Tag Archives: shepherd

Surely Goodness and Mercy

A pilgrim was I, and a wandering,
In the cold night of sin I did roam,
When Jesus the kind Shepherd found me,
And now I am on my way home.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days, all the days of my life;
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days, all the days of my life.

And I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever,
And I shall feast at the table spread for me;
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days, all the days of my life.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days, all the days of my life;
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days, all the days of my life.

He restoreth my soul when I’m weary,
He giveth me strength day by day;
He leads me beside the still waters,
He guards me each step of the way.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days, all the days of my life;
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days, all the days of my life.

When I walk through the dark lonesome valley,
My savior will walk with me there;
And safely His great hand will lead me
To the mansions He’s gone to prepare.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days, all the days of my life;
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days, all the days of my life.

Words and Music by John Peterson and Alfred Smith, 1958

 


The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
Psalm 23


 

 

Have you ever been blessed with with something you never expected? Have you ever received something you feel you just didn’t deserve? When everything seems to be going wrong, have you seen things turn out right?

A few years back my wife was in an auto accident and our vehicle was totalled. Thankfully, and most importantly, she was not injured. Unfortunately, it meant we no longer had a vehicle. Some friends offered to let us use their extra car to get us through. After a few weeks they came to us and offered to give us the car permanently, free of charge. We were humbled to have been given such a gift, and to have been given it so unexpectedly. It was such an unbelievable blessing that we had received. We truly had experienced the goodness of God as shown through these friends. This is not unlike the theme that we find in the hymn, “Surely Goodness and Mercy.”

In his hymn, Peterson takes a look at the ever familiar passage of Psalm 23. (The place from which most of us know the title of this hymn.) But He does not start with the Lord as Shepherd, because after all few of us really start at that point.

Instead, the hymn begins by focusing on where we are. Thus it begins, “A pilgrim was I, and a wandering, In the cold night of sin I did roam.” Typically we would expect, in context of the passage, that the where, or who, we are to be sheep. But the idea presented is not simply that we are sheep who have gone astray as described in Isaiah 53:6, but that we are individuals who are on a journey with no clear direction. Individuals who are wandering in the dark. A darkness that comes from the oppression of sin in our lives. It is almost as if to say, we are lost and didn’t even know it, because the darkness of sin had blinded us. It is at this point, when all may seem so wrong that the unexpected and amazing happens. God reaches out to us.

Peterson says, ” When Jesus the kind Shepherd found me.” Think about it. It is not us who found Jesus, but Jesus who found us. (Luke 15:1 – 7) We were wandering in the dark unaware, yet Jesus cane to us.

It continues, “And now I am on my way home.” Jesus, the Good Shepherd, our guide, our savior gave us direction and purpose. No longer are we wandering aimlessly, but instead we know where we are going. If we will just follow Jesus and not our own misdirection we will find our way home.

So where is this home we are now heading for? The next part of the hymn declares, “And I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever, And I shall feast at the table spread for me.” The home that God has in store is in his very presence. What is more, it will satisfy our every desire forever.

But we are not there yet. We still live in this world, traveling toward that home. Thankfully Jesus does not stop with simply lead us to the end, but along the way as well. The hymn continues, “He restoreth my soul when I’m weary, He giveth me strength day by day; He leads me beside the still waters, He guards me each step of the way.”

He sets our every need along the way and goes beyond. He revives us, gives us new life through a safe place to rest and refreshing waters.

Even when everything seem wrong, God is there to lead us home. So the hymn continues, “When I walk through the dark lonesome valley, My savior will walk with me there; And safely His great hand will lead me to the mansions He’s gone to prepare.”

By God’s grace, given through Jesus Christ, we know the way home. We know that it is a place He has prepared (John 14) for those who have put their faith in Him. When we see this truth, when we know how we have been blessed with so much, not because of what we have done, but because he found us, then we can join in hymns chorus declaring, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days, all the days of my life.”

 

 

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Angels We Have Heard On High

Angels we have heard on high
Sweetly singing o’er the plains,
And the mountains in reply
Echoing their joyous strains.
Gloria, in excelsis Deo!
Gloria, in excelsis Deo!

Shepherds, why this jubilee?
Why your joyous strains prolong?
What the gladsome tidings be
Which inspire your heavenly song?
Gloria, in excelsis Deo!
Gloria, in excelsis Deo!

Come to Bethlehem and see
Christ Whose birth the angels sing;
Come, adore on bended knee,
Christ the Lord, the newborn King.
Gloria, in excelsis Deo!
Gloria, in excelsis Deo!

See Him in a manger laid,
Whom the choirs of angels praise;
Mary, Joseph, lend your aid,
While our hearts in love we raise.
Gloria, in excelsis Deo!
Gloria, in excelsis Deo!

Words and Music are a traditional French Carol translated by James Chadwick, 1862

 


Praise the Lord, you his angels, you mighty ones who do his bidding, who obey his word. Praise the Lord, all his heavenly hosts, you his servants who do his will. Praise the Lord, all his works everywhere in his dominion.
Psalm 103:20 – 22

Praise the Lord. Praise the Lord from the heavens; praise him in the heights above. Praise him, all his angels; praise him, all his heavenly hosts.
Psalm 148:1 – 2

Let the rivers clap their hands, Let the mountains sing together for joy. Before the LORD, for He is coming to judge the earth; He will judge the world with righteousness And the peoples with equity.
Psalm 98:8 – 9

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.
Luke 2:8 – 20


 

What is the best news you have ever received?  It may have been when you received an acceptance letter to that one college you wanted to attend more than any other.  Maybe it was news that a loved one was coming home from being away for a long time.  For some it may have been news that your medical test had come back clear.  For others it might have been the birth of a first child or grandchild. Whatever the situation, the joy of receiving good news seems unparalleled. This is why the proverb found in Proverbs 25:25 says, “Like cold water to a weary soul is good news from a distant land.”

Now while each person will have a different answers of what that good news they received was, the joy and excitement of receiving the news is very similar. Yet they pale in comparison to the joy of the greatest news ever received.  This is the theme found in the Christmas carol, “Angels We Have Heard On High.”

In this carol we find presented the events surrounding the presentation of the Good News (or Gospel) of Christ birth given by the angels to the shepherds.  It begins with the line, “Angels we have heard on high, sweetly singing or the plains.” The very name “angel” means messenger, and so the angel brought the message. The message referred to is found in Luke 2:10 – 12 were we read, “the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.'”

This was a source of unmatched joy. Now ask yourself, what has been your response to the good news you have received?  You may have shouted with joy, had tears of happiness or been silent, unable to utter a sound.  The Heavenly host are no different, as Luke 2:13 – 14 tells us, “Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.'” In response to the great news that Jesus had been born, the angels in heaven could not restrain their joy and declared, “Gloria, in excelsis Deo!” That is “Glory to God in the highest!”

Now it was the shepherds turn to respond to the good news shared by the angel. Luke 2:15 – 20 tells us that ” When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.’ So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.” They were so filled with joy from the news that they could not contain it. These simple shepherds now proclaimed the gospel to others. This leads to the carol’s reflection on what the others must have thought of the shepherds. “Shepherds, why this jubilee? Why your joyous strains prolong? What the gladsome tidings be which inspire your heavenly song?”

So we ask ourselves, what is our response to the birth of the Savior? Do we respond with the uncontainable joy of the angels and shepherds? Or do we respond with a sense of bewilderment as the carol suggest the towns people may have? In either case let us seek to find the Savior who was born, and experience the joy that comes from this revelation,  that we might join with the Heavenly Host, raising our hearts in love declaring “Gloria, in excelsis Deo!”

 

 

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Savior, Like A Shepherd Lead Us

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.

We are Thine, Thou dost 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 we pray.
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus! Hear, O hear us when we pray.

Thou hast 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! We will early turn to Thee.
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus! We will early turn to Thee.

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.

Words by Dorothy A. Thrupp, 1836
William B. Bradbury, 1859

 

“Very truly I tell you Pharisees, anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” Jesus used this figure of speech, but the Pharisees did not understand what he was telling them.

Therefore Jesus said again, “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.

“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me—just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.”
John 10:1 – 18

 

One of the many things I miss about my childhood is growing up on a farm. To have wide open spaces and animals all around. We had dairy cattle, pigs, ducks, chickens, turkeys, a pony, a couple of miniature mules and three or four sheep.

I love working with animals. But, as anyone with a pet, let alone a who farm knows, animals are a great responsibility. You have to feed them, clean up after them and watch over them. You not only want to meet their needs, but you are seeking to keep them safe as well. You lead them to food and along safe routes. You care for them when they are sick and you keep away dangers.

Historically this is the role that a Shepherd fulfilled, and this is the image that Dorothy Thrupp draws upon in her hymn, “Savior, Like A Shepherd Lead Us.” The theme is found through out scripture and is an incredible picture of Christ relationship to us.

Thrupp writes, “Savior, like a shepherd lead us, much we need Thy tender care; In Thy pleasant pastures feed us, for our use Thy folds prepare.” The message reminds us of the fact that in and of ourselves, we will not do what is best for us. We need Jesus care to watch over us, protect us and to meet our needs.

She continues with the imagery as she writes, “Keep Thy flock, from sin defend us, seek us when we go astray.” For the sheep, it was the wolf that was a danger and the shepherd stood guard, ready to fight off any that came. For us, it is sin that is the danger we must beware of. The writer of Hebrews tells us in chapter 12 verse 1 that we need to rid ourselves of “the sin that so easily entangles.” Yes, sin is the danger we face, and it is Christ who stands guard. It is Christ who gives us the strength to stand against sin.

Even so, at times we still wander from the path that Christ our shepherd has laid out for us. When this happens he comes to find us as the shepherd in Luke 15:4 who leaves the 99 to find the one who has become lost.

Thrupp now sets aside her imagery of the Shepherd to speak straight to our situations. She writes, “Thou hast promised to receive us, poor and sinful though we be; Thou hast mercy to relieve us, grace to cleanse and power to free.” None of us is perfect. More accurately, we are anything but good people. But as sinful and lost as we are, Christ is willing to accept us. But beyond his willingness to accept us, he is able to make us clean and to forgive us for our sins. He is able to make us new, to set us free.

Isaiah 53:6 tells us, “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way.” This is who we are. When we are left to our own devices, we wander away. But God placed our failings on Christ. He took our place. The rest of Isaiah 53:6 tells us, “and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”

Christ is our Shepherd and our Savior. He alone can make us new. It is out of thankfulness for Christ loving sacrifice that I sing the final words of this hymn, “Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus! Thou hast loved us, love us still.”

 

 

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