Shepherds, Sheep and Psalm 23

Grazing Irish Sheep

Part One in the Series

Let’s take a brief look at shepherds and sheep and what life in the flock might be like. This is the first post in a series about Shepherds and Sheep and Psalm 23.

The word “shepherd” in Hebrew is Strongs number H7462, Raw-aw and it means keeper, shepherd, to tend a flock, to pasture it and this word is also translated as:  friend, companion, to feed.

There are 142 verses within Scripture that contain this word. The first use, which is always important, is Gen 4:2 – Abel was a keeper of sheep: He was a shepherd.

The related word is Strongs number H6629 Tseh-one which means:  sheep, to migrate, collective name for a flock of sheep or goats.

Within Scripture we see that the Patriarchs were shepherds. Yahweh often chose to prepare important leaders by having them serve first as shepherds. Think Abraham, Yissach and Yacob – then there was King David. Rachel is the first shepherdess and this is mentioned in Gen 29:9.

In the Tanak (Hebrew Bible and the Old Testament) and the Brit Chaddashah (Renewed Covenant and New Testament), Yahweh makes a clear connection between sheep and shepherds and His relationship as a Good Shepherd to us his children.

Num 27:16 &17 Moseh says

“Let יהוה, the Elohim of the spirits of all flesh, appoint a man over the congregation, who goes out before them and comes in before them, who leads them out and brings them in, so that the congregation of יהוה be not like sheep without a shepherd.”

The Prophet Isaiah paints an awesome picture of Yahweh as the shepherd of Yisrael in Isa 40:11,

“Isa 40:11  He feeds His flock like a shepherd, He gathers the lambs with His arm, and carries them in His bosom, gently leading those who are with young.”

Ezekiel gives us even more details, Ezk 34:12-16

 “As a shepherd seeks out his flock on the day he is among his scattered sheep, so I shall seek out My sheep and deliver them from all the places where they were scattered in a day of cloud and thick darkness.

 “And I shall bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the lands, and shall bring them to their own land. And I shall feed them on the mountains of Yisra’ĕl, in the valleys, and in all the dwellings of the land.

 “In good pasture I shall feed them, and their fold shall be on the high mountains of Yisra’ĕl. They shall lie there in a good fold and feed in rich pasture on the mountains of Yisra’ĕl.

 “I shall feed My flock and make them lie down,” declares the Master יהוה.

 “I shall seek out the lost and bring back the strayed. And I shall bind up the broken and strengthen what was sick, but the fat and the strong I shall destroy. I shall feed them with right-ruling.”

Sheep are dependent creatures.  They don’t really have a good way to defend themselves against predators or poachers. They very much, need a shepherd.

Ezekiel in verse 34:11 says, that

“Yahweh is looking after you. Even when you are wandering around clueless, oblivious to His presence. Even when you don’t have the presence of mind to seek him yourself, he is seeking you.”

Psalm 23

Psalm 23 is one of the shortest chapters in the Bible, just 6 verses. In Hebrew it contains only 55 words. In this post, which is part one in the Shepherd series, we will cover the first 3 verses of Psalm 23.

Psa 23:1

 “ יהוה is my shepherd; I do not lack.”

With this statement, we are declaring that Yahweh is our shepherd and we are helpless, dependent and in need of a caretaker, a keeper, a protector and of one who feeds us – a provider.

This is very different than the well know license plate that says,

“God is my co-pilot” What does that mean?

Does it mean that we are in charge? Does it mean that we man the controls? Or that we call the shots and Yahweh, the King of the Universe, is just sitting there as a second fiddle helper? I think this is true for most of us at one time or another and that is a very sad truth.

No! Scripture does not say that Yahweh comes second. It clearly says that He is in charge and watching over us because … like the song says…we need someone to watch over us.

Yahweh assumes the role of protector and provider.

Psa 23:2 

“He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside still waters.”

Most animals can sleep anywhere. Horses and flamingos can sleep standing up. Bears can sleep for months at a time. Domestic house cats sleep about 16 hours each day and some sleep as much as 20 hours only being awake for four hours out of the 24 in each day. Sheep are nothing like this. They need several things to be in place so that they have peace (shalom) and can close their eyes and sleep. Because sheep have such a difficult time sleeping, Yahweh gives us – His sheep – a promise of sleep. This is one of His blessings to us. Have you ever had trouble falling asleep or staying asleep? Read and memorize this verse:

Proverbs 3:24

“When you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet.”

Psalm 23:2 says that He makes us to lie down – He knows when we need to rest and we are not the best judge of it. As His children we all need to get sufficient rest physically but also spiritually, emotionally, socially and in every area of our life. Being able to sleep sometimes has to do with being at peace.

Sheep by nature are prone to panic because they can’t defend themselves. This puts them in a near constant state of flight – ready to run at a moment’s notice. If one of them gets frightened and panics it sets the whole flock running in every direction. Did you know that when sheep sense trouble, they keep their eyes open – even at night. They don’t sleep well.

In order for them to sleep, sheep need to know that everything is all right – they need a shepherd. He provides protection from predators, poachers and bullies. He selects a safe place for rest and his presence calms the sheep.

This reminds me of my flock of chickens and my rooster who we named Cezanne. He is a wonderful rooster and the girls all love and respect him. Roosters are sort of like shepherds to hens. Our rooster, stands guard and watches over his girls. He constantly watches the sky for hawks and into the distance for dogs or other predators. He finds the girls food and brings them treats. He shows them where the water is so they can drink. If someone is moving too far away, he runs after them and loops around them and herds them back into the flock. If one of the girls makes a vocal fuss, he will investigate. He stops any abusive bullying and makes everyone stay in their place. He watches the skyline for the sun to set each day and then leads the girls into the coop to sleep in safety.

Father Yahweh, is our protector and provider and the giver of sleep. Do you have trouble sleeping? Here is a post about insomnia that you may find helpful. If you are having difficulty sleeping because you lack peace, you may find our post about the Hebrew word Shalom enlightening. You might also want to read our Personal Prayer for Shalom, here.

Yahweh is our provider and protector. We need to acknowledge that He knows more than we do and his plans are for our good and we need to be satisfied with His provision. He provides things that will refresh and revive our bodies, souls and spirits. These can be spiritual refreshings: a wonderful time studying His word and digging out nuggets of truth, refreshing times of praise, worship and prayer. It can also be time with family and friends. Walks in His creation, visiting mountain vistas or crashing ocean surf. Listening to beautiful and peaceful music, Have you ever listened to the part of Johann Sebastian Bach’s song, Sheep may safely graze? Here is a youtube video that plays that composition. I chose this entry: J.S.Bach-E.Petri Sheep May Safely Graze , Aria from Cantata BWV 208

Psalm 23:3 

“He restores my soul”

That’s what it says in the King James Version but in the Scriptures version it says, He turns back my being.

The word translated as “restores” or “turns back” in Hebrew is Shoob and it is the root word for Teshuvah which means to turn back, repent and to return.  Shoob has many meanings but among them you can see, to lay down” and “to rejoice”. Interesting.

And this lead us into the second part of verse 3…

“He leads me in paths of righteousness For His Name’s sake.”

He shows us the path of righteousness it is in His Torah instructions. Yahweh, the King and Master of the Universe, gave us instructions for how to live a life that is set apart for Him. He shows us what to eat, how to worship him, what to call him, how to praise him – his Word is filled with instructions for every area of our life. Do you read the Torah, His whole and entire Scripture? Or do you just keep to the last part of His book? Yahshua who is a good shepherd and example to us, he read the Tanak, the Old Testament. That is what he quoted. Did you know that there are 484 passages of Scripture from the Old Testament that are quoted in the New Testament? These verses are cited some 695 times.

Psalm 23:3 says that He leads us in paths of righteousness for His Name’s sake. He does this for whom? For His name sake. To show His nature and character among us, to set us apart for himself so that the nations would have an example of what life with Him should look like. What example are you demonstrating today?

Let’s purpose in our hearts to walk worthy of His calling as His children. Let’s follow after Him with our whole heart.

To listen to the archived radio broadcast for this post, Shepherds, Lambs and Life, follow this link to Messianic Lamb Radio. The archived audio is listed as Episode 36: Shepherds, Lambs and Life – 3/7/2013 by Posey Salem.

Here are links to some of our related posts:

What is Shepherds Pie?

Beef Shepherds Pie Recipe

Now would be a good time to sign up for our RSS feed so that you will receive the next installment to this series about shepherds, sheep and life in the flock.

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  1. […] Shepherds, Sheep and Psalm 23 – part one I shared some introductory information about Biblical shepherds and the sheep they care for. During this broadcast we began looking at Psalm 23, the Shepherd Psalm and covered verses 1 to 3. This discussion will be continued in a later broadcast. What is Shepherds Pie? A short history of this olde world meat pie or should we say pye? Also, a few photos’s of sheep from Ireland. Shepherds Pie Recipe Our family recipe for this warm and comforting main dish. It is one of my children’s favorite meals. Job Tips for Today’s Job Market This article include the Top 10 Reasons Your Resume is Deleted without being read Special thanks to LAMB Radio for hosting this weekly radio show. You can listen to all the programming on LAMB Radio by following this link – Messianic Lamb Radio. […]

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