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HYMN FOR EASTER 4 He Leadeth Me, He Leadeth Me/Do not be Afraid, Jesus Said

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

c. 425 AD Mosaic Mausoleum of Galla Placidia, Ravenna

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.


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.


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.



Jesus as shepherd from catacomb of Priscilla in Rome


There must be hundreds of hymns on the topic of Jesus the shepherd. It is an image of Jesus that goes back to through the Bible and was used in the catacombs. (See above) It is difficult to pick one. (I even wrote one focusing on Jesus voice, see below.) This hymn focuses on the shepherd as the one who leads the sheep using the King James language of Psalm 23. He leads by his hand in the hymn. In John 10 Jesus uses his voice to describe the way he leads us. Sheep know their shepherd and follow his voice. While sheep do not have a reputation as being the smartest of animals, they do know one thing and that is the voice of their shepherd. Stories abound of shepherds calling to their sheep in a mix of thousands of sheep and seeing their small flock gathering around them.


The sheep know their shepherd will keep them fed and safe. So safe, Jesus says, that instead of the sheep being sacrificed for the shepherd, the shepherd will lay down his life for the sheep.


One needs to read John 10 in the context of Ezekiel 34, where such a shepherd is prophesied in contrast to hirelings who do not care for the sheep and will mislead them. The shepherd of Ezekiel will be like David the King, but Jesus goes higher—this shepherd is king of an eternal realm, but more than that, one with the Father. No wonder the sheep hear his voice. It is God's.


Today there are shepherds of all kinds calling out to the sheep in our world. Many will be attracted to a voice that is not for them and who will sacrifice them for their own purposes. One thinks of the dictators of World War II and how they convinced their people to follow them into perdition where many lost their lives for the leaders who finally did die ignominious deaths.


Our leader will bring us to green pastures, beside the still waters, and while we are feeding on his goodness, he will sacrifice himself for us, and then be raised up so that his voice will never die and we need never be afraid. Do not be afraid, Jesus says. Ultimately, no one can hurt the people of his flock. He gave his all to save us so we could dwell in his house forever!

Joseph 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.” He wrote down the phrase and soon a hymn text appeared. 

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.

I attach a copy of my own hymn on the topic “Do not be Afraid, Jesus said.” Daniel Charles Damon is Associate Editor of Hymnody for Hope Publishing Company, Dan, an ordained elder, has served as pastor in the Methodist church. Named as a Fellow of The Hymn Society in the United States and Canada in 2016, Dan is teaching Church Music at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California. He plays piano in a jazz group that features jazz versions of hymns and well known spiritual songs.


Choir and congregation




Fountainview Academy

Candi Pearson 




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