Wednesday, April 22, 2009


We are all familiar with the 23rd Psalm. Its comforting message is well known even among non-believers. 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.”


The Hebrew word David uses for want in this verse indicates a meaning of lack. David is saying, in other words, “I shall not lack anything.” When we combine this meaning with the first part of the verse, David is saying, “The Lord leads, guides and nourishes me. And because of that, I have no lack.”


In this brief verse, David gives us yet another reflection of the Lord’s character and nature. The literal Hebrew translation of the first part of this verse is Jehovah Rohi (pronounced Je-HO-va-RO’-ee). It means “the Lord, my shepherd.”


Jehovah Rohi is not some benign, passive shepherd. He isn’t a hireling—someone who does little more than provide food and guidance. He doesn’t merely point us toward the grassy pasture and pools of water, and say, “There’s what you need. Go and get it.” Nor does he turn a blind eye to our needs. He doesn’t run the other way when he hears our cries for help and sees us in trouble. No, he knows every pain we endure, every tear we shed, every hurt we feel. He knows when we’re too weary to go another step. He knows just how much we can take. Most of all, he knows how to rescue us and bring us to a place of healing. Time after time, our shepherd comes after us, fetches us and takes us to a place of rest. He continually makes us lie down for a time of healing and restoration.


Jehovah Rohi—the Lord our shepherd—is compelling us to follow him into his rest, so that he might “shekinah” in our midst. The Lord says in Exodus 29:45, “I will dwell among the children of Israel, and will be their God.” The Hebrew word for dwell here is shekinah, meaning “to abide by, or to settle down beside.” This word signifies not just a passing presence, but a permanent one—a presence that never leaves. In short, the shekinah glory of God is not a vanishing imprint that disappears from our hearts like invisible ink. No, it’s something God imprints permanently on our soul. It’s his very near and eternal presence.


The picture here is glorious: Our shepherd offers to come to us in the midst of our pain and depressed condition, and to sit by our side. He promises to bind up our wounds and strengthen the parts of us that have become sick and diseased.


That’s the shekinah glory of God: the abiding, everlasting presence of the Lord. And we often experience it when we’re in the midst of trouble. Our great shepherd tells us, “I want to restore you. And I’m going to do it by being present with you, even in the valley and shadow of death. My presence will be with you through everything the devil throws at you. Even if you try to run from me, I’m going to chase after you. And when I catch you, I am going to take you in my arms and carry you back to my rest. Then I’ll bind up your wounds and heal all your sicknesses.”