He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young. (Isaiah 40:11)
23:3 He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Most of us are very familiar with Psalm 23 and many may have memorized it even as a child. It is a beautiful exultation of God (Our Shepherd) for the kind of Great Merciful Caring Being that He is and some of the names of God are brought to mind as we read and meditate on these words.
David speaks of these attributes of a shepherd in this psalm that extols the goodness, kindness, and mercy of our Great Shepherd who is also our Provider, our Peace, our Banner, our Healer, our Deliverer, our Salvation. He is our Righteousness, and He is the God that sanctifies (calls us and sets us apart) and much, much more!
Yahweh [the self-existing eternal One] is the proper name of God.
This name for God is sometimes compounded with another word to form a more specific descriptive name of God, which gives us more details of the kind of God that He is and what He does.
Verse 1: The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
If I am one of God’s faithful sheep then I belong to the Lord, just as a sheep belongs to its shepherd. And like a good shepherd takes good care for the physical needs of his sheep, so the Lord takes care of all of our spiritual needs.
YHWH-Roi—God our shepherd
Psalm 80:1 Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, thou that leadest Joseph like a flock; thou that dwellest between the cherubims, shine forth.
YHWH-Jireh—God our provider
Genesis 22:14 And Abraham called the name of that place Jehovahjireh: as it is said to this day, In the mount of the LORD it shall be seen. [“God Provides”]
Psalm 23:2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
Our shepherd leads and guides us to rich spiritual pastures and feeds us with the Word of God which brings life eternal. He provides us the still waters of the Holy Spirit giving us spiritual peace.
YHWH-Shalom—God our peace
Judges 6:23 And the LORD said unto him, Peace be unto thee; fear not: thou shalt not die. 6:24 Then Gideon built an altar there unto the LORD, and called it Jehovahshalom: unto this day it is yet in Ophrah of the Abiezrites.
Psalm 23:3 He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
My Shepherd will restore my soul in the resurrection to eternal life and he teaches me how to walk in the ways of His righteousness.
As the shepherd takes ownership of his physical sheep and loves even the smallest and weakest of His sheep. Our spiritual Good Shepherd saved us with his own life, giving his own life in sacrifice for our sins to deliver humanity from sin and death.
When we stray the spiritual Good Shepherd comes after us and corrects us and if we yield to his correction, He forgives us and gently leads us back to God’s flock.
When we are cast down or discouraged because of painful trials, our Shepherd comforts us and restores our faith and hope in Him and His promises. (2 Corinthians 1:3-5)
YHWH-Ropheka—God our healer
Our Shepherd will heal us from the decay and death that sin brings, by changing us to spirit at our appointed time.
YHWH-Zidkenu—God our righteousness
Every Word of God defines the nature of God which is righteousness. If we live by every Word of God we will begin to internalize the righteous nature of God, therefore God dwelling within us is God’s righteousness in us.
Jeremiah 23:6 In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is his name whereby he shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.
Psalm 23:4: Yea, 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.
We can know that not even death can contain us if we are faithful to live by every Word of God, for our spiritual Good Shepherd has already given his own life in sacrifice for us; and he will raise us up to life eternal at the appointed time.
Isaiah 43:1 But now thus saith the Lord that created thee, O Jacob, and he that formed thee, O Israel, Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine.
43:2 When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee.
God’s staff represents His guidance and His rod is a figure of merciful correction.
The staff is used in guiding the sheep, because sheep tend to like wander off and stray away from the main fold, and we like sheep often go astray.
The staff represents the authority of a teacher of godliness providing leadership, instruction and guidance, whereas the rod is a symbol of a sterner measure of correction used to correct stubborn self justifying sinners.
God leads and guides by His Spirit somewhat like a shepherd’s staff. In John 16:13 Jesus assured His disciples that He would not leave them alone to fend for themselves, but He would provide another guide and it would lead them to come to know God’s whole truth.
John 16:13 Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.
YHWH-Mekaddishkem—God who sanctifies
God calls out [sanctifies] his sheep setting them apart [sanctifying them] from others to bring them Godly holiness so that they can bring others to godly holiness.
Exodus 31:13 Speak thou also unto the children of Israel, saying, Verily my sabbaths ye shall keep: for it is a sign between me and you throughout your generations; that ye may know that I am the LORD that doth sanctify you.
Our Shepherd feeds us with the meat of the Word of God and gives us the gift of eternal life, anointing us to His service by filling us with the oil of the Holy Spirit.
Psalm 23:5 Thou preparest a table before me [God feeds us with His Word] in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil [the Holy Spirit] ; my cup runneth over [Our gratitude and joy cannot be contained].
In every situation God’s sheep can be full of quiet confidence that nothing is too hard for our Good Shepherd who has given himself for us.
Isaiah 43:10 Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.
Psalm 23:6: Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.
My Shepherd will fill me with His goodness and mercy all the days of my life as long as I live for Him and follow whithersoever He goes; and not only during this life but His mercy and His goodness will remain with me throughout all eternity, and if I attain to the resurrection to spirit, I will have a place in God’s Kingdom and will be free from bondage to the sin and misery of this world for ever more.
14:2 In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.
14:3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.
Our Good Shepherd has gone on before us to prepare the place that He will bring us to, which will be the spiritual Promised Land of eternal life, if we follow Him until the end.
He thoroughly loves and knows each one of his sheep and He ensures that we can make it if we never give up and never stop loving and obeying Him.
Our GREAT SHEPHERD is always with us, He constantly cares and provides for us, anoints us with the oil of His Holy Spirit, and He promises us that we will be in His fold if we hold tightly to Him always.
James Malm and Constance Belanger
Note- Constance submitted the original rough draft of this article in 2015, which I then completed for posting.