The King of Love My Shepherd Is

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In the poor and rural countryside of Herefordshire, England, in 1877 Henry Williams Baker lay dying. After years as vicar of Monkland Priory Church, shepherding and serving his community through home visits, weddings, and hospital visits, Baker now lay prepared to receive the care from his community that he had so often given. 

The long arc of every human life bends towards our death. All roads lead to our earthly end. What will be on our lips when we find ourselves in the same situation as vicar Baker? For him, the lyrical transcription of Psalm 23 that he penned earlier in his life was on his heart and lips as he inched towards his heavenly home. This Psalm had so saturated his spirit that he made them his own.

The King of love my shepherd is 

Whose goodness faileth never

I nothing lack if I am his and He is mine forever

The Shepherd is a king, and a king who loves. A king who has good intentions for me that cannot be thwarted. He is the true satisfaction for starving souls and hungry hearts, and He has given Himself to all who would receive Him.

Where streams of living water flow

My ransomed soul He leadeth

And where the verdant pastures grow with food so heavenly feedeth

The Shepherd King leads His blood-bought sheep to peaceful streams of Living Water; to the Spirit of God Himself, whose work is to bring us to the Shepherd King - the Bread of Life. The Spirit is sent by Jesus from the Father to us, and in our openness to the Spirit, we are brought back to Christ. This circular movement is the work of God to save, sanctify, and preserve us during our earthly lives.

Perverse and foolish oft I strayed

And yet in love He sought me

And on His shoulders gently laid, and home rejoicing brought me

The honest man is one who knows how sick his heart is apart from Christ and is willing to admit both his condition and his action. Not just that he is a sinner, but how he has sinned. Only those who know the love of God will feel the safety to be honest in God’s presence. They can remember how God has kindly and gently carried them back home when they have sinned. And if God has carried them this far, then surely He will carry them to their final home, too.

In death’s dark vale I fear no ill 

With Thee, dear Lord, beside me

Thy rod and staff my comfort still, Thy cross before to guide me

Jesus said that He would be with each of us until the end of the age. Even in our old age (or whatever age we may be when death approaches), we find ourselves in the period of time where Jesus has promised to be with us. Whether resting on a daybed in the sun, or lying on your deathbed under hospital fluorescents, Jesus has promised to be with us and guide us on in sacrificial love.

Thou spreadst a table in my sight

Thy Spirit grace bestoweth

And oh what pleasures of delight from Thy pure cup o’erfloweth

In the middle of the most miserable messes, the Holy Spirit is present in and with us to comfort, console, and encourage. He gives more grace; and not only grace, but joy. God has said that, next to Him (which is where we are if He is with us), there is boundless joy and eternal pleasure, even in the valley of death’s shadow.

And so through all the length of days 

Thy goodness faileth never

Good Shepherd may I sing Thy praise within Thy house forever

The testimony of every single one of the Shepherd’s sheep will be that all of His ways are steadfast love and faithfulness. Even the most tormented saint will say that all of His ways are steadfast love and faithfulness. You - even you - with all that you carry and have carried, at the end of your “length of days,” will testify that all of His ways are steadfast love and faithfulness. You will be able, after a life of living and walking with Jesus, to join vicar Baker and say “He has brought me home.”

If we can face even death without fear because Jesus partook of death so that it might be rendered powerless, then we really do have a reason to sing. So sing praise for this love without end. Sing it to Jesus who loves you, and who loves to forgive you. The King of Love really is your shepherd.