Posted by: rcottrill | July 31, 2017

Jesus Leads

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Words: John Ralston Clements (b. Nov. 28, 1868; d. Jan. 1, 1946)
Music: John Robson Sweney (b. Dec. 31, 1837; d. Apr. 10, 1899)

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Note: The Clements family emigrated to America from Ireland in 1870. In his late teens, John Clements put his faith in Christ, through the ministry of evangelist D. L. Moody. He later served for seventeen years as president of what is now David College, in Johnson City, New York. Over the course of many years, Clements also wrote thousands of hymns, including a song about heaven called No Night There. The present one is lesser known, but it witnesses emphatically to the Lord’s leading in the believer’s life.

The methods used in caring for a flock of sheep have changed considerably since ancient times, but there are still places in the world where the work is carried on much the same as in centuries past.

Our word “shepherd” is a contraction of the Old English sceaphierde, meaning sheep herder. It is the shepherd’s responsibility to lead the sheep to good pasturage and fresh water, to tend to any sickness or injury, and seek after ones that wander off and get lost. He must also be on the lookout for thieves and predators, and protect the flock from harm.

In the Bible, words such as shepherd, sheep, and flock are found over four hundred and fifty times. There we learn that King David was a shepherd in his younger years (I Sam. 16:11), and several of his psalms use that experience, as does his Psalm 23, one of the best known passages in all of God’s Word.

To get a better understanding of the rich spiritual meaning of that psalm, you can purchase A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23, by Canadian shepherd Philip Keller (1920-1997). Though it was written in 1970, the book remains in print, and it’s a wonderful resource. Keller wrote other fine books as well, including Lessons from a Sheep Dog, about how his kindness and patience reclaimed to usefulness an abused dog. Both books are recommended.

Shepherding is spoken of in a couple of ways in the Scriptures.

First, there are literal shepherds, like David, and the ones to whom the angels announced the birth of Christ (Lk. 2:8-14). Their work was prominent in Israel because of the many sacrifices commanded by the Jewish Law. There was, for example, the annual offering of the Passover lamb (Exod. 12:3, 5-6), which was a symbol pointing forward to Christ’s sacrifice on the cross for our sins (Jn. 1:29; I Cor. 5:7).

2) But shepherding itself was also used in a symbolic way of those who shepherd us spiritually. The people of God are called His sheep and flock:

“Know that the Lord, He is God; it is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; we are His people and the sheep of His pasture” (Ps. 100:3; cf. Isa. 53:6).

The Lord is our spiritual Shepherd, the One who guides and guards and nurtures us. This picture is not only given to us in Psalm 23:1, but in other texts (Isa. 40:10-11; Lk. 15:3-7; Jn. 10:1-18; Heb. 13:20-21; Rev. 7:15-17). And church leaders are considered shepherds of their congregations, serving under Christ (Acts 20:28; I Pe. 5:2-4). The word “pastor” itself (Eph. 4:11), poimen in Greek, means shepherd.

It is hardly a surprise, given the biblical emphasis, that dozens of our hymns take up this theme. In our hymnals are found not only metrical versions of Psalm 23, but many other songs as well that make use of the theme, or are related Bible texts. For example:

Saviour, Like a Shepherd Lead Us
The Ninety and Nine
He Leadeth Me
In Heavenly Love Abiding
Surely Goodness and Mercy
Shepherd of Tender Youth

The last of these, written around AD 200, is the earliest Christian hymn still in use. Another hymn focusing on the Lord’s shepherd care is Jesus Leads. It was written in 1893 by John Clements.

CH-1) Like a shepherd, tender, true,
Jesus leads, Jesus leads,
Daily finds us pastures new,
Jesus leads, Jesus leads;
If thick mists are o’er the way,
Or the flock ’mid danger feeds,
He will watch them lest they stray,
Jesus leads, Jesus leads.

CH-2) All along life’s rugged road
Jesus leads, Jesus leads,
Till we reach yon blest abode,
Jesus leads, Jesus leads;
All the way, before He’s trod,
And He now the flock precedes,
Safe into the fold of God,
Jesus leads, Jesus leads.

1) How do the various functions of shepherds described earlier relate to what the Lord does for us?

2) What truths found in Psalm 23 have been a special blessing to you?

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal


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