Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Jehovah Raah: The LORD is My Shepherd Part 1

This is my absolute favorite name of God.  I just love what it means to be His sheep and have Him as my shepherd.  Of course, I didn't really understand what that meant for a long time.  After all, I actually don't know any real-live shepherds, and I have only spent time with sheep a few times and for a few minutes at a time.  Through my study of what it means to acknowledge the Lord as my Shepherd and what it means to be His sheep, I have grown to love this imagery and now have a great affection for all things sheep.

Sheep are the most frequently mentioned animal in the Bible, believe it or not, and for good reason.  The more one gets to know sheep, the more one can realize how much we humans relate to them.  The bottom line is this: Sheep need not just a shepherd, but a very good one.  Without a good shepherd they eventually die, often because of not-so-smart decisions, and often slowly and painfully.  They are not the brightest of animals on their own and can be very impulsive.  Also fear can cause devastation to a flock because they all panic and often get into more trouble as a result.

Sheep need food, freedom from pests, freedom from friction (conflict), and freedom from fear in order to be able to lie down and rest peacefully.  It is completely up to the shepherd to see that these needs be met in order for his flock to thrive.  This takes constant and consistent attention and care on the shepherd's part.  The sheep trust him and look to him for help.  When they are warned of danger, they group together to help protect each other and trust that their good shepherd is on his way.

The good shepherd helps them to have everything they need. They can lie down and rest because they are satisfied.  They are lead by waters that are good for drinking because their shepherd cares for them. 

He helps them when they fall over - which can very quickly be deadly for a sheep because they literally cannot pick themselves up again.  He restores them to health and watches to be ready to help them again. 

He leads them down good paths, and he is known as a good shepherd as a result of his care for his sheep.  When there is trouble, he protects them and guides them with his rod and staff - which also can be used as a weapon to defeat predators. 

He goes ahead of his flock to prepare the fields where they will graze, making sure no deadly weeds or parasites are there.  He pours an oil mixutre on their heads to protect them from irritating and deadly parasites and pests that can devastate a sheep and even the whole flock - sheep can be so irritated by a pest that they have been known to throw themselves off of a cliff just to get relief not realizing that it also will lead to their death.

And when the year comes to a close, the sheep are lead back home to rest with their shepherd until the next journey begins.

Does all of this sound familiar at all?

Psalm 23: A psalm of David.

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul.
He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Even 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 overflows.
Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

David, King of Israel, was a shepherd.  He fully understood these words and how they related to his Jehovah Raah.  This psalm literally covers a year in the life of a shepherd and his flock!  David recognized that the LORD was his Good Shepherd, and that He could be trusted completely.

We need a good shepherd!  According to Isaiah 53:6, "All of us like sheep have gone astray.  Each of us has turned to his own way; But the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him."  

It is so easy for us to go astray because we often seek our own way instead of relying on our Good Shepherd, Jehovah Raah, to lead us.  Just like a stubborn sheep, we all at times step off of the good path He has laid for us in order to chase after that bright green patch of grass that looks so good.  We think we can just quickly go after it.  What harm can that bring?  We question His path.  Why this path when there is a perfectly good path (at least to our eyes) over there?  Sometimes we don't get into much trouble.  The shepherd calls us back and we come.  Other times a straying sheep can get into so much trouble that the shepherd actually has to break her legs, so she won't run away into more trouble and bring her back over his shoulders safely.  He then restores her to health and mends her wounds hoping she has learned her lesson.

This passage in Isaiah 53 speaks of the Messiah - the One who would die for our sins in order to bring salvation to those who would accept Him as their Savior, their Messiah.  He not only was willing to forever take care of His sheep as their Good Shepherd, but He also temporarily became a sheep Himself in order to pay the penalty for our sins.  "...he was led like a lamb to the slaughter...he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors." (Isaiah 53:7,12).

This is what Jesus did.

To be continued in Jehovah Raah: The LORD is My Shepherd Part 2

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