“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.” Psalm 23:1
The Hebrew word for shepherd in Psalm 23:1 is “ra’ah” (can also be spelled rohi and is derived from ro’eh). It is used as a noun meaning “shepherd” and as a verb “to shepherd, to pasture, to feed, to tend.” To the Hebrews, the shepherd become close to his sheep, perhaps like we get close to our pets. The shepherd lives with his animals and knows them well. He sleeps with the sheep to protect them. He calls each one of them by their names. He rubbed through their wool to look after their health and to show them affection. Because the shepherd cared for each sheep, he would guard each animal from wandering off from the flock. The sheep were in a relationship with the shepherd, looking to the shepherd for their food, care, and guidance.
Isaiah 40:11 “And He will feed (raah) His flock like a shepherd (raah); He will gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom, and gently lead those who are with young.”
Other tenses of the verb mean “to associate with” and “to be a special friend.” It could also be said, “to delight in a person or thing.” Ra’ah indicates the intimacy God wants between Himself and His people. Jehovah Ra’ah could be translated, “The Lord my Friend.” The origin of the word ra’ah is believed to be related to other verbs that mean, “to look upon with pleasure, to look after, to behold or see.” God looks after us because He personally and deeply cares for us.
David said that Jehovah was “my” shepherd. Ra’ah is used to describe shepherds, teachers, and spiritual leaders. A good shepherd leads, governs, feeds, provides, restores, guards, cares for or looks after. David was a shepherd before he was a king. He understood the personal and dependent relationship of a sheep to its shepherd, and David put himself in the role of the sheep and called Jehovah his personal shepherd (see also Gen. 48:15, Psalm 37:3, Psalm 78:72, Eccles. 12:11, and Jer. 3:15).
Jesus used the shepherd comparison when speaking to His Hebrew brothers and sisters in John chapter ten, calling Himself the good shepherd, saying, “…I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” From the love in His heart for His sheep, Jesus fought and died so that we could live. He loves us!
Application: Jesus called Himself a good shepherd; not all leaders are good (Read Ezekiel 34, ra’ah is used 31 times). If you have ever been misused, abused, taken advantage of, or manipulated by a parent or leader, God wants to restore you. He is good! Put your trust in Him.