“I think I’ll name you, James.” said the gentle Shepherd as he bent down to pick up the little lamb. “Yes, James, suites you just fine.” He cradled the baby lamb in his arms while he led the rest of the sheep beside still waters. The Shepherd calls his sheep by name.
He does this so that he can quickly identify them, but also as a method of personal guidance as the lamb matures. Certainly, phrases like, “Ava, please step away from the edge,” or “Jacob, you need to obey,” had escaped Shepherd’s mouth on more than one occasion. All of this because his most significant responsibility is to protect the sheep. He will not let one of them go missing.
The verses in Psalm 23 reflect the responsibilities of the Shepherd and establish His all-encompassing Spirit.
- I shall not want – Jehovah-Jireh, the Lord will provide (Genesis 22:14)[i]
- Still waters – Jehovah-Shalom, the Lord our peace (Judges 6:24)[i]
- Restores my soul – Jehovah-Rophe, the Lord who heals (Exodus 15:26)[i]
- Paths of righteousness – Jehovah-Tsidkenu, the Lord our righteousness (Jeremiah 33:16)[i]
- You are with me – Jehovah-Shammah, the Lord is there (Ezekiel 48:35)[i]
- Presence of my enemies – Jehovah-Nissi, the Lord our banner (Exodus 17:15)[i]
- Anoint my head – Jehovah-M’Kaddesh, the Lord who sanctifies (Leviticus 20:8)[i]
It is the work of the Shepherd to take care of the sheep. As the Shepherd fulfills his responsibilities, the sheep want for nothing as they follow him. (Psalm 37:26) As sheep spend time with the Shepherd, they become more and more like him: lying down in green pastures, walking beside still waters, having a restored soul, staying on the right path, and having the Shepherd always near; Yes, please!
How can the Shepherd do all the work, and the sheep reap all the benefits? This is called sanctification. Sanctification is a progressive work of God and man that makes us freer from sin and like Christ.[ii] The Shepherd is at work in the sheep, “both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13). While the sheep cooperate by “presenting their bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God” (Romans 12:1). What a beautiful relationship the Shepherd and the sheep share.
[i] Warren W. Wiersbe, The Wiersbe Bible Commentary (Colorado Springs, Colorado: David C. Cook, 2007), 901-902.
[ii] Wayne Grudem, Bible Doctrine (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1999), 326.