September 15: Come Unto Me
In a previous devotional on this anthem, I drew a contrast between this most precious invitation, “Come unto me,” and the terrifying opposite to which we were doomed before our salvation, “Depart from me.” The point I made in that article was that we would not be able to fully appreciate the invitation unless we contemplated the alternative. (Click here to read the full article.)
Certainly that is the starting point, and an important one, if we are to understand the gravity and wonder of the invitation, but this has to do with far more that what we have been saved from: “Come unto me” is the portal to what we have been saved for.
The anthem is taken from Matthew 11:28-29, where Jesus says, “Come unto me all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble of heart, and you shall find rest for your souls.” This is so much more than just fire insurance! Jesus doesn’t just say, “you will find rest,” but “I will give you rest.” It is personal between Jesus and those He invites. He doesn’t just say, “you will learn,” but “take my yoke upon you and learn from me.” He promises to help us personally to bear our burdens, to have Him as our gentle teacher guiding us in our way. “Come unto me” means to come into personal communion with the Lover of our souls, to be in His presence.
We hear too little of this in our current evangelical writing and preaching. We hear much about coming to Jesus for salvation, of the mechanics of discipleship and following Christ, but Jesus didn’t call His disciples to Himself just to show them a “way” or to expand their knowledge or to fulfill the plan of salvation. He called them to be with Him. He is here to restore what God had designed before the Fall—a personal fellowship with man.
Take a look at Jesus’ prayer in John 17. Jesus describes eternal life, not as being saved from hell, but “that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (v.3). This knowledge is not merely understanding, but relationship, as in knowing a person. In fact, Jesus concludes the prayer by saying, “I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known to them in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them” (v. 26). Jesus expresses this desire for love and union in this prayer:
- May they also be in us (v. 21)
- I in them, and you in me (v. 23)
- I have loved them even as you have loved me (v. 23)
- I want those you have given me to be with me where I am (v. 24)
“Come unto me” reveals the longing of our Savior’s heart, expressed throughout scripture. Jesus longed to gather His people, but they weren’t willing (Matthew 23:37; Luke 13:34). God says, “All day long I have held out my hands to an obstinate people, who walk in ways not good, pursuing their own imaginations” (Isaiah 65:2; Romans 10:21). This applies not only to those who totally refuse His offer of salvation but to those who refuse to come to Him for communion. It is why there will be some at the judgment seat who will tell Him all the things they’ve done for Him, but He will say, “Depart from me, I never knew you.” They had obstinately gone their own way in regard to what salvation means, instead of coming to HIM. But it also applies to those who have received true salvation but have not availed themselves of the abundant life in Him that He holds out for us to take, one of intimate fellowship.
He beckons us to come to receive so much—not just the peace and rest He mentions here, although that would be blessing enough—but in His presence are eternal pleasures at His right hand (Psalm 16:11). There are many verses that speak of the joy we find in His presence. Some of these verses have to do with celebrating and feasting with Him—our God seems to love a good party with us.
It is not surprising that scriptures about His presence describe light. This has to do with the learning Jesus mentions, but also the dazzling glory of beholding Him as He reveals Himself to us in deeper ways. We come for the cleansing He gives us in the holy fire of His presence (Psalm 90:8), allowing us to draw ever nearer. There is safety in His presence (Psalm 31:20), and renewal (Hosea 6:2). When He says, “Come unto me,” He is inviting us to a place of delight and intimacy that we needn’t wait until heaven to sample.
This song is an invitation that people need to hear, whether they are just coming to the threshold, or are needing to cross over into that more intimate understanding of the invitation. It is the essence of what we are doing when we bear witness to others of the gospel. But we will be most effective, whether we are singing or testifying, if we have accepted that invitation to come, intimately into fellowship ourselves. Then we will not merely be repeating a story we’ve heard, but proclaiming a certainty we’ve experienced personally, expressing the sweetness and joy we tasted firsthand. So as we prepare to share, may we accept His invitation: “Come Unto Me,” and spend some time with Him in joy, worship and fellowship.
by Sheri Cook, Director of Special Ministries