As common as it sounds, The Lord being our shepherd is actually very comforting, when we consider the cultural and social implications, when David and others wrote it.
It seems the Israelites always had someone who was a shepherd. Abel kept watch over the flocks. Abraham, Lot, Isaac and Jacob kept sheep. When Joseph went down to Eygpt as a slave, and then found favour with Pharoh, his family came down with the famine, he asked them to say that they were shepherds, ( they were), and so had Goshen assigned to them, away from the Eygptians. Moses was a prince for 40 years, a shepherd for 40 years ( where he found his wife, Zipporah and heard God from a burning bush), and a leader for the next 40 years. David was a shepherd, whom the family don’t think much of, before he killed Goliath and later became a king. Jeremiah and Ezekial warned about false shepherds, and also gave the Israelites hope about the coming of a true Shepherd, who would never abandon His sheep. When Jesus spoke to the people, He called Himself the Good Shepherd on multiple occasions. He said His sheep would recognize His voice. He had other sheep that He needed to reach, who would be part of the fold.
There’s the famous psalm, 23, that most people know and have heard. While I was reading up on this psalm, I found several commentaries, so I’m going to write down a little from the one I really liked, with bits and pieces from others.
Jehovah Raah is derived from Ro’eh ( which means Shepherd). Jehovah Raah can mean The Lord is my Shepherd or the The Lord Shepherds me. It can even mean The Lord is my friend or The Lord my companion. It means that He is near. He is very close. He watches over me. He hears me when I call. He listens to me and understands me. He is my caregiver. He provides for me. He cares for me.
Let me let you about sheep, though. They are dumb. They follow each other, with no thought, they’ve been known to jump off a cliff following the herd. They need protection, they don’t have claws, or hooves or powerful jaws to fend off predators. They are generally frightened of everything, they can’t or won’t drink from running water, shepherds have to dam up the water, to get them to drink from still, calm water. Sheep are basically helpless creatures who cannot survive long without a shepherd, upon whose care they are totally dependent.
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Now , comparing ourselves to sheep, and God to the Good Shepherd, we are dumb ( we really are!), we fall into the same trap of sin and sinning , over and over again. We follow the crowd, and want to fit in ( peer pressure anyone?). We can’t defend ourselves against the powers of darkness and the evil one. We need the Lord of angel armies, His angels , and the shepherds He’s placed over us to fight for us and with us to win the war that we’re in, the war for our souls. Sometimes we (I ) are frightened over everything. The rushing waters ( our storms, our troubles, our valleys of sorrow) that we need The Shepherd to dam up the waters for us ( give us a way out of our temptations, bring us to a mountain , fight off our accuser ). We are basically helpless, needing to be dependent completely on Him.
Him, on the other hand, is the Good Shepherd, the True Shepherd. He watches over us intently. He leads us lovingly and gently. His voice is one we can trust. When one of us strays, He chases after us to bring us back to safety, His fold. He fights off predators, and destroys the enemy. He places shepherds over us ( pastors, preachers, teachers, mentors) who are true to Him. He gives us food to eat (His Word), and refreshes us in His Spirit. He has sheep all over the world. He gave His life for the sheep.
So I’m going to break down Psalm 23. Please go back to His Word, and discover what The Shepherd/ this Friend and Companion means to you personally. This is just a guide.
1 The Lord is my shepherd, (Relationship…. I am His daughter) I lack nothing. (Supply…He provides for me, materially, relationally, spiritually)
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures, (Rest….In the midst of a weary life, He makes me calm and peaceful)
he leads me beside quiet waters, (Refreshment…In the midst of the same things happening over and over, He makes me new and gives me new joy)
3 he refreshes my soul. (Healing…There’s nothing that affects me or my loved ones that He can’t or won’t cure, either in this world or in Heaven)
He guides me along the right paths (Guidance….He shows me what to do, when I am confused)
for his name’s sake. (Purpose…I’m called to glorify Him, I’m meant to praise Him)
4 Even though I walk
through the darkest valley,[a] (Testing….to refine me and strengthen me, to use me for His glory)
I will fear no evil, (Protection…I’m not alone, He’s always by my side)
for you are with me; (Faithfulness…He can be trusted, all His promises are true)
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me. (Discipline…to bring me back to the path of life, when I stray )
5 You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies. (Hope…He lifts me up, even with my shame, He gives me honour)
You anoint my head with oil; (Consecration…He makes me holy , like Him)
my cup overflows. (Abundance…I can’t contain or count His many blessings, I don’t mean material blessings)
6 Surely your goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life, (Blessing…He cares for me enough to give me a personal blessing)
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord (Security…I have a place where I belong)
for ever. (Eternity… and I will never move from there or be asked to leave).
These are just a few verses that I found that talk about the Shepherd, and the shepherds that He has placed over us.
1 Chronicles 21:17 David said to God, ‘Was it not I who ordered the fighting men to be counted? I, the shepherd, have sinned and done wrong. These are but sheep. What have they done? Lord my God, let your hand fall on me and my family, but do not let this plague remain on your people.’
Psalm 23:1 The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
Psalm 78:71 from tending the sheep he brought him to be the shepherd of his people Jacob, of Israel his inheritance.
Psalm 78:72 And David shepherded them with integrity of heart; with skilful hands he led them.
Psalm 80:1 [ Psalm 80 ] [ For the director of music. To the tune of ‘The Lilies of the Covenant’. Of Asaph. A psalm. ] Hear us, Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a flock. You who sit enthroned between the cherubim, shine forth
Isaiah 40:11 He tends his flock like a shepherd: he gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.
Isaiah 44:28 who says of Cyrus, “He is my shepherd and will accomplish all that I please; he will say of Jerusalem, ‘Let it be rebuilt,’ and of the temple, ‘Let its foundations be laid.’”
Isaiah 61:5 Strangers will shepherd your flocks; foreigners will work your fields and vineyards.
Jeremiah 17:16 I have not run away from being your shepherd; you know I have not desired the day of despair. What passes my lips is open before you.
Jeremiah 23:4 I will place shepherds over them who will tend them, and they will no longer be afraid or terrified, nor will any be missing,’ declares the Lord.
Jeremiah 3:15 Then I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will lead you with knowledge and understanding.
Jeremiah 31:10 ‘Hear the word of the Lord, you nations; proclaim it in distant coastlands: “He who scattered Israel will gather them and will watch over his flock like a shepherd.”
Jeremiah 33:12 ‘This is what the Lord Almighty says: “In this place, desolate and without people or animals – in all its towns there will again be pastures for shepherds to rest their flocks.
Jeremiah 34:1 [ The Lord will be Israel’s shepherd ] The word of the Lord came to me:
Ezekiel 34:7 ‘“Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the Lord:
Micah 5:4 He will stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God. And they will live securely, for then his greatness will reach to the ends of the earth.
Zechariah 9:16The Lord their God will save his people on that day as a shepherd saves his flock. They will sparkle in his land like jewels in a crown.
John 10:11 ‘I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
John 10:14 ‘I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me
Hebrews 13:20 [ Benediction and final greetings ] Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep,
Finally, the shepherd cares for the sheep because he loves them and wants to maintain his own good reputation as a faithful shepherd. As we’ve seen in Psalm 23, the analogy of the Lord as the Good Shepherd was also applied by Jesus in John chapter 10. In declaring that He is the shepherd of the sheep, Jesus is confirming that He is God. The Eternal God is our Shepherd. And we would not want it any other way.