1 He leadeth me: O blessed thought!
O words with heavenly 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.
2 Sometimes mid scenes of deepest gloom,
sometimes where Eden's flowers bloom,
by waters calm, o'er troubled sea,
still 'tis God's hand that leadeth me. Refrain
3 Lord, I would clasp thy hand in mine,
nor ever murmur nor repine;
content, whatever lot I see,
since 'tis my God that leadeth me. Refrain
4 And when my task on earth is done,
when, by thy grace, the victory's won,
e'en death's cold wave I will not flee,
since God through Jordan leadeth me. Refrain
Psalter Hymnal, (Gray)
|First Line:||He leadeth me: O blessed thought!|
|Title:||He Leadeth Me|
|Author:||Joseph H. Gilmore (1862)|
On a Wednesday evening, Joseph Gilmore was preaching at a mid-week prayer service on the topic of Psalm 23. He wrote later, “I set out to give the people an exposition of the 23rd Psalm, but I got no further than the words ‘He leadeth me.’ Those words took hold of me as they had never done before. I saw in them a significance and beauty of which I had never dreamed…At the close of the meeting a few of us kept on talking about the thoughts which I had emphasized; and then and there, on a back page of my sermon notes, I penciled the hymn just as it stands today, handed it to my wife, and thought no more of it…She sent it without my knowledge to the Watchman and Reflector magazine, and there it first appeared in print December 4, 1862” (Psalter Hymnal Handbook, 616).
Lectio Devina is a common devotional practice in which one spends a significant amount of time reflecting and meditating on one verse of Scripture, or a short passage. It is amazing what the Holy Spirit can say to us when we take time to listen and ponder, but also, like Gilmore, what we hear when we least expect it, such as when we read through as familiar a passage as Psalm 23.
Gilmore’s text remains largely unchanged from the day it was penned. Most hymnals include four stanzas and a chorus, though some hymnals, such as Worship and Rejoice and Sing With Me leave out the original second verse, “Sometimes mid scenes of deepest gloom….” Like the psalm after which this hymn was written, the verses declare our trust in God, wherever we are – whether in stormy seas, Eden’s garden, or on death’s door. Each verse provides a different scenario in which we need God to guide us, and the refrain acts as a response in which we profess that God does guide us and will be our Shepherd at all times.
The tune AUCHTON (HE LEADETH ME) was written by William Bradbury for Gilmore’s text after seeing it in the Boston Watchman and Reflector. He arranged the hymn into a stanza/refrain structure and added the last line of the refrain to fit his tune. Like much of Bradbury’s work, it is a simple tune that can be sung in a variety of ways. Soloists might prefer to sing the hymn at a slower tempo, but when sung by the congregation, the tempo should clip along nicely else it would drag. It is also tempting to add fermatas to the end of the second and third lines, but while this might be okay for a soloist, it can be confusing for a congregation, and would need a lot of emphasis and direction from the worship leader.
This hymn can be sung at any time during the liturgical year, because there are moments every day when we must profess our trust in God. Specific services where this hymn would be appropriate are services of prayer and healing, services with a theme of God’s hand at work in the world, or questioning why bad things happen, or when a passage on Jesus as the Good Shepherd is used as the sermon text. It would be a very fitting hymn of response to the reading of Psalm 23, the Prayers of the People, or the Assurance of Pardon.
Suggested music resources:
Laura de Jong, Hymnary.org