Posted by: rcottrill | June 25, 2018

His Yoke Is Easy

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Also see 30+ Ideas for Promoting Hymn Singing in your church. As others have contributed ideas, this wonderful resource has grown to over 80 items now. And, for more than three dozen reasons why congregations should still use hymn books rather than merely projecting words on the wall, see The Value of Hymn Books.

Words: Ralph Erskine Hudson (b. July 12, 1843; d. June 14, 1901)
Music: Ralph Erskine Hudson

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Ralph Hudson)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: Hudson wrote both words and music on occasion. His gospel songs tend to be simple and singable. But when he takes a solemn hymn such as Isaac Watts’s Alas, and Did My Saviour Bleed?, calls it At the Cross, and sets it to a bouncy tune with a peppy chorus, I believe he’s missed the reverent awe of the original. The words do not suit his tune (see).

Psalm 23 is likely the best known and most quoted passage in the Bible, other than perhaps the Lord’s Prayer. Many know it by heart, and have been blessed by it many times. And dozens of hymn writers have been inspired to put its text or its truths into verse.

It would seem difficult, therefore, to say anything particularly fresh and original about the six verses. It’s been studied by Jews, and by Christians, for thousands of years. But reading or reciting it again is rather like visiting an old friend. It’s very familiarity and reliability is part of what makes it comforting and reassuring.

The psalm is about a journey of faith, through dangers and difficulties, wisely guided, richly nourished, and strongly protected, by our Shepherd (vs. 1-2). He’s the One revealed in the New Testament as “the good Shepherd” (Jn. 10:11), the chief Shepherd (I Pet. 5:4), and “that great Shepherd of the sheep” (Heb. 13:20), the incarnate Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ.

When we’re weakened or bruised along our earthly pilgrimage, He “restores” us (Ps. 23:3), refreshing or healing as needed. The Hebrew word for “soul” there is nephesh. It can refer to life, strength, the self, or the inner being–the latter is likely meant here. The Shepherd is able to reassure us in the face of “evil” (vs. 4), a term that can speak of wickedness, or simply of adversities that distress or threaten us harm.

We don’t pass through dark valleys (vs. 4) because, somehow, our Shepherd has made a wrong turn. Such times are also part of His loving plan. He has things to teach us along the way, and He was lead us through, in His good time. For the Christian, that transient valley of shade lies between two lofty hills, Mount Calvary (the prophetic theme of Psalm 22), and the heavenly Mount Zion (Psalm 24; cf. Heb. 12:22-24). But in company with our all-sufficient, risen and glorified Saviour, we need have no fear of the journey from the cross to the crown.

The rod and staff were two of the essential tools of shepherds, along with healing oil (vs. 5). The rod was a club used to beat off attacking predators. The staff was the familiar shepherd’s crook, used to direct and guide, and to rescue straying sheep. Sometimes a lamb could fall into a deep crevasse and be unable to get out. With the curved hook on his staff, the shepherd could lift the animal to safety.

Psalm 23 assures us, “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies” (vs. 5). Compare that with Psalm 78:17-19, which quotes the rebellious Israelites in the wilderness saying, “Can God prepare a table in the wilderness?” Unbelief says, “Can God…?” while faith declares, “God can!”

Finally, through the goodness and mercy of the Lord, the believer will reach “the house of the Lord” (vs. 6). This does not refer to Israel’s worship centre, the tabernacle or later the temple. David (the author of the psalm) was not a Levite. He could not “dwell” there. He’s speaking, rather, of our heavenly home. The Old Testament saints knew less about our eternal destiny than we do now, but they certainly looked forward to an eternity with God.

“You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Ps. 16:11).

“God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave, for He shall receive me. Selah [Think of that!]” (Ps. 49:15).

“You will guide me with Your counsel, and afterward receive me to glory” (Ps. 73:24).

In 1885, Ralph Hudson wrote a song based on Psalm 23. The three simple stanzas follow the teaching of the psalm, but the refrain adds a new thought. Mr. Hudson quotes the words of the Lord Jesus in Matthew 11:28-30, “My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” It’s an effective paring with an old friend.

CH-1) The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me down to lie
In pastures green He leadeth me
The quiet waters by.

His yoke is easy; His burden is light.
I’ve found it so; I’ve found it so
He leadeth me by day and by night
Where living waters flow.

CH-2) My soul crieth out: “Restore me again,
And give me the strength to take
The narrow path of righteousness,
E’en for His own name’s sake.”

CH-3) Yea, tho’ I should walk the valley of death,
Yet why should I fear from ill?
For Thou art with me, and Thy rod
And staff me comfort still.

Questions:
1) In order for “the Lord is my Shepherd” to be a true statement of us personally, what must be true of our spiritual condition?

2) Why, in your opinion, is Psalm 23 so widely beloved and quoted?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Ralph Hudson)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org


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