"THE LORD MY PASTURE SHALL PREPARE"
"The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want" (Ps. 23:1)
INTRO.: A hymn which looks to the Lord as our Shepherd so that we shall not want is "The Lord My Pasture Shall Prepare." The text, based on Ps. 23, was written by Joseph Addison (1672-1719). It first appeared as part of an essay in his magazine The Spectator in 1712. Other well known hymns by Addison include "The Spacious Firmament on High" based on Ps. 19, and "When All Thy Mercies." It would appear that a tune (Carrey’s Surrey) was composed for this text around 1732 by Henry Carey (1687-1743). The tune (Psalm 23) used in our books was composed by an unknown musician. I have been able to find no further information on its source or date of publication. 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) edited by L. O. Sanderson; and the 1963 Christian Hymnal edited by J. Nelson Slater.
The song identifies many of the blessings that come from having the Lord as our Shepherd.
I. Stanza 1 says that He supplies all our wants
"The Lord my pasture shall prepare, And feed me with a shepherd’s care;
His presence shall my wants supply, And guard me with a watchful eye.
My noon day walks He shall attend, And all my midnight hours defend."
A. Jesus Christ is the good Shepherd who cares for us: Jn. 10:11-18
B. As our Shepherd, He supplies all our wants and needs, both physical and spiritual: Matt. 6:25-33, Eph. 1:3
C. And He will guard us both during the day and during the night: Ps. 91:5
II. Stanza 2 says that He leads our wandering steps
"When in the sultry glebe I faint, Or on the thirsty mountain pant,
To fertile vales and dewy meads My weary, wandering steps He leads.
Where peaceful rivers, soft and slow, Amid the verdant landscape flow."
A. The sultry glebe and thirsty mountain are both highly poetic and figurative ways of pointing out that our lives on earth often involve
various kinds of trouble: Job 14:1
B. However, we can trust our Shepherd to guide us if we shall hear His voice and follow Him: Jn. 10:27
C. The place where peaceful rivers flow represent a right relationship with the Lord both here and in eternity: Rev. 7:16-17
III. Stanza 3 says that He is with us in the paths of death
"Though in the paths of death I tread, With gloomy horrors overspread,
My steadfast heart shall feel no ill, For Thou, O Lord, art with me still.
Thy friendly crook shall give me aid, And guide me through the dismal shade."
A. There will come a time when we shall travel the paths of death: Heb. 9:27
B. However, our Shepherd has promised to be with us even to the end of the age: Matt. 28:19
C. He will guide us through the dismal shade to the place of rest: Rev. 14:13
IV. Stanza 4 says that He will relieve our pains
"Though in a bare and rugged way, Through devious, lonely wilds I stray,
Thy bounty shall my pains beguile; The barren wilderness shall smile.
With sudden greens and herbage crowned, And streams shall murmur all around."
A. The bare and rugged way through devious, lonely wilds would signify the hardships and difficulties of this earth and their effect on us: Ps. 63:1
B. However, in the pains that are caused by this life, we can look to our Shepherd to provide relief and comfort: 2 Cor. 1:3-5
C. The sudden green herbage and streams that murmer remind us not only of the blessings of Christ in this life but also of those to come "in the house of the Lord forever": Rev. 22:1-2
CONCL.: I have never understood why all of our books have only stanzas 1-3, unless one editor omitted the fourth stanza for reasons of space, trying to squeeze too much on to a page, and all the others just copied from him. It just seems as if something is missing! We still have a few of the old Genevan, English, and Scottish psalm paraphrases, but the vast majority of them have fallen by the wayside. However, it is interesting to compare the much more literary versions that followed, such as those of Watts, Lyte, Montgomery, and, of course, Addison. Probably more hymns have been based on Psalm 23 than any other Psalm or perhaps any other single passage of scripture, and this one is useful to remind me that "The Lord My Pasture Shall Prepare."