Latter-Day Hymns: Israel, Israel, God is Calling

aasdHymn #7 in our current LDS hymnbook is “Israel, Israel, God is Calling.” When I think of this hymn, I remember sitting in the old chapel on 100 West in Logan, Utah, with my Grandma Norton. This chapel has a lovely painting of a pioneer woman standing in front of a covered wagon, and this song so closely fits the message of that painting, it almost seems too much of a coincidence that I remember singing the song in that location.

The lyricist, Richard Smyth, served three missions for the Church and often entreated new converts to “come to Zion.” At the time, all members were being encouraged to come to the Salt Lake Valley and join with the Saints. This gathering was physical, but today, with the Church being worldwide, the call to “come to Zion” also takes on another meaning, that of leaving behind our worldly cares and sorrows and concentrating on the things of the spirit.

As the Saints physically gathered, they came by boat, by wagon, on foot, and later by train. The journey was long and hard. They suffered hunger, heat, and cold. They endured exhaustion and disease. Yet, their joy on entering the Valley far surpassed all their pain.

In the same way, Saints desiring Zion today face ridicule, temptations, addictions, loss of friendships, loss of family members, prejudice, lack of support, and sometimes outright cruelty, and yet the joy of coming closer to Christ far surpasses the pain they endure.

The first verse of the hymn reads:

Israel, Israel, God is calling,
Calling thee from lands of woe.
Babylon the great is falling;
God shall all her tow’rs o’erthrow.
Come to Zion, come to Zion
Ere his floods of anger flow.
Come to Zion, come to Zion
Ere his floods of anger flow.

This refers more to a physical gathering, while the last verse refers to that of a spiritual nature:

Israel! Israel! Canst thou linger
Still in error’s gloomy ways?
Mark how judgment’s pointing finger
Justifies no vain delays.
Come to Zion, come to Zion!
Zion’s walls shall ring with praise.
Come to Zion, come to Zion!
Zion’s walls shall ring with praise.

We can’t delay the hour of our repentance. Who knows when it will be too late. But the invitation to “come to Zion” is one of joy, and we feel included, wanted, welcome, when we hear it.

Side note: You may recognize the tune for this song as the one used for the standard Christian hymn, “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.”

Related Blogs:

The Morning Breaks, the Shadows Flee

The Spirit of God

Now Let Us Rejoice