For many years country music fans have enjoyed the beautiful harmonies of the hit, Song of the South. It was written by Bob McDill in 1980, but it was not until the country group, Alabama, released the song in 1988 that it became a number 1 country hit in the U. S. and Canada.
However, the original “song of the south” was a much different tune with much different lyrics and was written more than a century earlier. On a rainy Sunday afternoon in 1859, in New York, Daniel Emmett wrote the song which was destined to become the unofficial anthem of the South.
Just two years after the song was written, it was played at the inauguration of Jefferson Davis as president of the Confederate States of America; not long afterward it became the “marching song” of the Confederate Army. One Southern soldier described it this way, “It is marvelous, with what wildfire rapidity this tune, Dixie, has spread across the whole South.”
Surprisingly, Emmett, who composed Dixie, was not from the South but was a Yankee from Ohio who resented the fact his song became a southern favorite as the Civil War was beginning. He claimed if he had known the South would embrace his song so enthusiastically, he would never have written it. Thank goodness he did not know.
Frequently the way things first appear is not how they are eventually seen. This truth is illustrated in the story of the Old Testament patriarch, Joseph. His brothers sold him into slavery when he was young. While that was certainly evil, God eventually used the disaster to get Joseph to the right place at the right time where he became the Grand Vizier of Egypt and rescued the ancient world from starvation during an historic famine.
Understandably, Joseph struggled to come to terms with his brother’s hateful betrayal, however, he came to recognize God brought much good from the injustice he had endured. He eventually told his brothers, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people.” (Genesis 50:20 (NLT)
It is impossible to see how things are going to turn out when we are in the middle of a difficult chapter in our lives. I am confident in the beginning Joseph could not imagine any scenario in which he would one day be grateful for his brother’s treachery. As the Civil War was being fought, Emmett wished he had never written Dixie, but at the end of his life he did a farewell tour of the South and repeatedly received standing ovations for his beloved song. He came to cherish the South’s love of Dixie. Both men’s stories prove we cannot know how things will turn out until the final chapter of our lives. Joseph also teaches us to maintain our trust in God when life seems to make little sense.