THE NAMES OF GOD Lesson #6
Jehovah-Ra-ah: The Lord My Shepherd Psalm 23:1-6
In Psalm 23 David gives us another name for our God and Savior. It is Jehovah-Ra-ah: The Lord my Shepherd. Throughout the Word of God, the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, our Savior, is revealed to us as a shepherd. Blessed is that man or woman who can, with a heart of true faith, say, “The Lord is my Shepherd.” In Genesis 49:24, it was promised that “the Shepherd, the stone of Israel,” would come from “the mighty God of Jacob.” Indeed, our Shepherd is the mighty God of Jacob. The prophet Isaiah (Isa. 40:11), revealed what Christ would do for his sheep, when he revealed himself as our Shepherd. “He shall feed his flock like a shepherd; he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young.” In Ezekiel 34:23, God promised that in this gospel age he would gather his elect from the four corners of the earth, both Jews and Gentiles, under one great Shepherd. “I will set up one Shepherd over them, and he shall feed them, even my servant David; he shall feed them, and he shall be their Shepherd.” In chapter 37, verse 24, the prophet tells us plainly that God’s elect “all shall have one Shepherd.” Then, in Zechariah 13:7, we have a plain prophecy of Christ’s death, the good Shepherd laying down his life for his sheep. God himself cries out, “Awake, O sword, against my Shepherd, and against the man that is my fellow! Smite the Shepherd and the sheep shall be scattered; and I will turn mine hand upon the little ones.” In John 10 our Lord Jesus Christ describes himself as our Shepherd. “I am the good Shepherd; the good Shepherd giveth his life for the sheep” (v. 11). “I am the good Shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine” (v. 14). The apostle Paul describes Christ as “Our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep,” and calls His blood “the blood of the everlasting covenant” (Heb. 13:20). The apostle Peter says, “Ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls” (I Pet. 2:25). And he assures us that “when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away” (I Pet. 5:4).
This is our Savior’s name: Jehovah-Ra-ah: The Lord my Shepherd. The Lord Jesus Christ was called and appointed by his Father to be our Shepherd in the covenant of grace, before the world began. And by an act of great, condescending grace and infinite love, he freely, voluntarily agreed to be our Shepherd. Thus, from old eternity, Christ assumed all responsibility for the redemption, salvation, and eternal welfare of God’s elect, his sheep (John 10:14-18). And he is abundantly qualified to be our Shepherd. He is the omniscient God. He knows all his sheep, all our maladies, and all our needs. He knows where his sheep are, what their case is, and what must be done for them. Christ, our Shepherd, is omnipotent. He is the almighty God. He has all power in heaven and earth. He can do all things for us. None of his sheep are in danger. This Shepherd can and will provide for his sheep, protect his sheep, defend his sheep and save his sheep. In him are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. He will guide and direct his sheep in the best path and bring them all at last to the heavenly fold. Oh, may God the Holy Spirit teach us to trust our Savior as Jehovah-Ra-ah: The Lord our Shepherd. If Christ is Jehovah-Ra-ah: The Lord my Shepherd, I have nothing to fear, and everything to give me comfort, hope, peace, and joy.
In Psalm 23, David declares a blessed fact which he perceived and rejoiced in by faith. He says, “The Lord is my Shepherd!” As his heart meditated upon this blessed fact, he began to realize the blessings that would surely flow to him because the Lord, Jehovah, the one true and living God, was and is his Shepherd. We will look at these six verses line by line.
“THE LORD IS MY SHEPHERD.” What a word of faith! David does not say, “The Lord is our Shepherd.” He says, “The Lord is my Shepherd!” He does not say, “The Lord was,” or “The Lord shall be,” but “The Lord is my Shepherd.” He does not say, “I hope,” or “I think.” David speaks with confidence and assurance, saying, “The Lord is my Shepherd.” He knew that the Lord was his Shepherd for one reason: He trusted the Lord as his Shepherd. He acknowledged his entire dependence upon Christ as sheep upon their Shepherd. And trusting Christ as his Shepherd, David could not doubt his interest in his Shepherd. It is one thing for the Shepherd to say “This is my sheep.” But it is another thing for the sheep to say, “This is my shepherd.” When David says, “The Lord is my Shepherd,” he is expressing his faith in, affection for, and joy because of Christ. If you trust him, Christ is your Shepherd too. If the good Shepherd has called you and caused you to hear his voice, if you follow him, that is to say, if you trust him, you are one of his sheep, and he is your Shepherd (John 10:1-5, 26-28; I John 5:1).
If the Lord is my Shepherd, I belong to him. I am his property. He owns me. And the fact that I belong to the Son of God gives me utmost confidence and security and inspires my heart to daily consecrate myself to him. I have been chosen of God and given to Christ as one of his elect sheep from the foundation of the world (John 6:37-40). The Shepherd is responsible for this sheep. The poor sheep is not responsible for himself. Christ has redeemed me and purchased me with his own blood (John 10:11-14). Christ, my Shepherd, has sought me, found me, and saved me by his grace (Luke 15:3-5). Christ Jesus protects me, keeps me, preserves me and promises that I shall never perish (John 10:27-30). The Lord, who is my Shepherd, will bring me safe to heaven at last (Luke 15:6-7). When I die, my Shepherd will carry me home with joy. At the appointed hour, my Shepherd will appear and raise my body to glory (I Pet. 5:4). And what he does for me he will do for all his sheep (John 10:16).
Do you see the meaning of these words? “The Lord is my Shepherd!” Our Savior’s name is Jehovah-Ra-ah! Meditate upon this blessed fact. What may faith deduce from it? David tells us.
Because the lord is my shepherd, “I SHALL NOT WANT.” Faith must draw this conclusion. If the Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want anything, for having him, I have everything (I Cor. 3:21-23). I shall not want any temporal good thing. None of Christ’s sheep lack anything in this world that is good, needful, and useful for them (Ps. 37:25; Matt. 4:31-34). Sheep do not feed, clothe, and protect themselves. They are fed, clothed, and protected by their Shepherd. More importantly, I shall not want any spiritual good thing (Eph. 1:3; Col. 2:9-10). Christ is the One in whom all fullness dwells; and we have all our needs supplied from him. Our souls shall never want for spiritual food, for by him we go in and out and find pasture (John 10:9). He is the Bread of Life. In him we have bread enough and to spare. He is the Fountain of Living Water. Those who drink at this Fountain never thirst for another. We shall never want for clothing, for he is “The Lord our Righteousness,” and we are clothed with the robe of his righteousness (Jer. 23:6). Our hearts shall never want rest, for he is our resting place, our Sabbath, in whom we find rest for our souls (Matt. 11:28-30). These words could be translated, “I shall not fail,” or “I shall not come short.” Then the meaning would be, “Because the Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not fail to attain eternal glory and happiness” (John 10:27-30).
“HE MAKETH ME TO LIE DOWN IN GREEN PASTURES” (v.2). These green pastures are all found in the Word of God. Christ graciously, tenderly makes his sheep lie down in the green pastures of his Word, where we find rest, safety, satisfaction, and peace (Song 1:7). What are these green pastures? The covenant of grace (II Sam. 23:5), the person and work of Christ, and the blessed doctrines and the ordinances of the gospel.
“HE LEADETH ME BESIDE THE STILL WATERS” (v. 2). What a gentle word, “leadeth!” Gently, thoughtfully, tenderly, Christ leads his sheep, like Jacob of old, to the soft, deep, quiet waters, as they are able to bear it (Gen. 33:14). The everlasting love of God is like a river, the streams whereof make glad the hearts of his people (Ps. 46:4). Christ himself is the pure river of the Water of Life from which all his sheep drink freely and constantly. Our Shepherd leads his sheep into the pleasant waters of spiritual communion with the eternal God. Jehovah-Ra-ah, the Lord who is our Shepherd, leads all his sheep into the deep, still waters of Holy Scripture and causes them to wade through, drink from, and swim in the refreshing truths of the gospel. All who thirst are invited to come to these waters (Isa. 55:1). In heaven’s eternal glory, Christ will still lead his sheep by the fountains of living water, for their everlasting consolation and joy (Rev. 7:15-17).
“HE RESTORETH MY SOUL” (v. 3). How often he has come to us, when we could not go to him, when our souls were downcast, fainting and disconsolate. Day by day, Jehovah, our Shepherd, restores our souls. When we stray, he fetches us back to himself. When we seem to be dying within, he relieves, refreshes, comforts, and revives us with fresh discoveries of His love, the blessed promises of the gospel, the sweet memory of his sacrifice, the loving rod of correction, and the renewing Grace of his Spirit.
“HE LEADETH ME IN THE PATH OF RIGHTEOUSNESS, FOR HIS NAME’S SAKE” (v. 3). Jehovah-Ra-ah leads all his sheep in the same paths. Sometimes the paths chosen for us seem rough and rugged; but they are his paths. They are paths of righteousness. And they lead us home. These paths of righteousness are the paths of faith, self-denial, obedience, and love. Our Shepherd leads us in these paths by his example, his Spirit, and his Word. In commenting on this passage, John Gill said, “Christ leads his (sheep) by faith to walk on in him and in his righteousness, looking through it, and on account of it, for eternal life.” He so leads us “for his name’s sake,” for his own glory and the praise of his grace. “That no flesh should glory in his presence” (I Cor. 1:29).
“YEA, THOUGH I WALK THROUGH THE VALLEY OF THE SHADOW OF DEATH, I WILL FEAR NO EVIL” (v.4). If Christ leads me in his path, I must, as long as I live in this world, walk through the valley of the shadow of death. Believers in this world must go through much tribulation to enter into the kingdom of God. And those trials and tribulations are the valley of the shadow of death (Ps. 44:18-19; 107:10, 14; Jer. 13:15-17). Though I must walk through this valley of the shadow of death, “I will fear no evil.” Why? It is Jehovah-Ra-ah, the Lord my Shepherd, who leads me into it and through it. How can I fear, when my Shepherd walks before me? “I will fear no evil:” neither satan, the evil one, who walks about as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour, nor evil men (Ps. 27:1-4), nor any evil thing (Ps. 46:1-4). There is no reason for one of Christ’s sheep to fear. “For thou are with me” (Isa. 41:10; 43:1-2). “Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.” The allusion here is to the shepherd’s staff, by which he both counts and directs his sheep (Lev. 27:32; Jer. 33:13; Ezek 20:37; Mic. 7:14; Zech. 11:7). His word is a rod of strength. And his promises are a staff of consolation. By these we are sustained and comforted in the midst of all our trial.
The Shepherd’s rod has many uses. The crook is used to retrieve straying sheep. The rod is used to direct the sheep. The rod is also used to protect the sheep The rod is also used for numbering the sheep when he brings them into the fold (Ezek. 20:37). Soon we must pass through the last of our trials. We all must go down to the grave; but remember, it is but “the valley of the shadow of death” for us who are his sheep; and we will pass through it! There is no cause for fear.
“THOU PREPAREST A TABLE BEFORE ME IN THE PRESENCE OF MINE ENEMIES” (v. 5). While we live on earth, our Savior takes great care to provide for his own, as we have seen (Ps. 78:19). When he calls us up to glory, all our enemies shall be made aware of his great provision for us, even as the rich man was made aware of God’s blessing upon Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31).
“THOU ANOINTEST MY HEAD WITH OIL” (v. 5). The allusion here is to the custom in those ancient eastern countries, to anoint the heads of guests with oil at any feast or celebration (Eccl. 9:7-8; Matt. 6:17). David is saying, “Christ pours out the oil of gladness upon all his people. He gives his Holy Spirit to all his own.” He is talking about the anointing of the Spirit which all believers have (I John 2:20-27). This anointing seals and preserves us. This anointing teaches us all things. This anointing fills us with comfort and joy.
“MY CUP RUNNETH OVER” (v. 5). Realizing that Christ is our Shepherd, realizing something of what he has done, is doing and shall do for us, realizing a little of the fullness of grace he bestows upon us, we must confess, our “cup runneth over!” All the blessings of the covenant are ours (Eph. 1:3). All things in time are ours. All the bounty of heaven is ours. Christ is ours. If we are so over abundantly blessed of God, we ought to be very generous people. If our cup runs over, it is so that the overflow may fill the cups of others. If we are so over abundantly blessed of God, we ought always to be filled with contentment.
Because my savior’s name is Jehovah-Ra-ah, the lord my shepherd, I must make this conclusion too--”SURELY GOODNESS AND MERCY SHALL FOLLOW ME ALL THE DAYS OF MY LIFE” (V. 6). Goodness pursues God’s elect through this world. And goodness follows after them. God’s saints bring goodness wherever they come and leave it wherever they have been. Mercy pursues them and mercy follows after them.
“AND I SHALL DWELL IN THE HOUSE OF THE LORD FOREVER” (v. 6). This is may be read as a resolution--”I shall” constantly attend to public worship of my Lord. You can find me in the house of the Lord (John 6:68). That certainly is the believer’s determination. But this comes from David as a word of assurance--”I shall” forever abide in the church and temple of God by his grace (Deu 3:12). It is also the confident hope with which he anticipated eternity--”I shall” dwell in that house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens (John 14:1-3).