Hump-Day Hymns: I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say

The words in hymns are directed in three major ways: first, the words could be God speaking to us, us speaking to God, or us speaking to each other about God.  This hymn falls in the latter category.  When a congregation sings this hymn, they sing to one another and tell others about our experiences with Jesus and their responses to those encounters and experiences.  Whereas last week’s hymn was us speaking to God, this shows another perspective.

I heard the voice of Jesus say,
‘Come unto Me and rest;
Lay down, thou weary one, lay down
They head upon My breast.’
I came to Jesus as I was,
Weary and worn and sad,
I found in Him a resting place,
And He has made me glad.

I heard the voice of Jesus say,
‘Behold, I freely give
The living water; thirsty one,
Stoop down and drink and live.’
I came to Jesus, and I drank
Of that live-giving stream;
My thirst was quenched, my soul revived,
And now I live in Him.

I heard the voice of Jesus say,
‘I am this dark world’s Light;
Look unto Me, thy morn shall rise,
And all thy day be bright.’
I looked to Jesus, and I found
In Him my Star, my Sun;
And in the Light of life I’ll walk,
Till traveling days are done.

-Horatius Bonar (1808-1889)

I find this hymn particularly interesting due to the order of the action within the stanzas.  In each stanza, the speaker repeats something that they have heard (or read) Jesus say, and following that, the speaker describes the action that they took in response.  What is central to this hymn is the order in which the sections of the stanzas are placed.

As a Christian in the Reformed tradition, I believe that throughout history (and throughout the scriptural narrative) the general movement is that God acts, and we react; God grants grace and we respond.  In this hymn, it is especially moving because we see this movement, that God extends and invitation to us first.  We love because God first loved us (1 John 4:19).  I find this to be an immense comfort, and I find this hymn to be wonderful as it consistently shows this movement within each stanza.

This hymn is a wonderful hymn for people who are weary and for pilgrims who require rest.  This hymn speaks not only of the rest that is to come with the eschaton, but also rest that occurs now.  Jesus is not only important for the world that is to come, but Jesus is important for the world now.  The benefits of Christ are not just “so we can go to heaven after we die,” but we begin to receive the benefits of Christ now, as redemption and restoration has already begun.

2 responses to “Hump-Day Hymns: I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say”

  1. Greetings from Wordwise Hymns. I posted an article on this hymn today, so was interested in what you have to say. I agree that it sort of fits your third category. In this it could be classed as a gospel song (or “spiritual song,” Col. 3:16). However, it also represents the God speaking, man responding category you mention in your second-to-last paragraph. Thanks for your comments..

    1. Thanks for reading, and thanks for commenting. I also appreciated what you had to say about it over at Wordwise hymns as well!

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