This is not your grandma’s hymn-version of this song!
My dad brought home the Edwin Hawkins Singers’ album featuring the popular crossover single “Oh, Happy Day” sometime in 1969 or early 70. My dad loved good gospel. He put that thing on the blue and white Hi-Fi and cranked it so loud the entire 3-story house was pulsating with the sound. Of course the vibrating windows and doors were opened and I recall my mom wondering, “Why does it have to be so loud?”
The music was that good. It deserved to be heard. And it became part of our family’s soundtrack, from the “Oh, Happy Day,” tune for which it had been purchased (later covered in the film “Sister Act,” fun for a whole new generation) to the crazy-great “Come and Go with Me to My Father’s House,” that one especially, my sister, Tami, and I still enjoy and break out singing to this day. But there was this other song, though I loved them all, that I found to be powerful, direct and just passionately spoke to my heart. I was 10 when I loved it first and was surprised, as a young teen, to come across the original hymn, (Horatius Bonar wrote the words in 1846, with John Dykes adding music in 1868), in our church songbook. We didn’t sing it at our church at all. But I saw the lyrics were exacly the same as this Edwin Hawkins Singers song I loved, just not the melody. I didn’t even know what a cover song was then, but I had found one!
Music and lyrics for the traditional version, straight out of a hymnbook!
About 10 years ago I rediscovered the incredible, electrifying energy and message of the song, the version of my childhood, the soul version, and oh-how-I-still appreciate the strong language (“Take My yoke upon you and learn of Me”), the vivid word images (“Behold I freely give Living Water, thirsty one, stoop down and drink and live”) , the power of surrender (“I came to Jesus and I drank of that life-giving stream”) and more. But the very first words, the sweet invitation – “I heard the voice of Jesus say ‘Come unto Me and rest,'” is what the whole song is about. And a compelling song it is. If/when you are weary and worn and sad, if/when you are hungry or thirsty or if /when your soul is just wrung out, this is your personal, engraved (in the palm of His hands) invitation to come and rest and be refreshed – an invitation from Jesus Himself! I was so excited to find some one had Youtubed The E-H Singers. Yay! Please listen and sing along. It will rev you up to be refreshed and revived, rested and made glad. This is your invite. Accept! I am. :)
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, weary and worn and sad; I found in Him a resting place, and He has made me glad. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me For my yoke is easy and my burden is light And my burden is light- 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 traveling days are done.
Come unto to Me and rest.
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” Matthew 11.28-30 The Message