“Watch Over Me” is the title of a hymn written by two Christadelphians in the United Kingdom in 1985. Sister Sheila Bacon wrote the words of the hymn. She asked Brother Andrew Johnson if he would put the poetic words to music which he did. The result is a lovely hymn with the theme “Watch over me”. Each verse uses the theme words.
<h2Verse 1 — The shepherd boy watches
Verse one speaks about David as a shepherd and asks the question that David must have considered in his time in the fields, as he contemplated his responsibility to watch over his flock. David prays to the Shepherd of Israel and asks “…how shall I fight the lion and bear Except Thou watch over me?” David says to Saul:
“…Your servant has been keeping his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it. Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear…The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” (1Sam 17:34-37).
Verse 2 — The outlaw is waking
Verse two takes us to another scene in David’s life when he was an outlaw from Saul and other enemies. Once again David appeals to God as the Shield of His people and asks the question, “…how shall I wander, kept free from alarm Except Thou watch over me?” David says: “The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge. He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I call to the Lord, who is worthy of praise, and I am saved from my enemies” (Psa 18:2-3).
Verse 3 — The King in Jerusalem
The third verse speaks about David as King in Jerusalem and his concern to rule the kingdom of Israel with wisdom and God’s overriding guidance. In the hymn David asks God, the Sovereign of Israel: “For how shall I govern this kingdom aright, Except Thou watch over me?” David speaks about his trust in God when he is King of Israel — “For the king trusts in the Lord; through the unfailing love of the Most High he will not be shaken” (Psa 21:7).
Verse 4 — Like David — I wander
The fourth and last verse speaks about us today as followers of our Lord. As sheep, often struggling with issues and not sure which direction to take, we ask for God’s help. And the hymn states, “How shall (we) come safe to (our) journey’s end, Except Thou watch over me?”. David expresses his belief in God’s care through our day by day issues. “Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens. Our God is a God who saves; from the Sovereign Lord comes escape from death” (Psa 68:19-20).
The author of the lyrics, Sis. Sheila Bacon, fell asleep in Jesus some years ago. Bro. Andrew Johnson writes, “She was a faithful sister who worked with the Sunday School in Rochdale over many years. She wrote many plays and songs/ hymns to go with them for the Sunday School to perform. She would have been very pleased to know that ‘Watch Over Me’ is being put to good use in praise of our Heavenly Father.”
Bro. Andrew did put the words to music and what he wrote supports the spiritual thoughts expressed in each of the four verses. He begins each verse in a minor key conveying the seriousness, dangers and concerns that David faced and we face today in our natural and spiritual lives. When the refrain of each verse is sung Andrew changes to the relative major key of B flat. The contrasting brightness of this major key (after the G minor key) helps to support and musically convey the change of outlook that accompanies the difficulties of life when God is there to watch over us. In this way there is a cohesive connection between lyrics and music.
This hymn, “Watch Over Me”, was recorded in England by Christadelphians on a compact disc titled, “David The Shepherd King”. The group of vocalists is led by Sis. Mary Johnson. This hymn has also been sung in North America at a number of Christadelphian functions. May the words and accompanying music be enjoyed by readers of The Tidings Magazine and be a source of spiritual encouragement on our journey of life. Copies of the music and words can be obtained from firstname.lastname@example.org .
“O praise the Lord, all ye nations: praise him, all ye people. For his merciful kindness is great toward us: and the truth of the Lord endureth for ever. Praise the Lord” (Psa 117).
Joan Curry (Toronto East, ON)