November 11, 2020

JEHOVAH RA-AH: God, My Shepherd

Speaker: Dr. Harold J. Sala | Series: Guidelines For Living | 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, 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.  Hebrews 13:20-21

“What I believe about God,” said A. W. Tozer, “is the most important thing about me.”  He was right, but the problem is that most of us aren’t really sure what we believe about Him.  Most of our knowledge and images of God are second-hand leftovers from our parents, or bad experiences that we conclude are reflections of God.

When God revealed Himself to Moses, He told him that He was Jehovah God–the sum total of existence. The word that was used, Jehovah, was also used in compounds such as “Jehovah our peace,” or “Jehovah our righteousness.”  There are a number of these, each of which gives us new insights as to who God is and what is His relationship with us.

But none of these is more personal and comforting than the one used by David in Psalm 23 where the one who fought Goliath called God Jehovah Ra-ah, or “God my Shepherd.” Remember how David began, saying, “The Lord is my shepherd…”

Before him Jacob blessed his grandsons, saying, “God who has been my Shepherd all my life to this day… may He bless these boys” (Genesis 48:15).  If God is the shepherd, then obviously we are the sheep – who are among the dumbest and most dependent of all creatures that God ever made.

Some animals can outrun their enemies.  They are fleet of foot.  But not sheep. Others have great strength.  They can defeat their enemies.  But not sheep.  Still others can hide from their enemies. Their markings blend in camouflage. But not sheep.  Sheep are completely dependent on the shepherd for protection, for guidance, for help when they fall, and for strength when they are weak.

Is it any wonder that Jesus looked upon the multitude who had come to hear him speak, and seeing their needs was moved with compassion, describing them as “harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:36)?

“I am the Good Shepherd,” he said, adding that the Good Shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (see John 10:11).  One of the big differences between the Old and New Testaments is that in the Old the lamb gave his life for the shepherd, but in the New the Shepherd gave His life for the sheep.

Bringing this home, making it quite personal, may I ask, “How would you describe your relationship with God?”  That of someone wanting to escape from a policeman, thinking that God carries a big stick and is out to get you?  Or rather would you think of yourself as one fruitlessly searching for Him—where- ever He is out there somewhere, wondering if your search will ever be completely successful? Or have you established the kind of relationship with God that David had as he said, “The Lord is my shepherd,” making it personal?

Long ago the prophet Isaiah described us as sheep who had gone astray. He said that “each of us has turned to his own way,” and in those simple words, we have the dilemma that confronts us.  Having turned from the care of the Shepherd, we have strayed far, far from the kingdom of peace.  Jesus said, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost” (Luke 19:10).

The good news, however, is that the Shepherd never gives up seeking and finding those who have strayed.  A generation ago we used to sing a certain song when pastors invited people to find Christ. The words went, “Softly and tenderly Jesus is calling, Calling for you and for me; See, on the portals He’s waiting and watching, Watching for you and for me.  Come home, come home. Ye who are weary, come home.  Earnestly, tenderly Jesus is calling; calling, O sinner, come home.”  It’s still true.  Thank God, He is still the Shepherd who welcomes home the lost.

Resource reading: John 10:1-42