Carolyn Wood’s Devotional
THE LORD’S MY SHEPHERD – 1650
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. Psalm 23:1
Our oldest hymnal is the Book of Psalms, and Christians throughout history have wanted to obey the biblical injunction to praise the Lord using “psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs” (Ephesians 5:19, Colossians 3:16).
John Calvin, quoting Augustine, wrote, “We shall not find better songs nor more fitting for the purpose than the Psalms of David, which the Holy Spirit spoke. . . And moreover, when we sing them, we are certain that God puts in our mouths these, as if He Himself were singing in us to exalt His glory.”
But the Psalms were originally written in Hebrew, and, when translated, they don’t typically have the rhyme or rhythm for easy singing.
In the early 1640s, Francis Rouse, an English Puritan, rendered all 150 Psalms from the Hebrew not metrical English. The General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, meeting in Edinburgh, took Rouse’s translation and submitted it to revision committees. These committees spent si years comparing the metered Psalms with the original Hebrew, seeking to develop a singable translation that was accurate to the original Hebrew. They worked as painstakingly as if creating a new translation of the Bible.
Finally, in 1650, the Scottish Psalter was released and approved for congregations of the Church of Scotland. Its full title was: The Psalms of David in Meter: Newly translated and diligently compared with the original Text, and former Translations. More plain, smooth, and agreeable to the Text, than any heretofore. (Ooooo – can you imagine a songwriter in this day trying to publish a collection of songs or hymns with a title that long? Rejection would definitely be in order, unless the writer was agreeable to consider a shorter title.)
Though the Scottish Psalter of 1650 is one of the great treasres of hymnody, the only portion widely sung beyond Scotland is its beautiful rendition of Psalm 23, set to the tune CRIMOND, which begins:
The Lord’s my Shepherd, I’ll not want.
He makes me down to lie
In pastures green; He leadeth me
The quiet waters by.
The melody CRIMOND was composed about 1870 by a woman named Jessie Seymour Irvine. She was the daughter of the parish minister in the little Scottish town of Crimond, which is also famous for its unusual clock in the church tower. The clockmaker accidentally put six marks into one of the five minute sections on the clock face. As a result, each hour in Crimond is 61 minutes, making a day there 24 minutes longer than anywhere else on earth.
Well, it just gives a little extra time for singing “The Lord’s My Shepherd” or any other song of praise that comes to mind. I have supplied a listening link of this lovely hymn which is fittingly sung by York Minster Choir.
God bless you! Carolyn
UM Hymnal editor Carlton Young says this gospel hymn “is one of the five most requested… to be included in this hymnal.” Based on John 14:19c—“because I live, you also will live”—the hymn’s theme is effectively supported by a soaring melody in the refrain.