September 25, 2023
“The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.” Psalm 23:1
Psalm 23 was one of my Great Grandma’s favorite psalms. As a result I had it memorized at a young age and even recited it at her funeral when she passed in her 90s. I’m glad she talked about it so much because it has stuck with me all these years. The entire Psalm centers on a name for God, the Lord our Shepherd. In Hebrew this is another name that combines Jehovah. In this instance it is Jehovah Raah. With eloquent images, David, the author, describes just what it means for God to be named our shepherd.
For a king to be referred to as a shepherd was not uncommon in ancient culture. But when we pause to consider Jehovah, and all we have learned about him through his other names, it is remarkable that he would be our shepherd. Being a shepherd was not an envious job. In fact it was often the last job someone would want to take. It wasn’t only a job, but a lifestyle that involved living with, caring for, guiding, correcting and providing for the flock. It was a humbling job and yet our everlasting, all powerful Lord, chose to be our shepherd. He comes to our level to compassionately care for each of us. What a gift that is.
Psalm 23:1 says “the Lord is MY Shepherd”. David doesn’t say “the shepherd of the Israelites” or “God’s people” but “my”. He recognized that God is his personal shepherd. David knew that he personally belonged to God, and we do too because Jesus bought us with a price. In John 10:11 we see this connection when Jesus calls himself the Good Shepherd who has laid down his life for his sheep. Our Lord Jesus Christ is the shepherd of each of us. He personally died for you and for me and wants a personal relationship with us.
As theologian Charles Spurgeon says, before we can fully embrace the Lord as our personal shepherd, we must recognize ourselves as sheep. A sheep who is in need of a provider, who wanders, and can’t save itself. This is a difficult thing to admit, especially in a society that thrives on self-sufficiency. But at the heart of the gospel is our need for Christ. On our own we cannot be saved. It is only through our Good Shepherd that we find life. When we acknowledge our neediness as sheep, then we can embrace the care of the Lord our shepherd; who, as Psalm 23 declares, meets our needs.
God knows when we need comfort and when we need rest and we can find both in him. He restores us and leads us in paths of righteousness. Having the Lord as our shepherd doesn’t mean life will be easy. David acknowledges this in verse 4. We will all face valleys, some darker than others. But in them, we need not fear because Jehovah Raah is watching over us. Our Lord guides us through the darkest moments we face. So, we can have peace, knowing that the Lord is our shepherd.
In contrast to the other names declaring God’s power and everlasting existence, Jehovah Raah reveals God’s loving care and compassion for his people. Just like David found reassurance and peace knowing that God cared for him, we can too. Take a moment to read Psalm 23 and reflect on Jehovah Raah this week. What image from Psalm 23 sticks out to you? In what valley do you need to experience God as your shepherd? Who in your life can you reach out to and remind that God loves them and cares for them?
Heavenly father, thank you for being our shepherd who not only cares for us and loves us, but corrects and guides us. Thank you for watching over us on the mountain tops and in the valleys. May we experience your peace even in the darkest moments, because we know that you are with us. Lord, we thank you also for your son, our Good Shepherd, who laid down his life for each of us. It is in his name that we pray, Amen.
Spiritual Care Coordinator
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