Posted by: rcottrill | March 6, 2013

The King of Love My Shepherd Is

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)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal

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.

Questions:
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.)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal


Responses

  1. I think it is no accident that the Lord Jesus taught that He is the Good Shepherd (John 10). In this illustration He not only drew clear understanding of His redemptive work for all, but also declared that He is the LORD who is my Shepherd (Psalm 23)–confessing His deity and sovereignty. There are myriad verses in both OT & NT declaring Christ in such intimate ways…the great Shepherd of the sheep (Heb 13:20). I think that is why this hymn is so endearing. It speaks peace and quiet assurance to the troubled soul–whether troubled by sin, or tossed about by current waves of difficulty. We can know that our Shepherd will guide us safely to His house, as we follow close by Him. Thank you for this thoughtful presentation!

    • Thank you for both of your posted comments. Well said. I agree, and was especially struck by your statement, “To sing these precious old hymns is to be immersed in Biblical thinking.” That’s one big reason for this blog, and for my hope that churches will realize the error of abandoning the hymn book and our heritage of sacred music.

      A good hymn learned and loved, rings in our memories and helps us to see life from God’s perspective. Yes, there are some hymns and gospel songs that are simple–if not simplistic. But in so many there are statements or phrases that express a profound thought, and are worthy of our continuing meditation. Three quick examples:

      ☼ In her beautiful hymn Take the Name of Jesus with You, Lydia Baxter refers to Jesus, the bearer of “the Name,” as the “hope of earth and joy of heaven.” That’s worth pondering!

      ☼ In her hymn More Love to Thee, Elizabeth Prentiss strikes a profound (and biblical note) with her prayer, “Let sorrow do its work, send grief and pain; sweet are Thy messengers, sweet their refrain, when they can sing with me: More love, O Christ, to Thee.”

      ☼ In his song Love Lifted Me (somewhat spoiled by its bouncy rinky-tink tune), James Rowe says, “Love so mighty and so true merits my soul’s best songs.” With that I can wholeheartedly concur.

      After some fifty years of studying our English hymnody, I could likely come up with dozens more examples, but these suffice to make the point. Not all of these songs are great literature–though a few would qualify. But, functioning as they should, they are songs of the soul, training us to think biblically. God bless.


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