Hymn of the Week

by Jeff Mowery

Jesus Took My Burden

When I a poor lost sinner before the Lord did fall
And in the name of Jesus for pardon loud did call
He heard my supplication and soon the weak was strong
For Jesus took my burden and left with me a song
Yes Jesus took my burden I could no longer bear
Yes Jesus took my burden in answer to my prayer
My anxious fears subsided my spirit was made strong
For Jesus took my burden and left me with a song

Oft-times the way is dreary and rugged seems the road
Oft-times I’m weak and weary when bent beneath some load
But when I cry in weakness how long O Lord how long
Jesus takes the burden and leaves me with a song
When I was crushed with sorrow I bowed in deep despair
My load of grief and heartache seemed more than I could bear
Twas then I heard a whisper you to the Lord belong
Then Jesus took my burden and left me with a song

I’ll trust Him for the future He knoweth all the way
For with His eye He’ll guide me along life’s pilgrim way
And I will tell in heaven while ages roll along
How Jesus took my burden and left me with a song

Written by the Rev. Johnson Oatman, this particular song was unfamiliar to me.  I found this particular song in The Cokesbury Hymnal, but had never heard it before.  Rev. Oatman never formally pastored a church, but was ordained by the Methodist Episcopal denomination.    His influence, however, on the church across denominations was great because he authored over 5,000 hymns.  Some of his hymns that you will be familiar with and some of my personal favorites include “No, Not One,” “Count your blessings,” and “Higher Ground.”  All of which have been featured as “Hymns of the week.”

Rev. Oatman worked as a businessman most of his life, primarily in the insurance business.  Although he never influenced the world via a pastorate in a church, his hymns have influenced many generations by their powerful, yet simple, messages.  Songs like “No Not One” and “Count your blessings” contain great spiritual truth, but are also simple enough that a child can understand and relate to them.  Mr. Oatman never received more than $1.00 for any hymn that he ever wrote even though they were extremely popular and are found in many hymnals today.   I like to think that this particular hymn was a personal testimony of Rev. Oatman.  Maybe God took this person who was ordained by his church for ministry, who maybe had a burden to minister to others, and God exchanged that burden for a song….for many songs….over 5,000 songs.
Couple of comments on the lyrics:
  • “How long O Lord how long” – Several times in the book of Job you hear Job say these words “How long?”  You will find this outcry in many of the Psalms.  Psalm 6:3 says “My soul is also sore vexed: but thou, O LORD, how long?”  Psalm 13:1 starts out with this cry How long wilt thou forget me, O LORD? for ever? how long wilt thou hide thy face from me?”  In Psalm 89:46, you find the Psalmist writing How long, LORD? wilt thou hide thyself for ever? shall thy wrath burn like fire?”  “How long” is not an unusual, nor an ungodly prayer in my opinion.  They are honest words from a heart struggling with pain…from someone on the verge of losing hope.  But I love the author’s words when he tells us what happened after his “how long” prayer.  He said “Jesus takes the burden and leaves me with a song.”  That is the resolution you often find to the “how long’s” of the Psalmists.  Psalm 6:8-9 says “Depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity; for the LORD hath heard the voice of my weeping. The LORD hath heard my supplication; the LORD will receive my prayer.”  Psalm 13 closes with “But I have trusted in thy mercy; my heart shall rejoice in thy salvation. I will sing unto the LORD, because he hath dealt bountifully with me.”  The Lord heard his cry, took his burden and exchanged it for a song. 
  • “For with His eye He’ll guide me” – I found this phrasing rather interesting.  Don’t you typically guide someone with your hand or maybe you point them in the right direction with your finger?  But as I reflect on how I have guided my own children, sometimes the eyes are the best guide.  If they look into my face and understand what I am telling them to do (or not to do) with my eyes, the eyes can become great guides.  I wonder if the Lord is wanting us to seek His face and find guidance in His eyes.  That we know Him so well we can “read the expression on His face” and we fully understand where He wants us to go, why He wants us to go, and when He wants us to go.  I hope that we can all look to Him for guidance.  To trust His guiding Hands and seek His guiding eyes.
One of my favorite hymns about burdens is “Take your burden to the Lord and leave it there.”  It is a musical reminder of Peter’s words in his first epistle “Casting all your care upon Him for he careth for you.”  I like that old hymn because it reminds us that the Lord does not want us carrying around heavy burdens all the time.  He doesn’t want us feeling crushed under a load we were not made to carry.  He wants us to cast these burdens on Him.  But I also like the thought behind today’s hymn.  The thought that says “Bring your burden to me and I will exchange it for something.”  I will exchange your burden for peace.  I will exchange your burden for contentment.  I will exchange your burden for joy, and give you a song.  That, I believe, is at the heart of what the author wrote here, and I think it reflects a truth about God’s nature.  He is not wanting His children to trod through this life with a load of care.  He wants us to live this life with a song as a testimony to His great love and compassion. 
I pray today that if you have a burden you are bearing, that you will take that burden to the Lord and ask Him to exchange it for a song.  I trust that He will answer your prayer, and give you a song (I just pray that it is one of these great old hymns).