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HYMN 143 He Leadeth Me: O Blessed Thought!

Psalm 23

Text: Joseph Henry Gilmore (1834-1918) Tune: William Batchelder Bradbury (1816-1868)

1. He leadeth me: O blessed thought! O words with heavenly comfort fraught! Whate'er I do, where'er I be, Still 'tis God's hand that leadeth me. R/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.

2. Sometimes mid scenes of deepest gloom, Sometimes where Eden's flowers bloom, By waters calm, o'er troubled sea, Still 'tis God's hand that leadeth me. R/

3. Lord, I would clasp thy hand in mine, Nor ever murmur nor repine; Content, whatever lot I see, Since 'tis my God that leadeth me. R/

4. And when my task on earth is done, When, by thy grace, the victory's won, E'en death's cold wave I will not flee, Since God through Jordan leadeth me. R/


Joseph Henry Gilmore

Joseph Gilmore, a Baptist preacher, had been in Philadelphia, giving a Bible study on Psalm 23. As the hour moved on, he could not get past the notion of “He leadeth me, he leadeth me.” The phrase kept going through his mind, enough so that he wrote down the phrase and pretty soon a hymn text developed from it.

Psalm 23, the Golden Psalm of all time, has spawned hundreds of hymns that we hold dear, most of them clearly recognizable as from the Psalm with images of shepherds and green pastures. This hymn does not use those images but focuses on "He Leadeth me beside the still water.".

With the psalmist and Gilmore, I can see that the Lord has led me to where I am and continues to, but how that has happened I can only see later as I reflect back on turns I made here and there in my life and can see that I was led somehow to go in one direction rather than another.

One of my deepest struggles in my own life with a call and the leading of the Lord came when I was asked by Lloyd Svendsbye, the President of Luther Seminary, to consider teaching there and leave Luther College which I dearly loved. It seemed impossible; many I knew opposed it; but I had no peace thinking of not coming to the seminary.

I can’t say what exactly was the deciding moment, but when I got the call, I had no hesitation, despite my grief, saying yes. It was not all moonlight and roses, theological conflicts can be intense, and I was thrown into the midst of them, but the place engaged me at a fundamental level of my being and gave me a vocation in subjects and a place I loved to teach and learn.

I had a strong sense of being led at the time. It is not always so clear in our lives. We walk by faith and not by sight. But we pray daily that we can feel confident as we step forward into the darkness that our way is being opened up by the Lord who has promised to be with us always, leading and guiding. Thanks be to God!


William Batchelder Bradbury

Once again the work of William Bradbury, the Sunday School composer, with his melody, helped make a hymn text popular. He took the text of Joseph Gilmore and worked it over to make the text we have, with a longer, repetitive refrain that makes it fun to sing. The son of a governor of New Hampshire, Gilmore studied at Brown University and received his theological education at Newton Theological Seminary. After his graduation he became a pastor, serving several congregations in the Northeast. While at a congregation in Rochester, he was called to teach English at the University of Rochester where he taught for nearly forty years. He wrote a text of English literature for study at the Chautauqua Institution and continued writing and teaching throughout his life. After Bradbury arranged it for his tune, it became a popular hymn. Bradbury led worship at First Baptist Church of Brooklyn and Junior Music Festivals at Broadway Tabernacle with thousands of children in the choir. He was a major force in American church music especially for children.

LINKS Choir and congregation

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