The King of Love My Shepherd Is -Sir Henry W. Baker


Psalm 23 is the most familiar of all the Psalms. For centuries many composers have set the Shepherd’s Psalm to music with many different styles and forms. The words so beautifully express the Lord’s role in shepherding His sheep, and Christians find much comfort in them.


This hymn, based on Psalm 23, was written by Sir Henry Baker in 1868. He was born in London in 1821 and was educated at Trinity College in Cambridge. He served for 26 years as a minister in the small, quiet village of Monkland in Herefordshire, England. There, he followed his passion and wrote and edited many hymns.


Most of Baker’s life was dedicated to the 1861 publication of “Hymns Ancient and Modern.”  He chaired the committee made up of hymn writers, composers and editors that had the monumental task of selecting and compiling hymns that more than two hundred ministers had suggested. This hymnal was a milestone in English hymnody; it featured the text and tune for each hymn printed on the same page. The appropriate musical setting was chosen to enhance the text of every hymn, which made the message of each hymn more distinct. Before this, most hymnals contained words only and offered a limited number of tunes that were used repeatedly with the various hymn texts. The collection of 273 hymns that included the best of Watts, Wesley, Doddridge, Montgomery, and many other hymn writers sold more than sixty million copies between 1861 and 1912.


“The King of Love My Shepherd Is” was first published in the appendix of the 1868 edition of “Hymns Ancient and Modern.” Sir Henry wrote many hymns and translated a number of Latin hymns, but his setting of Psalm 23 is the best remembered.  The hymn is often called a metrical paraphrase of Psalm 23, but Baker made more of a free paraphrase than a strict metrical version of the Psalm. His friend and musical editor on the committee, John B. Dykes, wrote the most commonly used tune, “Dominus Regit Me,” meaning in Latin, “The Lord Leads Me.”


The six stanzas of the hymn correspond to the six verses of the Psalm. Baker blends the Psalm with New Testament references to Jesus as the Shepherd. For instance, the third stanza suggests the parable of the lost sheep as found in Luke 15:4-7, and the joy of being brought back by the Good Shepherd is expressed in John 10:11. Sir Henry’s writing was described as being closely rhymed with well-chosen and simple language. He had a deep knowledge of Scripture and a sincere conviction that it be expressed in hymns.


It’s interesting to note that this hymn was sung at the funeral of John B. Dykes in 1876, and just a year later, as Sir Henry Baker passed into eternity, he quoted the words of the third stanza as his last words as he went “home, rejoicing.” The hymn ends triumphantly, proclaiming that God’s goodness will never fail. Believers can trust Him for His care in this life and have the assurance of spending eternity in heaven with Him. This should result in endless praise from those who live under the care of the Good Shepherd. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever. (Psalm 23:6).


The King of love my Shepherd is,
Whose goodness faileth never;
I nothing lack if I am his
And he is mine for ever.

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 spread'st a table in my sight,
Thy 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 for ever.


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