February 12, 2016
(All scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated.)
We are looking at Psalm 23 to discern the characteristics of God as Jehovah-Raah. David uses this name of God in the opening verse where he writes, “The LORD is my shepherd….” In six verses this shepherd/king describes the self-existing eternal God (Jehovah) who (as Raah) carefully watches over His flock of believers; who also came to earth in human flesh (Jesus) to be “The good shepherd [who] gives His life for the sheep.” (John 10:11). Here is Psalm 23:1 through 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.
In our last blog we began to look at the testimony of a sheep under the care of the Good Shepherd:
• Psalm 23:1 – “The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want…,” or suffer lack of any good thing I need to be a faithful, following sheep.
• Psalm 23:2, 3 – “He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul….” To restore our soul is to supply the needs of life. The needs of an actual sheep are good grazing, clean water, and rest. In our case God gives us whatever we need to successfully face life! (See Psalm 34:10; Matthew 6:24-34; John 10:10; Philippians 4:19).
• Psalm 23:3 – “He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.” God guides and leads His sheep rightly – in the paths of righteousness – because He is righteous! And we are to become more and more like Him as we follow! (See Romans 8:29; I Corinthians 15:49; II Corinthians 3:18; I John 3:2).
Let’s go on:
• Psalm 23:4 – “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.” Yes, we will go through dark and hard times in this life. This world is under the control of the one who “…does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy…” (John 10:10) – Satan, who in John 12:31 is called “…the ruler of this world…” (English Standard Version). But even when we face death, Jesus’ victory over the grave has made it but a shadow – something without final substance and victory! (See I Corinthians 15:26, 51-57).
A shepherd’s rod and staff are instruments of protection against predators. But if a sheep continually wanders away, the shepherd might even use the rod to break its leg! Then he will carry that sheep until it heals. And the sheep will learn to stay close to the shepherd. The staff is not the long stick gracefully bent at the end, as usually depicted in shepherd scenes. It is a staff with a sharp stub of branch pointing back. If a sheep falls into a crevice or onto a ledge, the shepherd can reach down with the staff and entwine the sharp hook into the sheep’s wool, and pull the endangered animal to safety! Both rod and staff can cause momentary pain for the sheep, but in the hands of the good shepherd, they bring great comfort as well as protection!
• Psalm 23:5 – “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; my cup runs over.” The table is where the sheep graze. Before allowing his flock to graze, the shepherd will inspect the area for poisonous plants, snakes, and other harmful enemies. Once harm is out of the way, the sheep can safely eat.
A shepherd always carried a medicinal bottle of oil. When a sheep was attacked by a foe, or wounded in an accident, the shepherd would anoint the wound with the healing and comforting oil. My cup runs over refers to the place where the sheep would drink. It would be flowing water, constantly filling a quiet place in the stream or river, and so providing water fresh and clear! If there was no suitable place found, the shepherd might dip water out and let the sheep drink out of a container until satisfied.
• Psalm 23:6 – “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.” If it is a good shepherd, the sheep remain well cared for and safe. Jesus said “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives his life for the sheep.” (John 10:11). If SomeOne would do that for you and me – and so much more (see Romans 8:32) – why would we follow anyone else? I want to stay close by my Shepherd, Jesus Christ, forever dwelling where He is!
Jehovah-Raah – The Lord is my shepherd.