HE LEADETH ME
Joseph H. Gilmore, 1834–1918
He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside quiet waters, He restores my soul. (Psalm 23:2)
The blessedness and awe of being led by Almighty God Himself so impressed the author of this text that he wrote these beloved words spontaneously—and these exact words have been sung by believers around the world for more than a century. Although Joseph Gilmore became a distinguished university and seminary professor, an author of several textbooks in Hebrew and English literature, and a respected Baptist minister, he is best remembered today for this one hymn, hurriedly written when he was just 28.
Gilmore scribbled down these lines while visiting with friends after preaching about the truths of the 23rd Psalm at the Wednesday evening service of the First Baptist Church in Philadelphia. He left this account:
At the close of the service we adjourned to Deacon Watson’s pleasant home, where we were being entertained. During our conversation the blessedness of God’s leading so grew upon me that I took out my pencil, wrote the text just as it stands today, handed it to my wife, and thought no more of it.
Without telling her husband, Mrs. Gilmore sent the verses to the Watchman and Reflector Magazine, where it first appeared the following year. Three years later Joseph Gilmore went to Rochester, New York, as a candidate to become the pastor of Second Baptist Church. He recalls:
Upon entering the chapel I took up a hymnal, thinking—I wonder what they sing here. To my amazement the book opened up at “He Leadeth Me,” and that was the first time I knew that my hurriedly written lines had found a place among the songs of the church.
William Bradbury, an important American contributor to early gospel hymnody, added two additional lines to the chorus: “His faithful foll’wer I would be, for by His hand He leadeth me.” Does that describe you?
He leadeth me! O blessed thought! O words with heav’nly comfort fraught! Whate’er I do, where’er I be, still ’tis God’s hand that leadeth me.
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!
And when my task on earth is done, when by Thy grace the vict’ry’s won, e’en death’s cold wave I will not flee, since God thru Jordan leadeth me.
Chorus: He leadeth me, He leadeth me, by His own hand He leadeth me; His faithful foll’wer I would be, for by His hand He leadeth me.
For Today: Psalm 23; 139:10, 24; Isaiah 41:13, 14; John 16:13
Visualize a loving shepherd tenderly leading his sheep. Then be especially responsive to God’s guidance. Reflect on this tuneful thought—
Osbeck, K. W.
- The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He maketh me to rest in green pasture, and leadeth me by the still waters. He restoreth my soul, and leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his Name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me: thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me. Thou dost prepare a table before me in the presence of mine adversaries: thou dost anoint mine head with oil, and my cup runneth over Doubtless kindness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall remain a long season in the house of the Lord. Psalm 23
- Yet thither shall thine hand lead me, and thy right hand hold me. … And consider if there be any way of wickedness in me, and lead me in the way forever. Psalm 139:10, 24
- This is the word that the Lord hath spoken against Moab since that time. And now the Lord hath spoken, saying, In three years as the years of an hireling, and the glory of Moab shall be contemned in all the multitude, and the remnant shall be very small and feeble. Isaiah 41:13-14
- Howbeit, when he is come which is the spirit of truth, he will lead you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself, but whatsoever he shall hear, shall he speak, and he will show you the things to come. John 16:13