Notes below based on sermon preached at One Church Home on September 18, 2022
We are studying the names of our GREAT God to know Him more intimately.
Jesus said in John 17:3, “Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” The Greek word for “know” used here is ginosko. This is not just head knowledge but heart knowledge, and it is a knowing that comes only from intimate personal experience.
With each name, God reveals something to us about Himself—who He is and how He wants us to relate to Him, to draw near and trust His love and goodness toward us through the personal experiences of our everyday lives. Nowhere is that more evident than in this week’s study: Jehovah Raah (also spelled Roi or Rohi). It means the LORD, my Shepherd.
Most of us recognize the phrase immediately from the 23rd Psalm. The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want…(KJV). But have we ever taken the time to study and really comprehend all that means about God and the ways He loves and cares for us? Have we allowed that revelation to change how we live our lives?
Let’s go back to the beginning—of this series on the GREAT names of God and the created world. All that God is (Yahweh, Jehovah-Jireh, -Rapha, -Nissi, -Shalom, and –Raah) He already was before He ever began to create. Through creation, God revealed to us various aspects of Himself, His divine nature.
For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.
So God was the LORD, my Shepherd, before He created either sheep or shepherds. Think about that for a minute. Did God create sheep and call men as shepherds to reveal Himself to us—so we could better understand His love and care for us? Of course, we cannot know the thoughts of God.
I Corinthians 2:11
…no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.
What we do know is that throughout all of Scripture, God’s divinely inspired Word, the image of shepherds is a common theme that He uses to describe Himself and His Son, and the image of sheep is a common theme He uses to describe His children.
At the beginning of creation, God created a garden full of lush vegetation, and He made the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, the livestock, and all the wild animals. Then He created Adam and told Adam to “rule over” them all (Genesis 1:28). Note that He did not charge Adam with feeding, guiding, defending, and handling or healing the animals (other roles of a shepherd), but only with “ruling” (or governing) them.
This dominion over animals—a divine stewardship—included the responsibility to name them.
19 Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name.
As we’ve seen in this series, naming is important because a name speaks to identity. Naming reflects both authority and intimacy. Our parents name us. In the Bible, God often gave people new names as He changed their identity (Abram to Abraham, Sarai to Sarah, Jacob to Israel). God’s naming them came from His knowing them—not only as they were, but as He created and redeemed them to be and become.
But now, this is what the Lord says— he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned [or called] you by name; you are mine.
Interestingly, Adam named the animals with whom he would live most intimately—the domestic animals. And here, the Bible translation matters greatly.
In the ancient Hebrew text of Genesis 2:20, it is clear that Adam named all the “cattle” or “livestock” (behemah), the “birds of the air” (oph hashamayim), and all the “beasts of the field” (chayyah hassadeh). These are the animals that man would later use for food, clothing, transportation, labor, even companionship, and, importantly, for sacrifice. The animals that man would later “shepherd,” he also named.
The first named shepherd would come after the fall when the perfect order of God’s creation had been disrupted, the perfect relationship between God and man had been broken, man had been banished from the Garden, and he began to need to both shepherd and to be shepherded to meet his physical and spiritual needs.
Abel, the second son of Adam and Eve, was a shepherd.
Later she gave birth to his brother Abel. Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil.
Abram (later named Abraham), the father of the Israelite nation, had so many flocks and herds that he and his nephew Lot went their separate ways to have sufficient grazing pastures (Genesis 13).
Abraham’s son Isaac had so many flocks and herds that the Philistines envied him and asked him to go away (Genesis 26:12-16).
Under a divinely directed breeding program, Isaac’s son Jacob became wealthy caring for his father-in-law Laban’s sheep and goats (Genesis 30:25-43, 31:4-13). When Jacob and his 11 other sons and their families left with all their flocks and herds and joined Joseph in Egypt to escape the famine, they were a family of shepherds (Genesis 46:31-34). In Genesis 48:15-16, as Jacob, on his deathbed, blessed his son Joseph, he declared that “God…has been my shepherd all my life to this day.”
Like Jacob, Moses was also a shepherd for his father-in-law’s flock when God called him to lead the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt (Exodus 3:1). It was not the years Moses spent as a prince in the Egyptian Pharaoh’s palace that prepared him to lead God’s people. Instead, it was the 40 years he spent as a shepherd— feeding, governing, guiding, tending, defending, and handling sheep.
After being told by God that he would die before actually entering the Promised Land to which he had led them, Moses did not make excuses for his failures as a leader or blame the “stiff-necked” Israelites for their constant murmuring, complaining, and rebellion. Nor did he lament the sacrifices he had made on their behalf—first, his status and wealth as a prince of the Pharoah’s daughter and then the safety and obscurity of the new life he found in the desert. Instead, his primary concern was ensuring the Israelites would still have an earthly (as well as a heavenly) shepherd to lead them.
15 Moses said to the Lord, 16 “May the Lord, the God who gives breath to all living things, appoint someone over this community 17 to go out and come in before them, one who will lead them out and bring them in, so the Lord’s people will not be like sheep without a shepherd.”
And although God chose Joshua to succeed Moses, it was still ultimately Jehovah Raah (the LORD, my Shepherd) Himself that led His people to the Promised Land—first through Moses and then through Joshua.
So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey…
4 ….Then I will lay my hand on Egypt and with mighty acts of judgment I will bring out my divisions, my people the Israelites. 5 And the Egyptians will know that I am the Lord when I stretch out my hand against Egypt and bring the Israelites out of it.
I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt to give you the land of Canaan and to be your God.
It was the Lord our God himself who brought us and our parents up out of Egypt, from that land of slavery, and performed those great signs before our eyes. He protected us on our entire journey and among all the nations through which we traveled.
But he brought his people out like a flock; he led them like sheep through the wilderness.
Numbers 27:18 tells us that God chose Joshua because he had the Spirit in him. In Hebrew, this is Rûaħ or ruach, the Spirit of God. God needed a servant leader who would submit to Him, who understood that his role was to help the people follow the LORD, Jehovah Raah.
After Joshua died came the time of the Judges. As we saw last week, it was a repetitious cycle of sin and rebellion, followed by oppression at the hands of their enemies. Then finally, repentance—a crying out to God for His deliverance which He sent in the form of a “judge.” The role of the “judges” was not to judge the people but to lead them (to “shepherd” them) back to God.
Then, after giving the Israelites their first earthly king, the king they wanted in Saul, God chose another king, “a man after his own heart” (I Samuel 13:14), to shepherd His people, to unite the kingdom of Israel once again.
70 He chose David his servant and took him from the sheep pens; 71 from tending the sheep he brought him to be the shepherd of his people Jacob, of Israel his inheritance. 72 And David shepherded them with integrity of heart; with skillful hands he led them.
Like Moses, David had been a shepherd long before God called David to lead His people.
During those years, David had not only defended the flock; he had followed after and attacked both lions and bears to rescue sheep, trusting God for his safety and his victory (I Samuel 17:34-37).
God used his life as a shepherd boy to prepare him to lead as a Shepherd King—to face the giant Goliath, honorably handle the wrath of a jealous king Saul, and re-unite a kingdom.
In becoming a faithful shepherd, David was prepared to not only lead the nation of Israel, but He also became a prototype of the Great Shepherd yet to come in Jesus.
Ezekiel 34:23-24 (written hundreds of years after David died)
23 I will place over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he will tend them; he will tend them and be their shepherd. 24 I the Lord will be their God, and my servant David will be prince among them. I the Lord have spoken.
Jesus was the shepherd Ezekiel foretold, the shepherd Isaiah prophesied.
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.
In John 10:14-16, Jesus said of Himself:
14 “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.
Jesus is the perfect fulfillment of a shepherd’s duties, and all the Bible says about Jehovah Raah—the LORD, my Shepherd.
He feeds us.
Jeremiah 3:15, Deuteronomy 8:2-3, Matthew 14:13-21, John 21:15-17
He governs us.
Psalm 22:28, Daniel 4:17, John 18:36-37
He leads and guides us.
Psalms 37:23-23, Proverbs 16:9, John 10:27
He tends to and takes care of us.
Isaiah 46:4, I Peter 5:7
He defends us.
Isaiah 41:10-12, Psalms 5:11, Proverbs 18:10, II Timothy 4:18-20, Romans 8:31, II Thessalonians 3:3
He handles and heals us.
Psalm 41:3, Psalm 34:18, Psalm 146:8, Revelation 21:4
And on top of it all, as the Good Shepherd, Jesus did something no other shepherd could ever do, He redeemed us. Shepherd (Son of God) became sheep (Son of Man), the sacrificial lamb so that we might be made holy and righteous before God.
1 Peter 1:18-19
18 For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
He was crucified on a cross for our sins, but on the third day, He rose again. And in defeating death and declaring His forever victory over sin and the grave, the Good Shepherd became the Great Shepherd.
20 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, 21 equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
Someday He will return as the Chief Shepherd. It will be the culmination of all of God’s revelation of Himself. All that He has shown us about Himself through His Word and His Spirit will be perfectly clear. We will see Him face to face and behold Him in all His glory. And then we will dwell with Him forever.
1 Peter 5:4
And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.
As our Good Shepherd, our Great Shepherd, our returning Chief Shepherd, He knows us.
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart…
And it is in His shepherding that we, His sheep, come to know Him personally, to trust His love and care for us as The LORD, my Shepherd, Jehovah Raah, and then to let that change everything.
For further study, read:
Note: all scripture references are from the New International Version. (2011) BibleGateway.com
Questions for reflection or discussion:
Do you remember the first time God called you to Himself to be part of His flock? What does it mean that He wants to be your shepherd?
Think about the ways He has been your Jehovah Raah. How has He:
Fed you (physically or spiritually)?
Tended and cared for you?
Handled and healed you?
How will you let that change everything about how you live your life?
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