Posted by: rcottrill | August 17, 2011

He Leadeth Me

Words: Joseph Henry Gilmore (b. Apr. 29, 1834; d. July 23, 1918)
Music: William Batchelder Bradbury (b. Oct. 6, 1816; d. Jan. 7, 1868)

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: The unusual story of the origin of this hymn is found in both of the above links–about a man who wrote a hymn without even knowing it!

Without much question, Psalm 23 is the favourite of all one hundred and fifty found in the book of Psalms. Perhaps it’s the best known of any Bible passage, with the possible exception of Matt. 6:9-13, containing “The Lord’s Prayer.” No wonder many versions and paraphrases of the text have been turned into hymns. The Cyber Hymnal currently lists 34, and at a glance I could think of a couple more that might be included.

Joseph Gilmore’s song doesn’t adhere to the text of Scripture. It’s more of a meditation on the six verses of the psalm. He begins (in CH-1) by rejoicing in the blessedness and comfort that it gives him to know the Shepherd leads him, wherever he goes, whatever he does. It would be a dreadful thing, to be wandering through the wilderness of this world, with no one to guide and protect us, no one to take us to the still waters and green pastures of spiritual nourishment. God is concerned about that too.

It’s something that moved the heart of Christ to have compassion on those who came to Him. “Jesus, when He came out [of the boat], saw a great multitude and was moved with compassion for them, because they were like sheep not having a shepherd. So He began to teach them many things” (Mk. 6:34). They certainly had spiritual leaders, but they were blind leaders of the blind (Matt. 15:12, 14), men who added to the burdens of those who followed them, rather than relieving them (Matt. 23:4)

These were not true shepherds of the flock. They were too full of pride and self interest to be concerned about others (cf. Jn. 10:11-13). It was like “having no shepherd” at all. What a comfort to have, in the Lord, a wise and gracious Shepherd leading us, a loving and compassionate Shepherd, who has our best interests in mind!

But does that mean there will never be difficult days, or challenges to face? Of course not. And Mr. Gilmore’s hymn faces that reality (CH-2). In addition to traveling through “Eden’s bowers,” and “by waters still,” there are “scenes of deepest gloom,” and sometimes a “troubled sea” to navigate. But, even then, the Shepherd leads us on. And even in the midst of danger and difficulty, we can be victorious. “Thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ” (II Cor. 2:14).

Given that we have such a Shepherd, how should we respond? CH-3 and the refrain indicate that. (Note: the word “repine” means to be fretful or complaining.)

Lord, I would place my hand in Thine,
Nor ever murmur nor repine;
Content, whatever lot I see,
Since ’tis my God that leadeth me.

He leadeth me, He leadeth me,
By His own hand He leadeth me;
His faithful follower I would be,
For by His hand He leadeth me.

Serenity and contentment in difficult times are only possible when we trust in the Shepherd, and have confidence in Him. Paul tells us he “learned…to be content,” indicating it wasn’t a natural thing. But he could be confident in all circumstances, “through Christ who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:11, 13).

The psalm speaks of how the Shepherd gives comfort and aid, even in “the valley of the shadow of death” (Ps. 23:4). His leading does not end at the grave. It goes on through death, and into the eternal day (CH-4). The Bible says, “The Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to living fountains of waters. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes” (Rev. 7:17).

And when my task on earth is done,
When by Thy grace the vict’ry’s won,
E’en death’s cold wave I will not flee,
Since God through Jordan leadeth me.

1) Can you list some qualities of our divine Shepherd that make Him the best shepherd anyone could ever have?

2) What does the parable of the lost sheep (Lk. 15:3-7) add to our understanding of the Shepherd’s loving care?

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal


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