23. Savior, Like A Shepherd Lead Us.

23SaviorLikeAShepherd

Listen to this: www.youtube.com/watch?v=yuEgj3hp1iM

Ah, music…a magic beyond all we do here!  J.K. Rowling

Today’s hymn, Savior, Like A Shepherd Lead Us, dates back to the pre-Civil War days, first appearing in a popular songbook for children called Hymns for the Young. Published by music editor, Dorothy Ann Thrupp (1779-1847) in 1836, this songbook contained a number of delightful songs and poetry selections for children, but none offered reference to the authors or composers. Later hymn collections do give credit to Miss Thrupp for writing the four six-lined stanzas to this popular hymn, but sadly, no actual proof exists today for that claim.

Yet while the authorship of the text for today’s hymn is still in doubt, it is without question that the tune we use when singing these words, is indeed, composed by William Bradbury, the same man who wrote the unforgettable tune for the classic children’s hymn, Jesus Loves Me. It was just prior to the Civil War, in 1859, when Bradbury (a protégé of the great music educator, Lowell Mason) published his version of Thrupp’s hymn in a Sunday School collection of music called Oriola.

One of the most amazing stories surrounding Savior, Like A Shepherd Lead Us actually dates back to the Civil War times and was first told by a popular vocalist of the late 19th century named Ira D. Sankey. Sankey was a very talented musician who traveled extensively with the great evangelist, Dwight L. Moody, as they criss-crossed the world, spreading the Gospel through preaching and song. Sankey was such an anointed Gospel singer some called him The Sweet Singer of Methodism.

As the story goes, (first published in a turn-of-the-century magazine entitled, The Religious Digest) Sankey was traveling on a riverboat going up the Delaware River on Christmas Eve, 1876. Being quite the celebrity, the ship’s captain and some of the traveling guests insisted that Sankey sing some of his best-known songs to end a very festive evening meal. Sankey refused at first, but was finally persuaded, ending his selections with William Bradbury’s arrangement of Savior, Like A Shepherd Lead Us.

After the crowd dispersed for the evening, one man walked up to Sankey, thanking him for his touching music, and then, the man began asking some very personal questions.

“Did you serve during the War,” the man asked. “Yes, sir. Yes I did.” Sankey replied. “Union?” the man continued. “Yes sir, Union Army. I served from spring of 1860,” Sankey said proudly.

The conversation continued over specific places Sankey had served and eventually, out of curiosity, Sankey finally asked the man, “So, why all the questions, sir?” Rather than answering him, the man continued, “Can you remember if you were doing picket duty on a bright, moonlit night in 1862?”

“Well, yes, sir, I do recall such a night,” Sankey replied, “Why, do you ask?”

“I was there too!” said the stranger, “but I was serving in the Confederate army. When I saw you standing at your post I said to myself: ‘That fellow will never get away from here alive.’ I raised my musket and took aim. I was standing in the shadow completely concealed, while the full light of the moon was falling upon you.”

“At that instant, you raised your eyes to heaven and began to sing. Music, especially song, has always had a wonderful power over me, and I took my finger off the trigger. ‘Let him sing his song to the end,’ I said to myself. ‘I can shoot him afterwards.’”

“But the song you sang then was the song you sang just now. I heard the words perfectly:

We are Thine, Thou dost befriend us, be the guardian of our way.

“Those words stirred up many memories in my heart. I began to think of my childhood and my God-fearing mother. She had many, many times sung that song to me. But she died all too soon, otherwise much in my life would no doubt have been different.”

“When you had finished your song it was impossible for me to take aim at you again. I thought: ‘The Lord who is able to save that man from certain death must surely be great and mighty’ and my arm of its own accord dropped limp at my side.”

On a riverboat going up the Delaware River on Christmas Eve 1876, Ira D. Sankey suddenly realized how blessed a man he was to have sung these words of a children’s hymn back in 1862 on that moonlit evening…

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.

My prayer: Jesus, You are indeed, the Great Shepherd who can be trusted in both good times and in bad. Thank You for Your loving protection, Your amazing love, and Your constant care over my life, from beginning to end. For Your name’s sake. Amen.

My questions to ponder: This amazing hymn was originally written for children to sing. How am I taking the blessings of God that have been given to me and allowing the Holy Spirit to bring these same blessings into the lives of children in my circle of influence?

So what is God speaking to you today as we ponder together 30 Great Hymns of Faith?

Between now and Easter 2016, we will be sharing with you this blog series we call Thirty Great Hymns of Faith. In order to keep all 34 blog sessions organized, we suggest you bookmark our Thirty Great Hymns of Faith home page for ease of use. ENJOY!

If you like what you’re reading, might we suggest you share this page with others! Click here to go on to the next blog in our series.

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