Our deepest need is for an intimate relationship with our Creator and Savior, Jesus Christ. Today’s hymn, I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say, speaks to our hearts as if God Himself is drawing us.
What Is Effective Calling and the Gospel Call?
This series of doctrinal teaching through hymns is based on the hymns found at the end of each of the fifty-seven chapters of Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology. This hymn, I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say, is at the end of Chaper 33, “The Gospel Call and Effective Calling.” (The quotes are from pages 692 – 4.) I’ll use Grudem’s words to describe these two parts of our redemption.
Effective calling is an act of God the Father, speaking through the human proclamation of the gospel, in which He summons people to Himself in such a way that they respond in saving faith…
In distinction from effective calling, which is entirely an act of God, we may talk about the gospel call in general which comes through human speech. This gospel call is offered to all people, even those who do not accept it… The gospel call is general and external and often rejected, while the effective call is particular, internal, and always effective. However, this is not to diminish the importance of the gospel call–it is the means God has appointed through which effective calling will come. Without the gospel call, no one could repond and be saved! “How are they to believe in Him of whom they have never heard?” (Romans 10:14).
The Gospel Call over Two Thousand Years
I found it interesting in researching this post, that the Bride of Christ, the Church, stitched different threads into the tapestry that resulted in the video clip I’m sharing with you today. You can hear the effective calling from the Father through the Son in this hymn. The gospel call comes to us through believers across two millennia, from the gospels to some people at BBC.
The former tax collector, Matthew, recorded the words of Jesus in the first century:
At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” ~ Matthew 11:25-30 (ESV)
We see these same words of Jesus reflected in verse 1 as the hymnist, Horatius Bonar, penned the words of I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say in 1846 in Kelso, Scotland. According to Hymnary.org, Dr. Bonar “was a great lover of children and was concerned about how little the children understood of the metrical Psalms that were sung in the Scottish church of his day. I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say was one of the over 600 hymns he wrote to address the needs of the churches he served. Interestingly, John B. Dykes [the original composer] used the somber key of G minor to present Jesus’ invitation to our weary, thirsty and dark souls in the first half of each verse; in the second half of each verse when the invitation has been accepted and the soul satisfied, Dykes used the happier key of G major.”
The composer, Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872 – 1958) was the musical editor of The English Hymnal (1906) in which he introduced the melody we now associate with the hymn. Williams began collecting folk tunes in 1903. Kingsfold is a folk tune that probably dates back to the Middle Ages which Williams first heard in Kingsfold, Sussex, England, south of London. According to Hymnary.org, after having hearing this particular tune, he set it as a hymn tune for I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say.
For several decades, BBC has been producing the Songs of Praise program. The special entitled, Northumberland, is older (probably filmed 1990 – 1995), and not listed on the official site, but if you do this Google search, you’ll be able to watch additional video clips from the series. For the clip featuring I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say, BBC shot footage 30 miles east of Kelso on the Holy Island of Lindisfarne. This place was the site where the gospel took hold in Northumberland in the mid-seventh century.
From the words of Jesus in the first century, poetically crafted into a hymn in 1846 and from the medieval folk tune set to the words in 1906… Now, let the words and melody of the hymn itself speak to you and touch your soul.
How does God comfort your heart through this hymn?
I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say
Lyrics of I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say (from Hymnary.org)
I heard the voice of Jesus say,
“Come unto Me and rest;
lay down, thou weary one, lay down
thy 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.
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.
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 that Light of life I’ll walk,
till all my journey’s done.
Knowing God through Hymns
Starting in 2017, join me every other Sunday in praising God for who He is. For this series, I’m using each of the hymns at the ends of all the 57 chapters of Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology. Want to find more hymns from this Sunday hymn series? Click the hymn tag.
- Horatius Bonar (1808 – 1889) was a prolific author and hymnist; this hymn being one of many that spread to all the English-speaking world. (Bonar was acquainted with Robert Murray M’cheyne who is known for his system for reading through the Bible in one year.)
- Do a Google search for additional video clips from the BBC Songs Of Praise special entitled Northumberland. The video segment in this post was filmed at Selby Abbey, Yorkshire, and the Holy Island of Lindisfarne, Northumberland (according to the YouTube site).
- For complete help in performing this hymn instrumentally and/or in four-part vocals, visit Colin Kirkpatrick Music: Your Favourite Hymns Online.
- Photo by Nathan Anderson available on Unsplash.
- The following is a partial list of the Scripture references for I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say provided by Hymnary.org: