The King of love my shepherd is,
whose goodness faileth never;
I nothing lack if I am his
and he is mine forever.
Where streams of living water flow,
my ransomed soul he leadeth
and, where the verdant pastures grow,
with food celestial feedeth.
Perverse and foolish oft I strayed,
but yet in love he sought me,
and on his shoulder gently laid,
and home, rejoicing, brought me.
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.
Thou spreadst a table in my sight;
thine unction grace bestoweth;
and, oh, what transport of delight
from thy pure chalice floweth!
And so, through all the length of days,
thy goodness faileth never.
Good Shepherd, may I sing thy praise
within thy house forever.
It was in a little white church in rural Iowa that I came to know this hymn. I was a young boy who sang in the choir along with my buddy—a bit unusual for our age. We had interest in more than music and words. There were young girls singing in the choir too!
This hymn continues to be special because it was on this hymn that I learned in turn the various parts: the melody (young boy voice); tenor (cracking boyish voice); and finally bass (a lower voice of a high school senior). Some of the words were puzzling: "verdant pastures," "celestial feeding," "perverse," "unction grace" and "transport of delight."
Yet, as I sang this song over and over, the message and promises sank into my memory bank. To this day, I can sing the six verses by memory. It continues to be a powerful reminder of the definition of "God-king"—love, shepherd, goodness, living water, carried gently, fearless before death's dark vale, cross guiding, healing grace, goodness that never fails.
Wow, what promises! And am I ever glad I sang in that choir!
Gracious God, thank you for your unfailing love that comes daily in the Water and the Word—forgiving, healing, challenging, guiding and life giving! Good Shepherd, may I sing your praise within my life each day! Amen.