Posted by: rcottrill | April 22, 2019

He Leadeth Me

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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 (for another article see here)
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: Joseph H. Gilmore was an American pastor, and a university professor. The amazing story of how his poem came to be written, and was later turned into a hymn is found in the first Wordwise Hymns link above. The general affection for the song is suggested by its use in over a thousand hymnals.

William Bradbury wrote the music for many familiar hymns and gospel songs (e.g. Just As I Am; The Solid Rock (“My hope is built on nothing less…”); Sweet Hour of Prayer; Even Me (“Lord, I hear of showers of blessing…”); Jesus Loves Me; Saviour, Like a Shepherd Lead Us). An extensive biographical note about Bradbury is found on the Cyber Hymnal here.

What’s better than getting advice on how to repair a car? Perhaps it’s having a friend right next door who’s an expert mechanic, and is willing to work on the car. What’s better than being given directions to someplace we’ve never been? It’s having someone in the car who has, and knows the way.

I thought of these things as I revisited Psalm 23, the “Shepherd Psalm,” quite possibly the most beloved chapter in the Bible. The author of the psalm is David, a shepherd in his younger years, and later the king of Israel (II Sam. 7:8).

Shepherds are talked about in God’s Word nearly a hundred times–many more if we include other translations of the Hebrew and Greek words (herdsmen, pastors, and so on). Sometimes the words refer to those tending actual sheep; other times the words are used in a symbolic sense, with people portrayed as the sheep (e.g. Acts 20:28). In the psalm, David uses his experience with the flock of his father, Jesse, to draw a picture of the Lord as our Shepherd.

Before we look at other things in the psalm, we need to focus on the first five words:

“The Lord is my shepherd.”

Can that be said of you and me? It’s not automatic. It means there’s a personal commitment on our part of ongoing trust in the Lord, and obedience to Him. It means we have an intimate relationship with the Lord. In New Testament terms, this involves faith in Christ as our Saviour, and continuing recognition of Him as Lord of our lives.

If the Lord is indeed our Shepherd, we can have confidence that all our needs will be met (Ps. 23:1; cf. Phil. 4:19, “My God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”). He will lead us and guide us, day by day, by His Spirit (vs. 2a; cf. Rom. 8:14). And the Lord will provide our necessary spiritual food, through His Word (vs. 2b; cf. II Tim. 3:16-17, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable.”).

Just as the shepherd must constantly be concerned for the health of his sheep and treat physical problems (vs. 3a, 5b), so our Shepherd is concerned for our spiritual health. “Walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:1-3; 5:2).

The Lord is also ready to protect us from spiritual danger from our enemy the devil, providing a banquet of blessings, even in times of trial and difficulty (vs. 4a, 5a). We have the comfort and reassurance of the armour He provides (Eph. 6:10-17), and His loving discipline that often draws us back from a dangerous path (Heb. 12:5-11). Nor is His loving care limited to the span of our mortal lives; it will continue on through eternity (vs. 6; cf. Rev. 7:17).

Finally, in the psalm, overriding all the wonderful things the shepherd does for the sheep, is His reassuring presence. “You are with me” is almost at the precise centre of the psalm ( with 62 words before, and 56 words after, in the NKJV)–and it’s surely a central concept. A shepherd cannot care for the immediate needs of the sheep from some remote location. This is not work that can be mailed in. He has to be near at hand, and that’s just what the Lord is (Matt. 28:20).

In 1862, after preaching on Psalm 23, American pastor Joseph Henry Gilmore wrote a warmly devotional hymn about our ever-present Shepherd’s tender care. His meditation of the psalm focused on three words in verse 2 (KJV), “He leadeth me…”

CH-1) He leadeth me, O blessèd thought!
O words with heav’nly comfort fraught!
Whate’er I do, where’er I be
Still ’tis God’s hand 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.

CH-3) 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.

1) What recent experiences do you have of the leading of the Lord?

2) Why is it sometimes difficult to discover God’s will in making a decision?

Wordwise Hymns (for another article see here)
The Cyber Hymnal


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