I am the song leader in my church. I am not very proficient as a musician or a choral director. I pray that, someday soon, God will send someone more capable, to take this ministry from me. But for the time being it is my responsibility to select the music and lead the congregation in the singing every week.

I take that responsibility seriously. The hymns and songs that I select must be doctrinally sound, they must be appropriate for worship with a God-centered worldview, and, withing those parameters, I try to select music that will reinforce and, support the text and subject of my pastor’s messages.

Some of us have been singing the hymns for years; the words roll off our lips but the messages often don't engage our minds or penetrate our hearts. With the apostle Paul, I want the congregation to "sing with understanding."

So for the past couple years, it has been my practice to select one hymn each week, research it, and then highlight it with a short introductory commentary so that the congregation will be more informed regarding the origin, the author's testimony, or the doctrinal significance of the hymns we sing.

It is my intention here with this blog, to archive these hymn commentaries for my reference and to make them freely available to other church song leaders. For ease of reference, all the hymn commentaries in this blog will be titled IN ALL CAPITAL LETTERS. Other posts (which will be music ministry related opinion pieces) will be printed in lower case letters.

I know that some of the comments contain traces of my unique style, but please feel free to adapt them and use the content any way you can for the edification of your congregation and to the glory of God.

All I ask is that you leave a little comment should you find something helpful.

Ralph M. Petersen

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Monday, January 30, 2017


There was a children’s musical, written several years ago, with a song titled, Bullfrogs and Butterflies.   The song uses those two creatures as analogies to teach children about the miraculous transformation that occurs in the new birth.  

Those kinds of lessons from nature are not accidental.  God has purposefully designed everything in His creation for His own praise and glory.  So, it should be no surprise whenever we find natural object lessons that reveal or teach us something about Him.  

And they occur in His Word too.  For example, the Aesop tale of the “Ant and the Grasshopper” was inspired by Proverbs 6.  In it, a wise man is compared to a hardworking and industrious ant, in contrast to the laziness of a sluggard.   

There is another animal that God uses, many times in Scripture, as an analogy for His people.  If it were up to me, I would have preferred the rhinoceros.  I could get excited about concepts like power, strength, and thick skin.  But Psalm 100 says, “…We are the SHEEP of His pasture.”

Of all the magnificent or beautiful animals in His creation, God compares His chosen people to dumb, helpless, gullible sheep.

Did you know that sheep cannot survive on their own?  If human life suddenly vanished from the face of the earth, all the sheep would be dead within a few days.  Sheep are creatures of habit and, if left alone, they become victims of their own demise.  Without a shepherd, they will do the same things every day.  They will go to the same places and eat in the same pasture. They will ravage the pasture until it is destroyed and they will pollute the ground until it breeds dangerous parasites. When they are thirsty, they indiscriminately drink any water that is available even if it’s dangerously contaminated.

Sheep are tense, “psychological basket cases.”  They are constantly in a state, of fear and aggravation, that keeps them from properly digesting their food.  They can’t clean themselves or shed their own winter coats in the hot summer.

They have no natural ability to defend themselves. They have no weapons, no camouflage, no speed, and no sense.

Sheep need shepherds.  And, it is interesting to note that Jesus said,”My sheep hear my voice and they follow me.”  I think the fact that sheep tend to stay together is noteworthy and should cause us to understand the importance of our fellowship with other believers in a local assembly.  A sheep who wanders away from the flock is in immediate danger and is a convenient, “fast food meal” for any predator that comes along.

That’s why God appoints under-shepherds (pastors) to care for His flocks. Peter, in his first letter to the churches, used that same figurative language to reminded the elders of their primary pastoral purpose,  He wrote, “Feed the flock of God which is among you…” 

The only way sheep can possibly survive is under the constant, watchful care of a shepherd.  God has given His under-shepherds a very narrow and specific job description.  Pastors are not called for social or political activism. They are not called to be entertainers. They are not to go chasing after goats. They are called to lead, feed, guide, guard, and protect God’s sheep.   

SAVIOR, LIKE A SHEPHERD LEAD US, is a song that was originally intended for children.  And really, that’s the way we should all come to Him; trusting Him as helpless little children.  And we should do it early while we still have time. 

In some ways, this hymn is reminiscent of Psalm 23.  It reveals just how needy and dependent we are.  But it also comforts us with many reminders of how our Great Shepherd cares for us:   

  • He feeds us 
  • He calms us for rest 
  • He guides us 
  • He provides for all our needs  
  • We belong to Him; He redeemed us  
  • He is our Friend; our Guardian 
  • He chastens us when we stray  
  • He hears us when we call 
  • He treats us with mercy and kindness
  • He loves us 
  • He cares for us
  • He cleans and grooms us

  We are just like helpless sheep.  We need the LORD to Shepherd us.       

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