Jehovah Rohi, Part 1

Psalm 23:1-3 (ESV)
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2     He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
3     He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
    for his name's sake.

David likely wrote the Psalm 23 in the latter part of his life, having experienced all of the ups and downs as a king and warrior.

In Israel, as in other ancient societies, a shepherd’s work was considered the lowest of all works. If a family needed a shepherd, it was always the youngest son, like David, who got this unpleasant assignment. Shepherds had to live with the sheep twenty-four hours a day, and the task of caring for them was unending. Day and night, summer and winter, in fair weather and foul, they labored to nourish, guide, and protect the sheep.

Yet Jehovah has chosen to be our shepherd, David says. The great God of the universe has stooped to take just such care of you and me. Christians can hardly forget that the metaphor was also taken up by Jesus and applied to Himself, thus identifying Himself with Jehovah, on the one hand, and assuming the task of being the Shepherd of His people, on the other. Consider these other verses that speak of God as our Shepherd: Genesis 48:15; Isaiah 40:11; Jeremiah 31:10; Psalm 80:1; Micah 5:4; Zechariah 9:16; Luke 15:4–7; Mark 6:34; John 10:1-19; 1 Peter 2:25; Revelation 7:17.

A sheep is an object of property, not a wild animal; its owner sets great store by it, and frequently it is bought with a great price. It is well to know, as certainly David did, that we belong to the Lord. David records in verse 1 that He is a Shepherd to me; he cares for me, watches over me, and preserves me. The words are in the present tense. Whatever is the believer's position, he is even now under the pastoral care of Jehovah.

Left to themselves, sheep lack everything. They are the most helpless animals. But if we belong to the one who is self-sufficient, inexhaustible, and utterly unchanged by time, we will lack nothing. He is sufficient for all things and will provide for us (c.f. John 15:5).

​Sheep are also known to easily wander away. They can have a good shepherd who might have brought them to the best grazing lands near an abundant supply of water, and they will still wander away to where the fields are barren and the water undrinkable. Sound familiar with mankind as well?

We have the Green Pastures of God’s Word; fit food for souls, as tender grass is natural nutriment for sheep. When by faith we are enabled to find rest in the promises, we are like the sheep that lie down in the midst of this pasture; we find peace, rest and refreshment, serenity and satisfaction.

What do still waters mean to you? Compare Psalm 46:10 and Isaiah 30:15. In quietness is where the Holy Spirit meets with the souls of his saints. Our Lord leads us beside these "still waters;" we could not go there of ourselves, we need His guidance all the day long.

​Sometimes we are like cast sheep. We are spiritually on our backs, quite helpless. But Jesus comes to us when we are in this condition, as he did to Peter after Peter had denied him (Matthew 26:72-74), and He restores him (see John 21:15-17). As with Peter, He gets us up on our feet and going again as well. ​

Tomorrow, we’ll look at the remaining verses of this wonderful psalm.