Yahweh Ra’ah: The Lord is My Shepherd

| Errica Stevens

“What does our Shepherd do? He protects the flock so prone to scatter.”

Psalm 23

“The LORD is my Shepherd.” David penned those words. He had been a shepherd in his youth, his ancestor Jacob was one as well. (see Genesis 48:15) For thousands of years, people saw sheep and knew sheepherders. They could understand what David was communicating in this name for God. There are places today with large flocks of sheep but not here in North Carolina. I asked some friends if they had ever seen sheep in a pasture. They shook their heads. I have. I was a “shepherdess” in my childhood. My family recited Psalm 23 – the Shepherd’s Psalm- every Sunday after Bible reading and prayers. My family understood by firsthand experience why our Lord is the Great Shepherd.

What does our Shepherd do? He protects the flock so prone to scatter. At night, the flock needs an enclosed space. My dad first bought four or five sheep for our hobby farm; they spent nights under a shed until he built a barn. The Shepherd has enclosed us in a space called the church.

“I shall not want.” The Shepherd owns His sheep and takes care of His investment. David simply states, “I shall not want.” Restated in the positive: I have everything I need. Sheep cannot provide for themselves. We would work together to get our small flock to pasture, we carried the water to the trough and worked long hours to cut, dry, and bale hay for them to eat through the winter. Our Shepherd provides our daily bread and became the Bread of Life and the Source of Living Water.

“He makes me lie down in green pastures.” We weren’t always able to make our sheep stay within the pasture. Either the ram or the dominant ewe would find a weak spot in the fence and lead the entire flock on an escapade. Tufts of wool caught in the fence showed us where to begin looking. When God’s Word likens us to sheep gone astray the straying is willful sin, immoralities, and forms of idolatry. Isaiah foretold that the Good Shepherd would have all our iniquities fall upon Himself (Isaiah 53:6). Peter clarified this, “by His wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. (1 Peter 2:24,25)

“He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul.” The Regnitz River runs through a city in Germany, and in the green and lush flood plain, I have seen a shepherd covered in the traditional stiff, long leather cape that protects him and any weak lambs in his arms. He didn’t lead his sheep along the river bank, but rather in the meadow where quiet streams and fresh grass met their needs. In every place I’ve encountered still waters, my soul has been restored. I lived briefly in the land of fat-tailed sheep as a teen. Our house was directly on a bay and I could see the lights from an ancient city reflected on the still water at night. YAHWEH spoke and caused me to think about who would tell these people about Jesus. I experienced still waters and reflected light several times in that country when I returned as an adult. I prayed for the hundreds of thousands to discover, “Blessed are they who…thirst after righteousness, for they will be satisfied.”(Matthew 5:6) My soul is restored in stillness and I seek still hours, still places, and see still water in my mind’s eye. Sadly, life can resemble loud, rushing water – too much activity and too little time to hear the Good Shepherd’s voice. He desires to lead us to a different place.

“He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.” Our small flock did well enough moving down a short dirt lane to a fresh pasture because the edges kept them in line. We need to be close to the Shepherd and taking heed of His Word through the long pathway of life – through every stage of life. Those who abandon the right paths walk in ways of darkness, do evil, celebrate perversion and are devious. (Proverbs 3:13-15) How comforting it is to know, “The path of the righteous is like the morning sun, shining ever brighter until the full light of day.” (Proverbs 4:18) We follow the Shepherd on this path by faith (Romans 9:30-32) “As for God, His way is perfect; the Word of YAHWEH is flawless.” (Psalm 18:30)

Jesus calmed His disciples’ worries with these words, “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.”(Luke 12:32) He also taught us: “The sheep hear [the shepherd’s] voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice…. I am the Good Shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” (John 10: 3,4,11) I want to have the better qualities of a sheep- listening to the Good Shepherd, staying close, following faithfully and accepting the restoring of my soul.
Teach me, LORD, the way of your decrees, that I may follow it to the end…. Direct me in the path of your commands, for there I find delight….Turn my eyes away from worthless things; preserve my life according to Your Word. (Psalm 119:33-37)