Jehovah-raah - The Lord My Shepherd
Dr. Joe Temple

Introduction

Open your Bibles, please, to Psalm 23, which is probably the most familiar portion of the Word of God to most of us. I sometimes in public discussions almost hesitate to turn to Psalm 23 because it is so very very familiar, and I suppose that everything that could be said has been said about it. So anything that I may say today is certainly not going to be anything unusual or new, but we are turning to Psalms 23 because the last few weeks we have been studying the Compound Names of God in relation to a series of word studies.

You will remember we told you there are three names of God presented to us in the Word of God. One of them is Elohim , one of them is Adonai , and one of them is Jehovah . Jehovah and Adonai are not always presented in their Hebrew transliteration. The only way we can tell which name is presented to us in the text is by the way that the English word Lord is spelled. We pointed out to you, if the English word Lord is spelled with only the first letter capitalized it is speaking of the Hebrew word Adonai , which means “Master.” If every letter is capitalized, it is speaking of the Hebrew word Jehovah . We also told you that with this name Jehovah there are attached some Hebrew words which make a compound name or a compound title, and we have been looking at those compound names or titles.

In some instances, the Hebrew word that is attached to the word Jehovah is transliterated for us, so that we see in the actual text the Hebrew word, just as we did with the word Jehovah-Nissi , and Jehovah-Tsidkenu . In other instances the English translation is given, and you would not notice that it is a compound name unless it was pointed out to you. Such is the case today.

The Shepherd's Provision for His Flock

I don't know how many of us realize that Psalm 23, the Psalm that is so very very familiar to us, presents to us another compound name of God. Let's read the Psalm first.

Psalms 23

1The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
3He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
4Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
5Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
6Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.

The compound name of Jehovah that we find in this Psalm is in the very first verse. You'll notice the word is in italics, which indicates that it is not in the original text. Now it is true, the LORD is my Shepherd, but by putting in the word is makes it difficult to recognize that we have here another compound name of God. Actually what we read there in that first verse is the LORD my Shepherd . That is His name—the LORD my Shepherd . If we are following our use of the Hebrew word, we would say, Jehovah-Ra-ah . As far as pronunciation is concerned you would pronounce that rawaw, Jehovah-Ra-ah , the LORD my Shepherd.

Here is another name, another title for God. Now you do recognize, I trust, that these compound names of God are not presented to us with the idea that when we address God, we want to say Jehovah-Ra-ah , Jehovah-Shalom , or Jehovah-Tsidkenu , etc., necessarily, but they are given to us that we might understand the relationship of God to us, the characteristics of God which make Him very, very real.

I would like for us to notice today, without particularly noticing Psalm 23, what it means when we read the LORD my Shepherd . What is God like if He is the LORD my Shepherd . I might say, before I leave this Psalm, something that always comes to mind, and I can never resist pointing it out, that the best translation of this first verse is the translation the little boy made when he misquoted the verse. He said, “The LORD is my Shepherd, and that's all I want.” I'm never able to resist pointing that out, because actually, “The LORD is my Shepherd, I shall not want.” If you reach the place in your spiritual experience where the LORD is your Shepherd, and that's all you want, you won't want for anything because the Word says, “If we delight ourselves in the Lord, He will give us the desires of our heart.”

God's Regathering of Israel

I would like for you now to turn in your Bibles to the book of Ezekiel, chapter 34. As we notice in a number of different passages of Scripture, beginning with Ezekiel, chapter 34, how the Hebrew word, ra-ah , is used. It is translated by the word Shepherd in Psalm 23, as we have already pointed out to you. But in other places in the Word of God, it is translated in other ways, which amplify the meaning of the word for us and help us to grasp the meaning even a bit more clearly. Notice Ezekiel, chapter 34, verses 11-14:

Ezekiel 34

11For thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I, even I, will both search my sheep, and seek them out.
12As a shepherd seeketh out his flock in the day that he is among his sheep that are scattered; so will I seek out my sheep, and will deliver them out of all places where they have been scattered in the cloudy and dark day.
13And I will bring them out from the people, and gather them from the countries, and will bring them to their own land, and feed them upon the mountains of Israel by the rivers, and in all the inhabited places of the country.
14I will feed them in a good pasture, and upon the high mountains of Israel shall their fold be: there shall they lie in a good fold, and in a fat pasture shall they feed upon the mountains of Israel.

If you are familiar with this passage of Scripture, you know that the interpretation of this passage is that God is going to regather His people, Israel, to the land of Palestine by and by; and, of course, He is doing that as you already realize. Then this passage of Scripture tells us that these sheep of His that have been scattered around the world and haven't had the right kind of pasture and haven't had the right kind of care are going to be miraculously cared for by God when they are gathered back to the nation of Israel.

I want you to listen carefully, because I'm about to make a point. If you recognize the interpretation of this passage of Scripture, you realize this passage of Scripture is both literal and figurative. Literally, God is going to feed His people Israel with ordinary material provisions, because when they are gathered back to the land during the Tribulation, the persecution by the Antichrist will be so great that if God did not provide for them materially by scattering them in what He calls the wilderness of the people and by providing food and shelter for them, they couldn't possibly live. It's figurative in the sense that He is going to deal with them in a spiritual fashion and their spiritual needs are going to be met and their spiritual wants are going to be supplied.

That is the interpretation; and, as I have told you many times, there is one interpretation for every passage of Scripture and as many spiritual applications as are consistent with other portions of the Word of God. So we can look at this passage of Scripture and recognize that what God is going to do for the nation of Israel in a literal and a figurative fashion, He's going to do for all the children of God, because we are all the sheep of His pasture.

God's Provision of Material Needs

With that thought in mind, I would like for you to notice in verses 13 and 14 particularly one word which is the translation of the word shepherd in Psalm 23, and will help us to understand what we can expect of the Lord—the LORD my Shepherd.

Ezekiel 34

13And I will bring them out from the people, and gather them from the countries, and will bring them to their own land, and feed them upon the mountains of Israel by the rivers, and in all the inhabited places of the country.
14I will feed them in a good pasture, and upon the high mountains of Israel shall their fold be: there shall they lie in a good fold, and in a fat pasture shall they feed upon the mountains of Israel.

The word feed in all of these verses is our Hebrew word ra-ah , the same word that is translated shepherd . So I do no violence to the Scripture at all if, when I recognize the LORD my Shepherd and call upon God with this name, I can expect Him to feed me. I can expect Him to feed me in a material way when there is a need because every good thing comes from God. Remember “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33). Look again at the context when you have time, and you will find that the things there are material things—food, shelter, clothing; all these things God is obligated to add. A child of God ought not to ever have to be concerned about any material need.

God meets our needs in many different ways. He may give you an unusual ability to make money to supply your needs. He may meet your material needs in what we are pleased to call a miraculous way—a way that you cannot trace to any human effort; but regardless of the way that God chooses, He is obligated to take care of you materially, and no child of God ought to ever be burdened with the cares of this world. Notice what I am saying: No child of God ought to have to be burdened. Many of God's dear children are burdened with the cares of this world because they have not learned how to leave that part of their experience and that part of their existence to God.

God's Provision of Spiritual Needs

When you make a statement like this, you have to be very, very careful because you do not want to leave the impression to anybody that all you need to do is sit down and twiddle your thumbs and say, “Well, God takes care of me.” Remember there are two sides to the promise. God doesn't take care of you unless you are so busy seeking His will that you don't have time to take care of yourself. God doesn't meet your material needs unless you're so busy putting Him first that you don't have time to do the things that are beyond your control. What good is the LORD my ShepherdJehovah-Ra-ah when I pray then? I have every right to address God as Jehovah-Ra-ah and expect Him to feed me both materially and spiritually. The reason that I emphasize material over spiritual is that I think most of us are quite willing, whether we do feed in His pasture or not, whether we sit down at His table or not, to agree that it is His obligation to feed us spiritually whether we partake of it or not because we are quite willing to agree that God is interested in spiritual things and not primarily in material things.

Turn in your Bibles to the book of Jeremiah, chapter 3. Notice verses 12-16:

Jeremiah 3

12Go and proclaim these words toward the north, and say, Return, thou backsliding Israel, saith the LORD; and I will not cause mine anger to fall upon you: for I am merciful, saith the LORD, and I will not keep anger for ever.
13Only acknowledge thine iniquity, that thou hast transgressed against the LORD thy God, and hast scattered thy ways to the strangers under every green tree, and ye have not obeyed my voice, saith the LORD.
14Turn, O backsliding children, saith the LORD; for I am married unto you: and I will take you one of a city, and two of a family, and I will bring you to Zion:
15And I will give you pastors according to mine heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding.
16And it shall come to pass, when ye be multiplied and increased in the land, in those days, saith the LORD, they shall say no more, The ark of the covenant of the LORD: neither shall it come to mind: neither shall they remember it; neither shall they visit it; neither shall that be done any more.

I would like for you to notice in verse 15 the promise God gives the nation of Israel related to their regathering, mind you, for that is the actual interpretation.

Jeremiah 3

15And I will give you pastors according to mine heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding.

Notice the word pastors . That is the translation of our word ra-ah. Jehovah—I say this reverently—is my pastor. Jehovah is my pastor.

The Shepherd as Pastor

Now you all know that there are pastors and pastors. Everybody who goes by the name of pastor is not a pastor, and there are many of God's dear children scattered around the world today who have no pastor in the strictest sense of the word. They may be members of a church where there is a minister, but still they are not being fed. The shepherd isn't tending the sheep. There are any number of comparisons that we will not take the time to do today, but they have no pastor.

God has promised to be a pastor to His sheep and He is. Quite often someone has said to me through the years, “Joe, you have been a blessing to us. You have encouraged and helped us, but who do you go to for encouragement? Who is your pastor?” I had a Catholic say to me one time, “You know, that's the sad thing about you Protestants. You don't have any fathers. You pastors don't have any father-confessors. We priests listen to the confessions of all of the people in our particular parish, but then we have somebody just above us to whom we can confess, then he has somebody above him, and on and on and on, but who do you have?” And I remember one time calling to the attention of an individual who brought that question to my mind, verse 15, where God says:

Jeremiah 3

15And I will give you pastors according to mine heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding.

I pointed out that that is another name for God—Jehovah, my Pastor, and I am glad to say today that He is my Pastor. When there is a need, He meets that need in a very real way.

I would also like to remind you that in these days of apostasy where things are not what they ought to be, and I wonder some times if we realize just how sad they are, you have to go outside the immediate area in which you are, a great many times, to realize the tremendous famine of the Word of God and the tremendous hunger there is and the tremendous need. I rarely go off and stay any length of time but what my heart almost breaks with the desire to meet needs that I can't meet. I'm just not—what can I say—tall enough, broad enough or thin enough to spread that thin. The needs are tremendous, yet it is always a great comfort to my heart to know that, though a person may be in a place where there is a famine of the Word of God and where there is no true pastor or shepherd of the flock, they are not left alone. God does not leave His own alone. There is a Pastor, a real Pastor and that is God Himself. Jehovah my Shepherd yes, but Jehovah my Pastor too, one who is able to meet all of my needs.

The Vow of Jephthah

Turn with me to the book of Judges, chapter 11. We are going to turn to this portion of the Word as merely an illustration, so don't become involved in the context of the story. It isn't immediately related to our discussion. We are turning here only that you might be able to recognize an illustration of the word. This is the story of Jephthah, who asked God to give him a victory, and he made a rash vow unto the LORD. The Bible tells us that when we make vows unto the LORD, we should tread very, very softly because if we make a vow, we must defer not to pay it. We quite often in our zeal and our energy for the Lord make a vow, and then when it comes necessary to pay it, the cost is almost greater than we can bear. This is not to suggest that you should never make a vow. I know some of God's children who say, “Well, the Bible says don't make a rash vow, so I'm just not going to make any at all.” The Spirit of God can lead you in your vow-making, but certainly you need to be careful and don't do it too liberally and without thought.

Jephthah made a rash vow unto the LORD, and I think you are familiar with the story. He told God that if He gave him the victory against the enemies of Israel, the first thing that met him when he came home he would offer as a sacrifice to the LORD. Of course, Jephthah wasn't thinking. He was thinking about his cattle and his sheep. He was thinking about his animals, but you know the story. The first person that met him when he came home was his own lovely daughter. She ran out of the house to greet him on his return, and he was reminded of his vow. He had to sacrifice her to the LORD. A lot of the skeptics, so-called, immediately begin to talk about how the Bible contradicts itself, because they picture her like a living sacrifice—a human sacrifice—and only heathens offer human sacrifices. When you read the story very closely you will find that he didn't offer her as a human sacrifice, but she was condemned, if that is the word to use, to what the Scripture calls perpetual virginity. Never would she be able to marry; never would she be able to have a family. Jephthah kept his vow by offering her to the LORD in the sense that she would never marry, never have children. She would be in the perpetual service of the LORD.

An Illustration of Complete Obedience

This portion of the Word in which we are going to look here in chapter 11, speaks of how before her final commitment to the LORD, separating herself completely from everybody concerned, she went off with some of her friends to do as the Word of God says here, “bewail her virginity”—that is bewail the fact that she could never marry because of Jephthah's rash vow.

So we will begin to read here, beginning with verse 34:

Judges 11

34And Jephthah came to Mizpeh unto his house, and, behold, his daughter came out to meet him with timbrels and with dances: and she was his only child; beside her he had neither son nor daughter.
35And it came to pass, when he saw her, that he rent his clothes, and said, Alas, my daughter! thou hast brought me very low, and thou art one of them that trouble me: for I have opened my mouth unto the LORD, and I cannot go back.
36And she said unto him, My father, if thou hast opened thy mouth unto the LORD, do to me according to that which hath proceeded out of thy mouth;

That is one of the most beautiful illustrations of complete obedience that there is in the Word of God. I never read this passage of Scripture without wondering what kind of father Jephthah was that his daughter could have such complete confidence in him that she could say, “Father, whatever you promised the LORD is all right with me.” It wasn't a nice thing. I speak as a father. If I had no children I wouldn't be speaking this way, but I am convinced increasingly that one of the things that we have to keep in mind when dealing with our children is that they see in us that which will enable them to have perfect confidence in what we say. Do they see in us that which will enable them never to question the wisdom of our judgment? I am afraid that so often we are so human, and God knows how very human we are, that sometimes they don't always see that clearly. They don't see those consistencies in our lives which enables them to say, “Whatever you say to the LORD is all right with me.” Jephthah was not only a mighty warrior, but he must have been a mighty father as well.

Notice in verse 36, she said:

Judges 11

36And she said unto him, My father, if thou hast opened thy mouth unto the LORD, do to me according to that which hath proceeded out of thy mouth; forasmuch as the LORD hath taken vengeance for thee of thine enemies, even of the children of Ammon.
37And she said unto her father, Let this thing be done for me: let me alone two months, that I may go up and down upon the mountains, and bewail my virginity, I and my fellows.
38And he said, Go. And he sent her away for two months: and she went with her companions, and bewailed her virginity upon the mountains.
39And it came to pass at the end of two months, that she returned unto her father, who did with her according to his vow which he had vowed: and she knew no man. And it was a custom in Israel,
40That the daughters of Israel went yearly to lament the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite four days in a year.

Notice in verse 38, he said, “Go,” and he sent her away for two months. She went with her companions and bewailed her virginity upon the mountain. You see the word companion there. That is the translation of the word that we are talking about. The word ra-ah . The word that is translated Shepherd in Psalm 23—the LORD my Shepherd , the LORD my Companion . I like that. I'm glad that we are able to look upon God not as one who sits upon the rim of the universe somewhere not particularly interested in what's going on, but the One who is our companion.

Friendship With God

Turn to the book of Exodus, chapter 33, as I point out to you another use of this word which will amplify what I just said, because it is somewhat of a variation of the phrase. Notice verse 11:

Exodus 33

11And the LORD spake unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend. And he turned again into the camp: but his servant Joshua, the son of Nun, a young man, departed not out of the tabernacle.

Notice the word friend . That's the translation of this word that we have been thinking about here. As God Jehovah , the LORD, notice, every letter is capitalized:

Exodus 33

11And the LORD spake unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend…

And so when we think about the compound names Jehovah-Ra-ah , Jehovah my Shepherd, Jehovah my Companion, Jehovah my Pastor, Jehovah my Friend, this is one of the most intimate names of God that there is in all of the Word of God.


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