“Thou Art My Shepherd”

"The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want" (Ps. 23.1)

     INTRO.: A song which pictures the Lord as our Shepherd who provides for our every need is "Thou Art My Shepherd." The original text was written by Miss Mary Elsie Thalheimer. I have not been able to find much information about her, except that she was evidently an educator and author of a "Historical Series" of books used in public schools, including A Manual of Ancient History in 1872, The Eclectic History of the United States in 1881, An Outline of General History For the Use of Schools in 1882, A History of England For the Use of Schools, and A Manual of Medieval and Modern History. Apparently she also produced hymns, and her "Through the New Heaven What Voices Ring" appeared in the 1875 Book of Praise for the Sunday School, edited by George A. Bell and Hubert P. Main for Biglow and Main. "Thou Art My Shepherd" first appeared in either the 1866 New Golden Shower or the 1867 Clarion both
edited by William Batchelder Bradbury.

     The arrangement was made around 1904 by Mrs. Margaret Scott MacRitchie Haycroft of Bournemouth, England. She revised the original stanzas 1 (beginning "O, God, My Shepherd" in the 1904 Hymns and Choral Songs of Manchester, England) and 2, and provided a final stanza. The arrangement first appeared in the Sunday School Hymnary of 1905 edited by Carey Bonner. The tune (Lynde) was composed by Friedrich Wilhelm Kucken (1810-1882). Originally used with an old Thuringian folksong, "How Can I Leave Thee?", it was arranged by John R. Cramer. Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century, the song appeared in the 1963 Christian Hymnal edited by J. Nelson Slater. I have also seen it in the Joy and Praise edited by William James Kirkpatrick and James H. Fillmore and published by Fillmore Music House, Cincinnati, OH, and the 1937 New Hymnal for American Youth edited by H. Augustine Smith and published by D. Appleton-Century Company Inc. of New York, NY.

     The song reminds us of some of the wonderful blessings that our Shepherd has for His sheep.

I. Stanza 1 says that the Shepherd will feed His flock
"Thou art my Shepherd, Caring in every need,
Thy loving lamb to feed, Trusting Thee still.
In the green pastures low, Where living waters flow,
Safe by Thy side I go, Fearing no ill."
 A. Jesus Christ was sent by the Father above to be our Good Shepherd: Jn. 10.11-14
 B. He came to feed His flock: Isa. 40:10-11
 C. Also He will give them living waters: Jn. 4.10

II. Stanza 2 (Thalhmeimer’s original stanza 2) says that the Shepherd will guide His flock
"If Thou wilt guide me, Gladly I’ll go with Thee;
No harm can come to me, Holding Thy hand.
And soon my weary feet, Safe in the golden street,
Where all who love Thee meet, Redeemed shall stand."
 A. We need the Shepherd to guide us: Ps. 31.3, 32.8
 B. As long as we hold to His hand, no harm can come to us (and this obviously refers to spiritual harm, not necessarily physical harm): 1 Pet. 3.13
 C. The ultimate purpose of our Shepherd is to guide us to the golden street: Rev. 21.21

III. Stanza 3 (Haycroft’s revised stanza 2) says that the Shepherd will protect His flock
"Or if my way lie Where storms are raging nigh,
Nothing can terrify; I trust Thee still.
How can I be afraid While softly on my head
Thy tender hand is laid? I fear no ill."
 A. There are times in life when storms are raging nigh, representing the trials and tribulations that we must face: Jas. 1.2
 B. However, nothing need terrify us if we trust in Him: Ps. 37.5, Prov. 3.3-5
 C. Therefore, we need not be afraid of any ill that might be done to us: Heb. 13.5-6

IV. Stanza 4 (Haycroft’s stanza 3) says that the Shepherd will take His flock home
"Goodness and mercy Ever shall follow me,
Till by Thy grace I see Thy holy hill.
Lord, in that home with Thee, Joyful eternally,
Folded Thy flock shall be Safe from all ill."
 A. Those who abide in the Shepherd can have the assurance that His goodness and mercy will follow them all the days of their lives: Ps. 23.6, 31.19, 32.10
 B. He will lead them to His holy hill: Ps. 24.3-6
 C. Then, the flock will be at home with Him and enjoy eternal life: Mk. 10.29-30

     CONCL.: The inspired writers of the Scriptures use many different figures of speech to describe our Lord in His relationship to us and to help us understand better how we should relate to Him. He is the King and we are citizens of His kingdom. He is the Father and we are His children. He is the Head and we are members of His body. Yet, one of the tenderest pictures, especially to the Israelites who were primarily keepers of sheep, must be that He is our Shepherd and we are His sheep. Therefore, it will enable us to have a better appreciation of how our Lord cares for us and what He is doing for us to say constantly to Him, "Thou Art My Shepherd."


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