February 10, 2016
(All scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated.)
The second of nine names of God involving Jehovah – the Self-Existent One – is Jehovah-Raah. While found in three other Scriptures (Genesis 48:15; 49:24; and Psalm 80:1), the best known and most descriptive passage of Jehovah-Raah is Psalm 23:1 though 6:
A Psalm of David. The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He
makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still
waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteous-
ness for His name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of
the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your
rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; my cup
runs over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days
of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.
You see, Raah is the Hebrew word for shepherd in Psalm 23 – “The LORD is my shepherd….” It means, “…to tend a flock, that is, pasture it; intransitively to graze (literally or figuratively); generally to rule; by extension to associate with (as a friend)….” (Strong’s Hebrew Dictionary). Volumes have been written about Psalm 23! Let’s take a brief look at some of the benefits of having “The LORD…[as] my shepherd.”
Keep in mind as we examine this Psalm, that the title in the Jewish and Christian Scriptures is reproduced above: “A Psalm of David.” God called David, “…a man after my own heart…” (see I Samuel 13:14; Acts 13:22). David knew first hand what it was to be a shepherd because he served his father in that capacity for much of his youth (see I Samuel 16:11; 17:15, 20, 28, 34).
• Psalm 23:1 – “…I shall not want.” Want means to suffer lack. To not want refers to our needs being supplied, as Paul tells us in Philippians 4:19: “…my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” Whatever the sheep need, a good shepherd will make sure those needs are met! And Jesus said in John 10:11, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep.” He met our ultimate need – forgiveness of our sins – by giving the ultimate gift – His own life on the cross! And Paul reminds us in Romans 8:32, “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” Surely, “…I shall not want…”!
• Psalm 23:2, 3 – “He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul….” The needs of sheep are not that complex – good grazing, clean water, and rest. These need, when met, will restore a sheep’s soul (life- force). The Lord came to keep our life-force strong! He put it this way in John 10:10 – the same passage where He tells us, I am the good shepherd: “I have come that they may have life [eternal life], and that they may have it more abundantly [what is needed in this life].”
• Psalm 23:3 – “He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.” Sheep, if not properly guided, will wander off the path. And paths traversed in the wilderness that lead to good pasture and clean water can be steep and dangerous. And, by the way, as Jesus said in John 10:2 through 4, “…the shepherd…calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. And…he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice.” It is an intimate relationship between the shepherd and his sheep!
So it is with Jesus and us, His sheep! (See Psalm 100:3). He leads through safe passage – keeping us out of trouble – if we follow Him closely! The problem is, as Jeremiah 17:9 states, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it? ” If left to our own devices – our own choice of paths – we end up in trouble!
Why does He do all this for us? “…for His name’s sake.” In the Bible, the person’s name often represents the individual – who he is and what he does. The name and title Jesus Christ means ‘Jehovah saves’ being ‘God’s chosen One.’ That Name, that Person, that Mission is holy and righteous! Our Lord wants our lives – our paths – to reflect this truth as we follow Him!
More on Jehovah-Raah and Psalm 23 in our next blog.