YHWH Is My Shepherd / YHWH Is My Friend
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Pronounced Yä-wá' (or Yod-Há-Väv-Há') Ro-ee', the compound name first appears directly and personally in Psalm 23 wherein the psalmist refers to Yahweh in the most intimate figurative language possible: "YHWH is my shepherd..."
This beloved psalm is so familiar to many of us that one might be tempted to give it little more than a cursory glance. Don't! It's important that we take time to consider all that this name reveals about Yahweh and our relationship with Him or better yet, His desired relationship with us.
Before we delve into the specifics of the name, "YHWH Is My Shepherd", please consider more closely the relationship of the shepherd to his sheep. Following is Harriet-Louise Holland Patterson's observation about shepherding:
"Shepherding does not change much in Palestine, where wild beasts may descend still upon unprotected sheep and suddenly destroy them. The Palestine shepherd lives night and day with his animals. He establishes a degree of intimacy with them which is touching to observe. He calls them all by their names and they, knowing his voice and hearing his only, heed. He protects the sheep from thieves and preying animals who would devour them at night, by sleeping in the opening of the often makeshift sheepfold and they, sensing his watchfulness, fear 'no evil.' He provides pasture and water even in the wilderness and the presence of enemies and they, casting all their anxiety upon him, are fed. There is a singular communion between the shepherd and his sheep which, after one has visited Palestine and observed it, makes the symbol of the good Shepherd peculiarly apt and the Twenty-third Psalm strangely moving." ["Around the Mediterranean with My Bible"]
The Hebrew word "rohi" (or "ro'i" or "ro'eh") is both a noun and a verb, meaning "a shepherd" and "a pasture", as well as "to shepherd" or "to pasture". An extended translation of the word as a noun is also "friend" or "companion". This indicates the intimacy YHWH desires between Himself and His people. He doesn't want mentally- and emotionally-detached children simply going through repetitious religious exercises. He wants a close personal involvement in every aspect of our lives, one in which we would come to truly depend on Him for our every need.
The word "rohi" alone first appears in Genesis 37:2: "...Joseph . . . was feeding the flock [rohi] with his brothers..." A more direct reference to the role of shepherding appears in Genesis 47:3-4 when Joseph's brothers told Pharaoh, "...Your servants are shepherds [rohi], both we, and our fathers . . . We have come to live as foreigners in the land, for there is no pasture [rohi] for your servants' flocks..."
However, the word "rohi" was not limited to shepherding flocks. In the Old Testament, it was also sometimes used...
Thus, the word "rohi" symbolizes "associating with", "taking pleasure in", and "cherishing".
Combined with the name YHWH, the above relationships find their most affectionate and exalted verbal expression YHWH, the Shepherd of His people as in...
Notice that last verse: He will "seek that which was lost" . . . "bring back that which was driven away" . . . "bind up that which was broken." No other revealed name of God denotes such caring intimacy as the name YHWH-Rohi. As author Nathan Stone wrote in "The Names of God":
"Everything that the shepherd is to the sheep, Jehovah is to His people. If there can exist such a tender intimacy between a man and sheep, how much more so between Jehovah and the spirits He has created and redeemed; and what a marvelous thing that God should offer Himself for such a relationship. He had said, 'I will dwell among the children of Israel' (Exodus 29:45), and the word dwell is the word Shekinah, denoting His glorious presence. Jehovah as Shepherd offers His people the intimacy of His presence. He may be as intimately known as the shepherd is of the sheep. . . . The intimacy of the shepherd is the most precious privilege and possession of the sheep, and this the Lord's people, as His sheep, should cultivate and enjoy. But it comes only by long and constant association and abiding in His presence." (emphasis added)
Referring back to Psalm 23, YHWH-Rohi isn't only the Shepherd of His people, He is my Shepherd. As sheep of His fold, you and I can rest in the sure knowledge that we are precious to Him and that our God cares about every one of our needs. We need not fear, nor doubt, nor wonder. YHWH is my Shepherd . . . YHWH is your Shepherd . . . Oh, praise His most holy name!