Text: Horatio Bonar (1808-1889) Tune: English folk, arr. Ralph Vaughan Williams or Thomas Tallis or Amanda Husberg
1 I heard the voice of Jesus say,
“Come unto me and rest.
Lay down, O weary one,
Lay down your head upon my breast.”
I came to Jesus as I was,
So weary, worn, and sad.
I found in him a resting place,
And he has made me glad.
2 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 life-giving stream.
My thirst was quenched, my soul revived,
And now I live in him.
3 I heard the voice of Jesus say,
“I am the dawning light.
Look unto me, your morn shall rise,
And all your day be bright.”
I looked to Jesus, and I found
In him my star, my sun,
And in that light of life I’ll walk
Till trav’ling days are done.
REFLECTIONS Not very many of us can claim to have heard Jesus speaking directly to us, but we do hear him in Scripture when he says “Come unto me, all you who labor, and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” It fills our hearts with peace. To find rest for our souls is a wonderful thing.
It is no secret that today people are not getting enough rest. Without sleep, our bodies cannot heal and repair the stress and strain of the day. And there is nothing more restorative than a good night’s sleep, or even a brief nap on an afternoon. The restoration it brings us is immediately clear. But the rest Jesus is talking about is not just the rest of sleep. It is a rest of the soul that restores our spirits and makes us glad. He puts to rest our anxieties and stresses and gives us peace.
In the same way that he calms our spirit and gives us a rest and peace that passes understanding, the hymn also tells us he gives us the water of life. “Stoop down and drink and live.” We hear his conversation with the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well in the second stanza.
He tells her he has water that will quench her thirst forever. It will become a spring welling up to eternal life so that she will never thirsty again. She asks for it, almost greedily, “Sir, give me this water.” As we hear the two speaking out of the past, we want to be filled with that water. We want to see a light in our darkness, a star, our sun!
What Jesus offers us speaks to our deepest longings and needs. They work on both body and spirit. A rest that is more than physical rest, but that gives us a rest we cannot even understand but know. A drink that satisfies us forever, and a light that always shines in the darkness.
I was once waiting in a clinic for my sister to come from an appointment with her doctor, She had just had a lumpectomy for breast cancer. She was getting the report on what they had found. Just before she was done, I heard a voice or a presence say "All will be well." She walked out and told me the report was very bad and she needed a mastectomy and chemo. It was the beginning of a long awful year. Newly divorced, she needed help with her two children. I moved in with her to help her. It really did not feel like all was well on the surface, but the voice spoke of realities and meanings much deeper than I could see. The voice spoke a truth that enveloped me with a peace I had never felt before and has never left. I knew it was the Lord.
A glimpse, maybe, of eternity? A deep sense of calm. A taste of water welling up in me that quenched all my thirsts. A light in darkness. No wonder the Samaritan woman ran to tell her neighbors that she had found something for which she knew they thirsting. And they found it in him. Rest in him, drink, and be filled, and gladly walk in the light! It's what he came for!
Horatio Bonar was Scotland’s most gifted hymn writer in the mid 19th century. He began writing hymns that children might understand better than the metrical psalms of their tradition. This hymn called “A Voice from Galilee“ was among the most popular and famous of his texts. It was published in his collection Hymns of Faith and Hope in 1857.
There are several tunes for the text, from Thomas Tallis, John Bacchus Dykes to Ralph Vaughan Williams who set it to the old medieval folk tune Kingsfold. Amanda Husberg’s setting is among her most well known tunes just now and is much loved.
St. Patrick’s Cathedral Pipe organ version of hymn
Choir of Manchester Cathedral/Kingsfold
Songs of Praise/Kingsfold
Amanda Husberg's tune
St. John’s Episcopal Church, Boulder CO/Tallis tune
Enjoy this lovely tune Daniel Charles Damon for my text on the Samaritan woman