Saviour, like a shepherd lead us

Text: Attr. to Dorothy A. Thrupp, 1779-1847
Music: William B. Bradbury, 1816-1868

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.

Dorothy Thrupp was a great hymn writer for children and yet this hymn was never signed. Therefore, we do not know for sure who wrote “Saviour, Like a Shepherd Lead Us “. It was unsigned when it first appeared in Dorothy Ann Thrupp’s (1779-1847) collection, Hymns for the Young, in 1836. This was common for Ms. Thrupp as she rarely signed any of her hymns, and the rare times she did sign one she used a pseudonym D.A.T or “Iota”. This is all the factual information we have regarding the history of this hymn – yet look at the wealth and beauty the author has left to us….

Like many classic hymns this one was originally intended for children. And that is easy to understand because the message is so simple – we are like helpless sheep in need of a shepherd. Our dependence upon the Good Shepherd is what enables us to get through life every day. He loves us, He receives us, He cares for us, He leads us, and He prepares us. How favored we are as sheep to have Him as our Shepherd. And that is why we can say with the hymn writer, Blessed Jesus!

This hymn however, is not just for children; but for anyone who knows their Shepherd and yearns to be under His loving care. Jesus referred to himself as the Good Shepherd in John 10. To truly appreciate this hymn and the verses in John 10, we need to understand a little bit about sheep and shepherds. Today very few people see herds of sheep or shepherds out with their flocks, so understanding the simplicity spoken of in this hymn is often easy to overlook. Having raised sheep before for many years, the similarity between sheep and Christians – and the shepherd and Christ is remarkable…this beautiful analogy of Christ and His sheep is slowing being lost today…

Sheep are one of the  most ignorant and dumbest animals in the world – they react without thought or reason and often to their own detriment. They are easily spooked and upset. When this happens, the sheep will flee and scatter and often get lost – unable to find their way back to the flock or the safety of the fold. One of the greatest assets a shepherd has in these circumstances is his voice – his sheep know his voice and will follow it back to the safety of the fold, even in the dark of night. If a sheep is not able to make it back due to terrain or physical injury, the shepherd will place his remaining sheep in the safety of the fold and go out to find the lost sheep and bring it back. Often this entails danger and disaster and a great deal of time – when sheep scatter and run in confusion or fear, they are often able to get themselves into situations they are unable to get out of on their own.

Without the shepherd’s help, the sheep would perish – and the shepherd knows this. If a sheep is injured the shepherd must carry his sheep and tend to it’s wounds as he is able until they are back to the fold. The shepherd’s whole world revolves around the safety and comfort of his sheep – they rely completely on the tender shepherd for everything, yet they take his care for granted until they are in need and begin calling to him for help. The sheep need to be fed and watered, their wounds tended and cared for, they need to be guided from one spot to another and never left alone. Their needs compared to other animals are even greater because of their instinct to fear and run – and they are often simply too dumb to get themselves out of simple predicaments. Without a shepherd to care for the sheep, they would not last long.

Sheep are also easy prey for wild carnivores and even pet dogs. They have no defence other than running away – which in turn ignites a passion for the chase in the pursuing animal. The end is inevitable unless the shepherd intervenes and fights for the sheep.

When we replace the word “sheep” for Christian, we see a true love story of the Tender Shepherd and His sheep… Just as sheep need constant care and watching, our Shepherd is forever with us. Just as sheep are easily spooked and run away, we also do the same thing when confronted with a problem or dilemma. Just as sheep will hear their shepherd’s voice and come back to him, we hear our Shepherd’s voice and return to be ministered to and loved. When we are hurt too badly to come to the shepherd, the Shepherd comes to us and carries us back in the safety of His arms. Through the interesting and unique working of our minds, we often find ourselves in places we cannot easily get out of, so the Shepherd finds us and rescues us and brings us back to the fold. Just as sheep take for granted the care and concern their shepherd has for them, we too take for granted that Christ is forever within our sight and has only our best interests at heart.

The Shepherd feeds and waters us through His Word. Even while we are busy or asleep – the Tender Shepherd is forever standing watch over us to keep us safe and be within reach should we call to Him. When the enemy comes as a roaring lion or a bear ready to devour us – it is the Shepherd who comes to our defense and has laid down His life for His sheep (John 10:11).

The Shepherd loves His sheep. We in return love the Good Shepherd and know we are safe within his reach. If we stray He will find us. If we are weary He will carry us. If we are injured He will heal us. If we are hungry He will feed us. If we are frightened He will comfort us. If we are attacked He will defend us. We are safe with Him.

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