The song dates to 1959, and according to V. E. Howard’s Church Gospel Songs & Hymns, the Firm Foundation secured a copyright for the song in 1961 which, according to Praise for the Lord, was renewed in 1987.
The song is composed in 220.127.116.11 D meter and the tune is called THOMAS since J. I. Thomas also composed the music for this hymn. The numbers 18.104.22.168 indicate that a phrase of six syllables is followed by a phrase of four syllables. The letter “D” means “doubled” meaning the 22.214.171.124 pattern is repeated twice in each verse.
James Irving Thomas (1902-1977), Lyricist & Composer
For some hymn writers the information available online is rather scarce. Sadly, the sands of history cover our ability to learn about the lives of some hymn writers. Fortunately, I was able to contact Thomas’ daughter, Sharon Sheppard, and learn more about her father, family and the songs he wrote. Special appreciation is expressed to her for many of the details relating to her father, J. I. Thomas.
Mrs. Sheppard stated that James Irving Thomas was known as “J. I.” to those who knew him. He was born in Shiro, TX on September 10, 1902 to James J. Thomas and Effie Mae Martin Thomas. He married Nealy Annie Arnold on August 15, 1925, and they lived their lives in San Antonio, TX. Mr. and Mrs. J. I. Thomas had two children, but one died at childbirth. The other child was a daughter named Sharon who married and had two sons and now a grandson.
J. I. Thomas’ primary occupation was that of a furniture salesman and he became a manager with the Household Furniture Company. He studied music and was also taught by Tillit S. Teddlie and his uncle, Clement C. Martin. J. I. Thomas wrote about 12 published hymns including: “Savior I Look to Thee”, “It Will Be Joy Someday”, “I’ll Praise My King” and “I Am Walking With My Savior”, “Over There We’ll Never Grow Old”, and “’Twill Be Joy Some Day” (dedicated to Tillit S. Teddlie).
Thomas worked to help establish the Harlandale Church of Christ in San Antonio, TX as one of her charter members. He was the congregation’s first song leader and would lead singing for over 50 years. He taught singing schools, directed chorus singing, and sang in quartets including on a radio program in Texas. He also served as an elder. One of the congregation’s preachers was Paul Stevens who would take J. I. Thomas with him to work gospel meetings together. Stevens would preach, and Thomas would lead the singing. The congregation at one time was as large as 500 members; however, due to the development of San Antonio, the congregation’s size diminished. The congregation merged with the Southeast congregation and sold the building in 2010.
J. I. Thomas died on March 8, 1977 in San Antonio, Texas. The family’s grief was compounded when his wife died two days later on March 10, 1977. They are buried together in Sunset Memorial Park in San Antonio.
Savior I Look To Thee
This beautiful hymn speaks about relationships, the most important of relationships—your relationship with Jesus the Christ.
Jesus plainly stated that our relationship on this earth with Him will have a direct bearing on our relationship to Him and the Father in eternity—“Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 10:32-33, NKJV.) Some are quick to respond that they confess Jesus. They may be doing so with their mouths, which is certainly important; Romans 10:10, but there is more than merely confessing to claim that Jesus is your Savior. Jesus pointed out that we must obey His will at least three times in the gospel of John: (1) “If you love Me, keep My commandments” (John 14:15, NKJV); (2) “He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him” (John 14:21, NKJV); and (3) “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love” (John 15:10, NKJV.) Sadly, there are many who dismiss one of the clearest commands that Jesus taught in word and in deed; cf., Matthew 3:14-16; Matthew 28:19; and Mark 16:16. Notice that the preaching of Christ involved the response of submission to baptism—“But when they believed Philip as he preached the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, both men and women were baptized” (Acts 8:12, NKJV.)
Recall that Jesus revealed to us the fate of a group that failed to understand that there is more to a relationship with Him than merely claiming one. Jesus revealed an alarming sentence, one that we should give serious reflection on—“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’” (Matthew 7:21-23, NKJV).
Remember, to have a relationship with Jesus in eternity requires that you have a relationship with Him in the here and now! If Jesus is not your Savior, then please give serious thought to professing your allegiance to Him and enjoy a relationship that will take your through this life, past death and into eternity! What other relationship is more precious than that?
Holland L. Boring, Sr., Christian Song Album: With Biographical Sketches, Rosebud, TX: Holland L. Boring, Sr., 1968, p. 89.
Gene C. Finley, Our Garden of Song, West Monroe, LA: Howard Publishing Company, 1980, pp. 473-475.
David R. Kenney, "Interview of Sharon Sheppard, Daughter of J. I. Thomas," Telephone Interview, 23 February 2015.
V. E. Howard, Editor, and Broadus E. Smith, Associate Editor, Church Gospel Songs and Hymns, West Monroe, LA: Central Printers & Publishers, 1983.
John P. Wiegand, Editor, Praise for the Lord, Nashville, TN: Praise Press, 1997.
G.H.P. Showalter, Editor, “Harlandale Church of Christ, San Antonio Builds A New Auditorium,” Firm Foundation, May 4, 1948, p. 9.