"He Leadeth Me" by Joseph Gilmoreby Dr. Zelda Robinson on March 4, 2022
There is a Christian hymn entitled, “He Leadeth Me: Oh, Blessed Thought.” The hymn was composed in 1862 by pastor by the name of Joseph Gilmore. He lived in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Pastor Gilmore composed this familiar hymn during the Civil War, at a time when America experienced upheaval and insecurity. Gilmore was 28 years old at the time this hymn was composed, and it was soon after his ordination. According to the reports, Pastor Gilmore was delivering a message to on the 23rd Psalm to the congregation of his church when the Shepherd’s psalm drew his attention to the words of the 2nd verse: “he leads me beside still waters.” This was not the first time Pastor Gilmore had delivered a message from this psalm, but he wanted the people to turn their attention off the war and look to Jesus.
Focused on the verse, Pastor Gilmore was inspired by it and “He leadeth me,” became theme of the song. Unbeknown to Gilmore, his wife got the Boston newspaper Watchman and Reflector (Dec. 4, 1862) to print the text and when William Bradbury, the famous gospel song composer (1816-1868) read it, he anonymously added the word to music. It was a few years later when Gilmore was visiting another church that he saw the words of his song in their hymn book. Bradbury is credited with adding the third line to the famous refrain: His faithful follower I would be, For by his hand he leadeth me.
The strength of this hymn lies in the continuous repetition of this line, “He/God leadeth me,” but it is that 3rd line that got my attention for this mediation. The words of that line remind me of Christ expectation of those who would follow Him.
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. Matthew 16:24-25
All who would follow Jesus Christ must follow Him in faith. To “Take up your cross and follow Me” means dying to self and being willing to die in order to follow Jesus. It is a call for total surrender to Him. Referring to James Howell’s book, he asks the question: “How do we discern God’s leading?” He says, “God ask us to do things that are hard, that require courage, sacrifice, and an unflagging zeal, no matter what the cost.” Following the leader, requires trust. As the hymn suggest, it does not matter how we are led, or where we are led to, so long it is Jesus who is leading us.
For by His hand He leadeth me.
He leadeth me! O blessed thought, O words with heav’nly comfort fraught;
Whate’er I do, where’er I be, Still ’tis Christ’s hand that 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, o’er troubled sea, Still ’tis His hand that leadeth me.
Content, whatever lot I see, Since it is Thou that leadest me.
E’en death’s cold wave I will not flee, Since Thou in triumph leadest me.