The Names of God: Jehovah Rohi

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Friday, March 15, 2019 0 comments

by Charlie Wolcott

Jehovah Rohi: My Shepherd

Psalm 23 is perhaps the most famous single chapter of the whole Bible. Its opening line is “The Lord is my shepherd.” While the original Hebrew would best be written as ro’i, most commonly we see this word written as rohi, so that's what I'll be using in this post. Check out Katie Erickson’s blog post here for more on this.

God is our shepherd and we are His sheep. Jesus spent a fair amount of John 10 describing how he is the Good Shepherd. He is the one who guides us and directs us while tending to our needs, cleaning up our messes, going after us when we get lost, and protecting us from wolves. Now I never grew up on a farm, so I truly cannot attest to this from experience, but in everything I have heard, shepherds never were the most desired job to have, and yet it was one of the most critical jobs in the agrarian culture of Bible times. When one thinks of “shepherd” in the Bible times, it is quite similar to that of “custodian” in the modern day. It is one of the least prestigious jobs one could have. It is menial labor usually reserved for the poor and for those who can’t afford nor have the skills for better jobs.

Sheep are stupid animals. My pastor grew up on a farm and he tells a story of how anther farmer was trying to get his sheep into a truck to move them and one sheep jumped off the ramp into the trainer and like the blind following the blind, the rest did the same. Why? Because the one in front of them did it. I heard another story that if one sheep is sick and starts to throw up, suddenly other sheep watching them suddenly start feeling sick. I’m not sure if this one is completely true, but apparently if a sheep is rolled onto its back, it cannot get up by itself. It must have help from the shepherd. Sheep must be frequently shaved. A while back a sheep named Shrek escaped and went without being sheared for six years. Sheep must have a shepherd.

That description of sheep really does a good job at describing us. We have such a crowd mentality where if we see someone doing something, we will respond in kind and follow them. Just ask any teenager why they did something. The answer is often along the lines of, “Everyone else is doing it.” I’ve used that one myself. And don’t get me started on social media and politics because much of the battles we are fighting is perfect evidence of how man is. An appropriate term is “sheeple.” Jesus wept over Israel because the people were lost, blind, and in trouble because they had no shepherd. God was particularly ticked at the prophets and priests of Israel because for the most part, they did not seek to protect the sheep; they instead conspired to devour the sheep. There was only one solution: God himself had to be the Shepherd.

The job of shepherd is not a fun job as I already mentioned. They have to lead the sheep to places where they can feed and drink water. Sheep also don’t drink out of just any water. It has to be still and gentle water. They won’t drink from rushing waters. Shepherds often would have to be very knowledgeable about the caves and places for shelter in storms, because they typically would be miles from home often days out at a time. When at a pen or a cave, the shepherd would sleep at the entrance so not only the sheep could not get out, the wolves could not get in. That is why Jesus referred Himself as the Door. The only way in is through Him.

A good shepherd knew each of his sheep by name. I have heard numerous accounts of shepherds who would gather their flocks together and put them all into a single pen for the night because it would be easier to manage them as a group. But no shepherd needed to worry about losing track of his sheep because all he had to do was called them out or whistle his whistle. Each sheep knew the shepherd’s voice. The sheep which did not belong to that shepherd would not respond to that voice. The same is true about us. There are only two primary voices we can hear: God’s and someone else’s. Which one we listen to reveals who we belong to. Which voice do we listen to? God makes his voice clear and understood, but it is up to us to respond to it. If we choose not to, then can we truly claim God is our Shepherd?

Another job a shepherd has is to fight off the wolves. This is a harder topic for me to truly grasp than I often would like to admit. It is NOT the sheep’s job to defend himself. He can’t. A sheep is totally powerless to defend himself. Even a mass of sheep together cannot defend themselves. The wolf will always win. The sheep’s only reliable defense is the Shepherd. Now unlike actual sheep, there is one small difference between us and them. God often requires us to take a step of obedience in engaging in that battle and He wants us to exert the authority He’s given us as His children. However, for any Christian, if they are to truly fight God’s battles, it is through prayer and through God actually doing the battle. It is not the sheep defending himself; it is the sheep calling upon the Shepherd to defend him. Yet, talking about myself, I often try to defend for the faith in my own power and own intellect instead of going to my Shepherd in His power to defend His Kingdom and His Truth. Please pray for me that I may turn over the battle to God and let Him defend Himself. He doesn’t need my help. He only asks that I join and partake with Him in that battle, and mostly that partaking is simply to watch the battle. Yet even in this, God does the most miraculous thing: His sheep beat the wolfpacks because it is God doing the actual fighting.

God is Jehovah Rohi, my shepherd. He is the provider and the source of my protection. He is the one who equips me and trains me and cleans me up. He shears me so my “wool” can be used for His purposes. He protects me from the wolves, though often when I wander from Him, He allows the wolves to get a few bites to let me know to keep coming back to Him. Yet when we follow Him and obey Him, He will lead us to the ultimate paradise: a land where we will have everything we could ever want and where we will finally be able to see the Shepherd face to face. I look forward to that day. Next week, I’ll look at Jehovah Tsikednu: the Lord my righteousness.

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