bring us “on’ry” folk the gift of eternal life. So simply presented, yet so complex is the One for whom it is written.
To live on this earth is to wander until Jesus returns for His Church. But let little Annie teach us something. As we wander and wait, may we also wonder at the gift of Jesus, His great sacrifice, and the mystery of His love for “on’ry” people like us. May we never lose sight of the blessing of this wonderful gift.