“The King of Love My Shepherd Is”

"The good Shepherd giveth His life for the sheep" (Jn. 10.11)

     INTRO.: A hymn which identifies our King as the good Shepherd who gives His life for the sheep is "The King of Love My Shepherd Is." The text, based on Psalm 23, was written by Henry Williams Baker, who was born on May 27, 1821, at Belmont House, Vauxhall, in Surrey, England.  The son of Vice Admiral Henry Loraine Baker, he attended Trinity College at Cambridge and became a minister with the Church of England in 1844, serving first at Great Hockesley, near Colchester, Essex. In 1851, he moved to Monkland near Leomister in Herefordshire, England, where he served the rest of his life. Upon his father’s death in 1859, he assumed the family baronetcy. Beginning in 1861, he served as editor in chief for the Anglican Hymns Ancient and Modern, to which he contributed hymns, tunes, and translations. "The King of Love My Shepherd Is" was first published in the 1868 edition. Other than this hymn, he is best remembered for the tune used with "Art Thou Weary, Art Thou Languid?"  Also, he revised John Mason Neale’s translation of Prudentius’s Latin hymn "Of the Father’s Love Begotten."

      Following Baker’s death on Feb. 12, 1877, at Monkland, his friend John Ellerton reported that his dying words were the third stanza of his most famous hymn. He is not to be confused with another Henry Baker who composed the tune (Hesperus or Venn) most often used with John Bowring’s hymn "Father and Friend, Thy Life, Thy Love." The tune (Dominus Regit Me) originally used with Baker’s hymn was composed by John Bacchus Dykes (1823-1876). It also first appeared in the 1868 Appendix to the original (1861) edition of Hymns Ancient and Modern. Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ, the text for "The King of Love My Shepherd Is" appeared with a tune (Orlington), composesd by John Campbell and usually associated in most of our books with "The Lord’s My Shepherd" from the Scottish Psalter, in the 1963 Christian Hymnal edited by J. Nelson Slater. Today, it is found with a tune (St. Columba) of traditional Irish origin in the 1986 Great Songs Revised edited by Forrest M. McCann.

     The song draws upon the language of Psalm 23 to picture Jesus Christ as a loving Shepherd.

I. Stanza 1 calls Him good
"The King of love my Shepherd is, Whose goodness faileth never;
I nothing lack if I am His, And He is mine forever."
 A. Jesus Christ is the King of kings: Rev. 19.16
 B. His goodness never fails because every good gift comes down from above: Jas. 1.18
 C. However, to receive the full benefit of His goodness, must belong to Him by keeping His word: Jn. 14.23

II. Stanza 2 calls Him our leader
"Where streams of living water flow My ransomed soul He leadeth,
And, where the verdant pastures grow, With food celestial feedeth."
 A. Just as a shepherd leads his flock to water, so Jesus provides His sheep with living water: Jn. 4.10
 B. Therefore, we look to Him for leadership in our lives: Rev. 7.17
 C. Not only does He lead us to living water but also to the spiritual food that our souls need: Jn. 6.27

III. Stanza 3 calls Him our seeker
"Perverse and foolish oft I strayed, But yet in love He sought me,
And on His shoulder gently laid, And home, rejoicing, brought me."
 A. This is the stanza most often omitted in many recent books; perhaps many modern folks are too proud to think of themselves as having been perverse and foolish, but the truth is that all of us have strayed: 1 Pet. 2.25
 B. However, Jesus loved us enough that He came in love to seek and save the lost: Lk. 19.10
 C. And like the shepherd of Jesus’s parable, He loved us, sought us, laid us gently on His shoulder, and brought us home: Matt. 18.10-14

IV. Stanza 4 calls Him our comfort
"In death’s dark vale I fear no ill With Thee, dear Lord, beside me;
Thy rod and staff my comfort still, Thy cross before to guide me."
 A. Death’s dark vale can refer to any situation of danger, but it reminds us that someday all of us will pass through the valley of death: Heb. 9.27
 B. However, even then, as with all other trials and tribulations in life, we have nothing to fear with the Savior beside us because perfect love casts out fear: 1 Jn. 4.18
 C. The shepherd’s rod and staff of comfort symbolize the cross by which Jesus guides us to salvation and to God: 1 Cor. 1.18

V. Stanza 5 calls Him our provider
"Thou spreadest a table in my sight; Thy unction grace bestoweth.
And O what transport of delight From Thy pure chalice floweth."
 A. The table represents the fact that in Christ we have all spiritual blessings in heavenly places: Eph. 1.3
 B. The "unction" ("Thou anointest my head with oil") represents the grace of God by which we are saved: Eph. 2.8
 C. The "chalice" (cup) represents the transport of delight or joy that we can have in Christ: Phil. 4.4

VI. Stanza 6 calls Him our Shepherd forever
"And so through all the length of days Thy goodness faileth never;
Good Shepherd, may I sing Thy praise Within Thy house forever."
 A. All the length of our days, God’s goodness will never fail if we remain faithful until death: Rev. 2.10
 B. It should be our desire to sing His praise, with grace in our hearts to the Lord: Col. 3.16
 C. And we can sing it not only here but within His house forevermore: Jn. 14.1-3

     CONCL.: Donald Hustad said of this hymn, "It will be recognized that it is more a free paraphrase than a strict metrical version of the 23rd Psalm." It is likely not very well known among members of the Lord’s church because it has been in so few of our books. We have so many other songs either taken from or based on Psalm 23. However, this one draws a lovely picture of an intimate relationship with the King who is my Shepherd. I need a King to rule over me, and I need a Shepherd to guide me, so it is good to know that "The King of Love My Shepherd Is."


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