I remember as a child listening to Paul Harvey on the radio. He would draw you in with an amazing story and at the end there would be an “ah-ha” moment, where you would connect the pieces, and Paul would say, “and now you know the rest of the story”.
For me, that’s the way it is when I read about the story behind a particular hymn. It’s no secret that I love hymns! The older I get, the better I understand the lyrics, and the more they mean to me! Last week I heard a hymn on the radio and it’s been going through my head ever since. So I looked up the lyrics and read how the song came to be. I wanted to share that story with you…..
A young student, Joseph Henry Gilmore, was invited to preach at a neighboring church. He intended to give a sermon on Psalm 23. It was familiar text, and he had used it before, but this time he got stuck on a phrase in verse 2 “he leadeth me”. Gilmore later wrote, “Those words took hold of me as they had never done before. So greatly impressed was I with the blessedness of divine guidance that I made this my theme”. After the service, Henry and some others went to the home of a deacon. “There,” he wrote, “we continued our discussion of divine guidance. While I was still talking and listening, I wrote on a piece of my exposition manuscript the words to this hymn. I handed the paper to my wife and more or less forgot the incident.”
Unbeknownst to him, Gilmore’s wife sent the poem off to be published, and later a hymn composer William B Bradbury saw it, and set the poem to music. It was he who added the last two lines of the refrain; “His faithful follower I would be, for by his hand he leadeth me”.
“And now you know the rest of the story…..” :) Here we are over 150 years later, hearing this song on the radio, and the words are just as beautiful as they ever were!!
“He leadeth me, O blessèd thought!
O words with heav’nly comfort fraught!
Whate’er I do, where’er I be
Still ’tis God’s hand that leadeth me.
He leadeth me, He leadeth me,
By His own hand He leadeth me;
His faithful follower I would be,
For by His hand He leadeth me.
Sometimes mid scenes of deepest gloom,
Sometimes where Eden’s bowers bloom,
By waters still, over troubled sea,
Still ’tis His hand that leadeth me.
Lord, I would place my hand in Thine,
Nor ever murmur nor repine;
Content, whatever lot I see,
Since ’tis my God that leadeth me.
And when my task on earth is done,
When by Thy grace the vict’ry’s won,
E’en death’s cold wave I will not flee,
Since God through Jordan leadeth me.”