Singing through the Year: I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say

This coming Sunday’s Gospel reading tells the story of Jesus at the well with the Samaritan woman. Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water [from the well] will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.”

In the hymn I’ve selected, “I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say,” Jesus welcomes the singer to the living water, and the singer responds in faith to Jesus’ offer of salvation.

Most of the hymns I’m posting here are ones I’m memorizing—I’ve mentioned before that I often don’t know hymn texts very well since I’m usually playing organ to accompany them—but this hymn is actually one of my top two favorites (I think! It feels so definite and final to say top two since there are so many good hymns!). But even though I already sing it all the time, I chose it anyway because it pairs so well with next Sunday’s Gospel reading.

I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say

This text can be set to a number of tunes, but my favorites are KINGSFOLD (a British folk tune) and THIRD MODE MELODY by the English composer Thomas Tallis. Personally, I always sing this to Tallis’s tune—it marries perfectly with the text and, as a bonus, you can keep the words in your heart while listening to Ralph Vaughn Williams’s Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis.

I heard the voice of Jesus say,
“Come unto me and rest;
and in your weariness 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.

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, 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 traveling days are done.