“Savior, Like a Shepherd, Lead Us”

"And when he putteth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him…" (Jn. 10.4)

     INTRO.: We should pray that our Savior will be our Shepherd, and a song which pictures the Lord as the Shepherd who goes before His sheep is, "Savior, Like A Shepherd Lead Us" (#391 in Hymns for Worship Revised, and #165 in Sacred Selections for the Church). No one knows precisely who wrote these words. The text is usually attributed to Miss Dorothy Ann Thrupp, who was born at Paddington Green in Middlesex, near London, England, on July 20, 1779, the daughter of Joseph Thrupp. Very little is known about her except that she was a prolific writer of children’s verses and other devotional materials. However, she seldom signed her name to any of her works, or she often used only a pseudonym such as Iota. Starting in 1830, she began editing a collection of poems entitled Hymns for Children.

     This particular hymn first appeared around 1836 in the fourth edition of Miss Thrupp’s collection. Like all the other hymns in the series, it was unsigned. Some were her own work while others were produced by different people. In 1838 it appeared, again unsigned, in Mrs. Herbert Mayo’s Selection of Hymns and Poetry for the Use of Infant and Juvenile Schools. It is known that Miss Thrupp did contribute several hymns and poems to this work which were signed with her initials, D. A. T. Because her initials did not appear with this hymn, it has never been fully proven that she was the actual author. Some scholars feel that it may be the work of another hymnwriter, such as Henry Francis Lyte (1793-1868).

     In fact, the hymn appeared in W. Carus Wilson’s 1838 Children’s Friend signed "Lyte." Yet others still feel that it was the work of Miss Thrupp, although it is possible that Lyte may have edited it, thus resulting in the fact that he has occasionally been credited with it. As a result of the controversy, the authorship is left uncertain in many hymnbooks. Dorothy Ann Thrupp died at St. Marylebone in Middlesex, near London, England, on Dec. 14, 1847. The tune (Bradbury or Shepherd) was composed for this text by William Batchelder Bradbury (1816-1868). It first appeared in his 1859 Sunday school song collection entitled Oriola. Through the years this hymn, written so simply that even children can understand it without any trouble, has become very popular.

     Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ, the song appeared in the 1921 Great Songs of the Church (No. 1) and the 1937 Great Songs of the Church No. 2 both edited by E. L. Jorgenson; the 1935 Christian Hymns (No. 1), the 1948 Christian Hymns No. 2, and the 1966 Christian Hymns No. 3 all edited by L. O. Sanderson; the 1963 Abiding Hymns edited by Robert C. Welch; and the 1963 Christian Hymnal edited by J. Nelson Slater.  Today it may be found in the 1971 Songs of the Church, the 1990 Songs of the Church 21st C. Ed., and the 1994 Songs of Faith and Praise all edited by Alton H. Howard; the 1978/1983 Church Gospel Songs and Hymns edited by V. E. Howard; the 1986 Great Songs Revised edited by Forrest M. McCann; and the 1992 Praise for the Lord edited by John P. Wiegand; in addition to Hymns for Worship, Sacred Selections, and the 2007 Sacred Songs of the Church edited by William D. Jeffcoat.

     It speaks of the relationship that the Christian has with our Shepherd, through whom we pray.

I. Stanza 1 contains reminiscences of the great Shepherd’s psalm
"Savior, like a Shepherd lead us, Much we need Thy tender care;
In Thy pleasant pastures feed us, For our use Thy folds prepare.
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus, Thou hast bought us, Thine we are;
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus, Thou hast bought us, Thine we are."
 A. The original read "Thy tenderest care" (and many books still have this).  The thought of the stanza is that Jesus fulfils the picture drawn by the Psalmist of the great Shepherd who guards His sheep: Ps. 23.1-2
 B. As our Shepherd, Jesus prepares His fold for His sheep: Jn. 10.16
 C. In order to be a shepherd, a person would have to purchase some sheep; as our Shepherd, Jesus has bought us: Acts 20.28

II. Stanza 2 continues the figure with the Shepherd keeping, defending, and seeking His flock
"We are Thine, do Thou befriend us, Be the Guardian of our way;
Keep Thy flock from sin, defend us, Seek us when we go astray.
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus, Hear, O hear us when they pray;
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus, Hear, O hear us when they pray."
 A. It was prophesied that when the Messiah came, He would lead and guard His flock like a shepherd: Isa. 40.11
 B. Jesus often pictured Himself as the Good Shepherd who would seek His sheep when they go astray: Matt. 18.11-14
 C. Some books change the third and fourth lines to read "Hear Thy children when they pray." I suppose that this has been done in a few of our books because of the fear that there might be some non-Christians in the assembly and we just cannot have them singing "Hear, O hear US when we pray." Yes, we understand that prayer is a privilege that belongs only to children of God, but we must wonder why cannot Christians sing, "Hear, O hear US when we pray" because Jesus is OUR Advocate with the Father: 1 Jn. 2.2
III. Stanza 3 reminds us that the Good Shepherd is able to receive and relieve us
"Thou has promised to receive us, Poor and sinful though we be;
Thou hast mercy to relieve us, Grace to cleanse, and power to free.
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus, Early let us turn to Thee;
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus, Early let us turn to Thee."
 A. Our Shepherd has promised that He will receive all who truly come to Him and not cast them out: Jn. 6.37-40
 B. The reason that Christ as our Shepherd can manifest God’s grace to cleanse us and power to free us is that He gave His life for the sheep: Jn. 10.11
 C. The word "early" here does not necessarily mean "in the morning" or "before the time" but has the idea of eagerness with which we must turn to the Lord as our Shepherd: Psa. 63.1 (where the ASV has "earnestly")

IV. Stanza 4 concludes by mentioning our responsibility to the Shepherd
"Early let us seek Thy favor, Early let us do Thy will;
Blessed Lord and only Savior, with Thy love our bosoms fill.
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus, Thou hast loved us, love us still;
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus, Thou hast loved us, love us still."
 A. A shepherd can lead only where the sheep will follow, so we must follow Christ by seeking His favor and doing His will: Jn. 10.27
 B. When we thus follow our Shepherd, He will fill us with all the fulness of God: Eph. 3.19
 C. Therefore, we can trust that as He has already loved us, He will continue to love us still: Rom. 8.35-39

      CONCL.: Just as sheep need a shepherd to guide them, so mankind needs divine guidance in this life. Christ is the Great Shepherd, and He wants us to be His sheep by following Him. Therefore, in our prayers we should call upon the Lord and plead with Him, "Savior, Like A Shepherd Lead Us."


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