Words: Henry Williams Baker (b. May 27, 1821; d. Feb. 12, 1877)
Music: Dominus Regit Me, by John Bacchus Dykes (b. Mar. 10, 1823; d. Jan. 22, 1876)
Note: This is a beautiful paraphrase of Psalm 23, which links it to New Testament truth with a reference to the cross of Christ in CH-4. Our relationship with Christ, and the basis for all He does for us, flows from His sacrifice on Calvary’s cross.
Think of some of the wonderful things the Shepherd does for His own.
(CH-1) He loves us. This is an overarching quality under which all the other things are found. “The Son of God…loved me and gave Himself for me” (Gal. 2:20).
His unfailing goodness means we’ll never lack anything needful. “Those who seek the LORD shall not lack any good thing” (Ps. 34:10). “My God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:19).
“He is mine,” and I am His. (Compare Solomon’s bride, “My beloved is mine, and I am his. He feeds his flock among the lilies,” S.S. 2:16.) This represents an intimate and enduring relationship. “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” (Rom. 8:35-39).
CH-1) The King of love my Shepherd is,
Whose goodness faileth never,
I nothing lack if I am His
And He is mine forever.
(CH-2) He provides daily refreshment and nurture for our souls. Jesus said, “I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture” (Jn. 10:9; cf. Isa. 40:11).
(CH-3) Here Baker has inserted an allusion to Jesus’ parable of the lost sheep (Lk. 15:3-7). It beautifully ties in with his emphasis on the loving concern of the divine Shepherd for His sheep. He seeks us when we go astray, and graciously restores us.
CH-3) Perverse and foolish oft I strayed,
But yet in love He sought me,
And on His shoulder gently laid,
And home, rejoicing, brought me.
(CH-4) He guides us through life’s journey, and will take us safely through “the valley of the shadow of death.” “You will guide me with Your counsel, And afterward receive me to glory” (Ps. 73:24). “O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory? The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (I Cor. 15:55-57; cf. Heb. 2:14-15).
CH-4) In death’s dark vale I fear no ill
With Thee, dear Lord, beside me;
Thy rod and staff my comfort still,
Thy cross before to guide me.
(CH-5) As well us suggesting nourishment for our souls, this stanza seems to represent intimate fellowship with the Lord, and His sanctifying grace. “Truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. And these things we write to you that your joy may be full” (I Jn. 1:3-4). “You have an anointing from the Holy One [i.e. the indwelling Holy Spirit, cf. Jn. 7:38-39; I Cor. 6:19]….the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you” (I Jn. 2:20-21).
CH-5) Thou spread’st a table in my sight;
Thy unction grace bestoweth;
And O what transport of delight
From Thy pure chalice floweth!
(CH-6) No wonder those who belong to the Shepherd look forward to praising Him for all eternity. “So we, Your people and sheep of Your pasture, will give You thanks forever” (Ps. 79:13).
CH-6) And so through all the length of days
Thy goodness faileth never;
Good Shepherd, may I sing Thy praise
Within Thy house forever.
1) What important truth is expressed in the first five words of Psalm 23–without which the rest of the psalm can have little personal meaning to us?
2) What other hymns do you know and use that are based on Psalm 23? (The Cyber Hymnal lists about three dozen here.)