Names of God – The Lord is My Shepherd

Philippians 2:5-11

Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Jehovah Rohi – The Lord is My Shepherd

 Psalm 23:1 – The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. 

This renowned Psalm was written by King David, and its most famous passage is contained in the opening verse:  The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

In this brief verse, David gives us yet another reflection of the Lord’s character and nature.  David continues to develop this idea of the Lord as shepherd throughout the rest of the Psalm.  In the next verse, he writes, “He makes me to lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside the still waters.

What an idyllic picture.  As we read this verse, we envision a flock of fleecy, white sheep, dotting a tranquil, green landscape.  These well-fed creatures graze on the plentiful grass surrounding them in a vast pasture.  Or, they lie about on a lush, green carpet of grass, napping peacefully.  Overhead, the sun is shining brightly.  On the nearby hillside, a grove of tall, leafy trees blow gently in the breeze.  Down below, a beautiful woods is reflect in a pool of cool, clear water.

The whole scene seems so pleasant, peaceful and carefree.  Not a creature in sight has a care in the world.  Why?  Sitting on the plush grass of the gently sloping hillside, overseeing all that goes on below, is a shepherd.  This shepherd is a picture of calm.  He spends his time meditating on the Lord’s blessings.  Occasionally, he gazes out at his flock to make sure all is well.  The shepherd does not hear a single cry or sigh from the peaceful fold in his care.  Instead, he sees below him a contented flock of rested, satisfied sheep, creatures who fully enjoy their peaceful surroundings.

I ask you, what is wrong with this picture?  Simply this:  life is nothing like this image of idyllic existence.  It is my sincere belief that this tranquil picture is not the image David intended to put forth in Psalm 23 – not at all.

The truth is, even the saintliest of God’s people are a motley bunch.  With that in mind, I want to paint for you another picture of the sheepfold David describes here.  Sheep are lying about in green grass beside still waters.  But, according to Isaiah, this flock includes lambs that are frail, weak and unsteady.  Some are barely able to walk.  Others are in deep pain.  A few are pregnant.  Still others have to nurse their restless young.

Isaiah 40:11 – He will feed His flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom, and gently lead those who are with young.

Isaiah is speaking here of Jesus Christ, our Jehovah Rohi.  Our Lord Jesus is our shepherd.  He came not to tend just healthy, strong sheep, but also those who are sick, broken, diseased and weak.

God condemned Israel’s ministers because they did not fulfill this role for the sheep under their care.  This aspect of ministry was so important in the Lord’s eyes, He spoke His displeasure through every major prophet.

Ezekiel 34:4 – The weak you have not strengthened, nor have you healed those who were sick, nor bound up the broken, nor brought back what was driven away, nor sought what was lost; but with force and cruelty you have ruled them.

Ezekiel 34:6 – My sheep wandered through all the mountains, and on every high hill; yes, My flock was scattered over the whole face of the earth, and no one was seeking or searching for them.

Jeremiah 50:6 – My people have been lost sheep.  Their shepherds have led them astray; they have turned them away on the mountains.  They have gone from mountain to hill; they have forgotten their resting place.

Isaiah 53:6 – All we like sheep have gone astray.

Note the last verse.  Who is Isaiah talking about here?  He is talking about you, about me, about every person who belongs in the Lord’s sheepfold.  Do not think the prophet is exaggerating for effect.  Mark it down:  every sheep in the shepherd’s fold has gone astray.  Yet, each of us is still in the fold, because our gracious, merciful, loving shepherd has come after us and found us.

Just look around you for a moment at all the sheep you know in the church of Jesus Christ.  What kind of flock are you?  Are you all lying down in green pastures, drinking pure, cool water?  Are you all perfectly contented, healthy, happy, and peaceful?

No way!  You have in your midst believers who keep stumbling and falling.  At times you wonder if they are ever going to be strong enough to walk straight.

Others among us are sick and diseased.  They have drunk polluted water from the well of some false shepherd.  Still others are walking about wounded.  Some were crippled by a bleeding hind leg their shepherd had to pull out of the lion’s mouth.  Others were crippled by bad habits and lust.  Still others among us are naked.  They have been shorn or fleeced by false shepherds. 

All these sick, broken sheep have been brought back to the fold by the shepherd Himself.  Some were so maimed, disabled, hurt and disoriented, Jesus had to put them on His shoulders and carry them all the way back to the flock.

That’s the role of our great shepherd.  Scripture describes this wonderful trait of our Lord even more clearly.

Ezekiel 34:11 – For thus says the Lord God: “Indeed I Myself will search for My sheep and seek them out.

The sheep Ezekiel describes here obviously have wandered away.  Yet the Lord still calls them His sheep.  He willingly goes after them.

Ezekiel 34:12 – As a shepherd seeks out his flock on the day he is among his scattered sheep, so will I seek out My sheep and deliver them from all the places where they were scattered on a cloudy and dark day.

Ezekiel is speaking here of sheep who have been through troubled times.

Ezekiel 34:16 – I will seek what was lost and bring back what was driven away, bind up the broken and strengthen what was sick; but I will destroy the fat and the strong, and feed them in judgment.

Ezekiel 34:22-23 – therefore I will save My flock, and they shall no longer be a prey; and I will judge between sheep and sheep. I will establish one shepherd over them, and he shall feed them—my servant David. He shall feed them and be their shepherd.

Once again, God speaks clearly about setting up one true shepherd to watch over His people.  Of course, he is referring to Jesus Christ.  Jesus is the good shepherd who promises to feed His flock.

Walk in Truth and Love

2 John 1:4-6

I rejoiced greatly that I have found some of your children walking in truth, as we received commandment from the Father.  And now I plead with you, lady, not as though I wrote a new commandment to you, but that which we have had from the beginning: that we love one another.  This is love, that we walk according to His commandments. This is the commandment, that as you have heard from the beginning, you should walk in it.

  • Walk in love

1 John 4:7-11 – Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.  He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.  In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him.  In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.  Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

  • Walk in truth

2 John 1:7-11 – For many deceivers have gone out into the world who do not confess Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist.  Look to yourselves, that we do not lose those things we worked for, but that we may receive a full reward.  Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son.  If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into your house nor greet him; for he who greets him shares in his evil deeds.

1 John 5:20 – And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us an understanding, that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life.

  • Walk according to His commandments

1 John 2:7 – Brethren, I write no new commandment to you, but an old commandment which you have had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word which you heard from the beginning.

1 John 2:24 – Therefore let that abide in you which you heard from the beginning. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, you also will abide in the Son and in the Father.

Christ’s Church – Part 2

Ephesians 2:19-22

Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.

For us to understand the purpose of the church, we must first find a Biblical foundation on which our beliefs are based. 

It is Gods’ will for the church to grow.  To grow not just numerically; but first and foremost it is His will for His church to grow spiritually.

If you had a building that would seat 1000 people and that church had multiple services so that each week you had 3000, 4000, 5000 or more total attendance, we would all say “WOW, THAT’S FANTASTIC.”  What are they doing that we can do and get the same kind of growth?   And it is fantastic that many people are in church, that the church has something going that might be worth duplicating.  But let us look a little closer.

 Are all those masses of people committed to serving Christ Monday through Saturday? 

Have all those people made a genuine commitment to Christ?  Have all those people gotten involved in reading their Bibles and praying on a regular basis and seeking to serve God in a greater way? 

If all of them are still baby Christians, that Church has a major problem.   Is the individual life changed?  Are their lives that live different than the week before?   And to take this picture a step further, is this a picture of Christ’s church?

Now, lest you think that I am picking on the large mega-churches, let me bring this same scenario down to churches under seventy people which is the size of the majority of churches.  Are small churches just biding their time till all the dead-wood pass on?  Who will be left?  What are these small churches doing for the sake of the Gospel?  Are they reaching out beyond the walls of their building, their comfort zone?

Are the majority of these small churches just content to come each week and lip-sync a few words of “Amazing Grace”, mumble some of the words of the Lord’s Prayer, fall asleep halfway through the message and then shake a couple of hands on their way out to the car?.    

James 2:26 –For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.

Matthew 28:19-20 – Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.

Ephesians 4:11-16 – And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.

Instead of asking, “What will make our church grow?” we need to ask, “What is keeping ourChurch from growing?”  The church is a body, and bodies grow. It is a living organism and living organisms grow.  Christ, himself breathed on the disciples and said “Receive ye, the Holy Spirit.”  That took place on the Day of Pentecost and the church was birthed.  If your child or grandchild did not grow, you would take them to the doctor; and if the doctor didn’t give you a satisfactory answer as to what was wrong, you would immediately take that child to another doctor.   If your child was growing physically but was still nursing and slobbering all over the place and not potty-trained you would begin to question what was wrong.  Either your parenting skills were terrible, or something was seriously wrong with your child.

I ask you with all the sincerity that I can ask you, what keeps the church from growing?  Am I really a Christian?  Just because I prayed the sinner’s prayer 40 years ago does not mean I have not lapsed back into sin and do not even realize it.  How much time do I spend on my knees?  How much time do I pray?  How much time do I spend studying my bible?  How much do I witness?  We must all do all of these things if we are to maintain our love life with the Lord.

You that are married must go out of your way to maintain your marriage.  Saying “I do” forty, fifty, ten years ago or even last week does not make a lasting and committed marriage.  A marriage demands regular maintenance (the tender affections daily – and even hourly, shown to the other half of the marriage).  If that does not happen the marriage will literally die.  You may still live together in the same house, but the love, the passion, the relationship that God designed for marriage will die.  When God wanted to describe his relationship with the church he used the comparison of a bride and groom.  Why was that?  Because the relationship between husband and wife is the closest to what our relationship should be with God.  Marriage was the first relationship/institution God created – long before government and before the church itself.  God described marriage as two forsaking all others and becoming one.  The church is the bride of Christ.  The church is His.  The love affair must grow day by day or it will die. 

God asked a question of Adam and Eve in the garden.  Is that same question being asked of you on a daily basis?  Is God desiring some fellowship but you are busy at other things, too tired or too lazy, unmotivated, or what?

Genesis 3:9 – Then the LORD God called to Adam and said to him, “Where are you?”

Could it be the reason you are not involved in daily prayer, daily Bible reading, regular witnessing, and regular attendance at God’s house is that you have fallen out of love with God?  Is your love what it was at one time?  When you first became a Christian were you constantly pouring through the scriptures or could not possibly miss a single service or bible study of the church?  Is that desire still the same? 

When Barbara and I first got married I had been by myself for four years and she had been alone for over two years.  At the risk of too much personal information I just want to use us as an illustration.  Our passion for loving each other was enormous.  We could not wait to see each other at the end of the day.  We looked forward to weekends when we could spend all day long together.  I can unequivocally say that that passion is even greater today than ever.  When she was working, I would call her every day at work, not really wanting anything, just to hear her voice.  I would run by her work and bring her a Pepsi or take her to lunch.  She is always doing things to show her love for me.  She loves to surprise me.  One Valentine’s Day she hired a barbershop choir to serenade me with a love song after church on Sunday morning.   Another year she hired a woman dressed as a pink gorilla who brought me candy and flowers after church on Sunday morning.   Passion is much more than just the physical, although it includes that.  But the world has degraded love to nothing more than just a physical encounter.  God’s design for marriage, while including that physical union, includes so much more.

So it is with being a child of God.  Being a Christian is confessing your sins and asking for forgiveness, but it is so much more than that.  Do you have that passion to love the Lord more now than when you first became a child of God?  Has your love waned and you fall into that category of the lukewarm church described in Revelation 3?  Are you cold (backslidden) or hot (on fire) or lukewarm (somewhere in between).

I ask you to grade yourself as to your devotion in several categories – time spent in the Word, time spent in close, intimate prayer with God, time witnessing to others, time helping others in need, time spent in fellowship and worship with other believers.  Be honest and upgrade yourself from one week to the next for the next month and compare your closeness to God from week to week.  If you do that honestly and faithfully you will sense a change in your life.  You will not only sense a change in your life but the church will see a change in you and others and the church as a whole will change and be less self-centered and more devoted to serving God as He tells us to.   

Deuteronomy 6:5 – You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might and you shall love your neighbor as yourself.