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Words: Leonard W. Weaver (data unknwon)
Music: Mary E. Upham Currier (b. _____, 1858; d. Nov. 8, 1909)
Note: Leonard Weaver was an English evangelist at the turn of the twentieth century. We know little more about him, except that he lived for a time in Grimsby, Ontario, which is a town in Canada, only a few miles from where I was born. Mrs. Currier occasionally used the name M. E. Upham (her maiden name).
Sometimes this hymn is entitled The Lord Is My Shepherd, but it seems helpful to distinguish from others with the same title. In addition to I Have a Shepherd, I’ve seen it printed under the title Following Jesus (words taken from the refrain). The wording below is slightly different in a couple of places to what is found in the Cyber Hymnal. The tune is catchy and easy to sing.
We all have our traditions–practices that have been handed down to us from years gone by. Nations do, and communities do, as well as families and individuals. Often they relate to what we do on special days during the year.
For many, Thanksgiving has its turkey dinner, Christmas has its decorated tree, Valentine’s Day has its hearts and chocolates, on St. Patrick’s Day we may wear something green, and so on. Such traditions are familiar ground we enjoy visiting over and over. We look forward to such things, and would miss them if they were dropped.
Some traditions seem a little strange outside the circle of those who’ve adopted them. I know a family that, after opening their presents on Christmas morning, passes around oranges and eats them. Then, they begin throwing the peels at one another, until all are exhausted in laughter! It must be great fun, but we’ve never done that at our house.
There’s some familiar ground in the Bible too. Even many who rarely go to church can repeat some form of the Golden Rule, “Just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise” (Lk. 6:31), and they likely know the Lord’s Prayer (Matt. 6:9-13). In the Old Testament, there’s surely no more beloved passage than the Shepherd Psalm, Psalm 23.
It’s hardly surprising, then, that hymn writers have written dozens of songs, either quoting from that particular psalm, or paraphrasing it, or at least finding inspiration in it. For instance, there’s the almost word for word rendering of the Scottish Psalter of 1650, and Joseph Gilmore’s hymn He Leadeth Me, and Anna Waring’s In Heavenly Love Abiding.
David, who wrote the psalm, became the king of Israel. But in his early years he tended his family’s flock of sheep (I Sam. 16:10-13). We can picture him guarding them through the long night hours, and meditating on the parallels between his care of the animals and how God lovingly cares for His own children.
Similar poetic imagery is used many times in Scripture. “He will feed His flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom, and gently lead those who are with young” (Isa. 40:11; cf. Jn. 10:11, 14; Heb 13:20-21; I Pet. 5:1-4).
Believer’s after the cross, as before, can be reassured by the shepherd illustration. Because the Lord is my shepherd “I shall not want [meaning be in want of anything needful]” (vs. 1). Literal sheep need green pastures to feed in, and still waters to drink (vs. 2). In human terms, the Lord “restores my soul [gives spiritual refreshment and nourishment],” and “leads me in the paths of righteousness” (vs. 3).
The psalmist speaks of times of severe trial and danger as “the valley of the shadow of death” (vs. 4). There he finds comfort in the shepherd’s rod and staff–a club to drive off predators, and a shepherd’s crook to rescue straying sheep. Even in the presence of enemies, he feels safe (vs. 5), and looks forward to a safe arrival at his eternal home (vs. 6).
Weaver’s hymn, I Have a Shepherd, paraphrases the text of the psalm, giving it a New Testament application to Christ, and adding a refrain about “following Jesus, ever day by day”–a refrain that’s sometimes published and used by itself.
CH-1) I have a shepherd, one I love so well;
How He has blessed me tongue can never tell;
On the cross He suffered, shed His blood, and died,
That I might ever in His love confide.
Following Jesus ever day by day,
Nothing can harm me when He leads the way;
Darkness or sunshine, whate’er befall,
Jesus the Shepherd is my all in all.
CH-2) Pastures abundant doth His hand provide,
Still waters flowing ever at my side;
Goodness and mercy follow on my track;
With such a shepherd nothing can I lack.
CH-3) When I would wander from the path astray,
Then He doth draw me back into the way;
In the darkest valley I need fear no ill,
For He my shepherd will be with me still.
1) How have you experienced the loving care of your heavenly Shepherd in recent days?
2) What is your favourite hymn based on Psalm 23?