Psalms 23 is another great psalm of comfort, to many readers the greatest of all, for in it we find another “Jehovah-compound,” the LORD Is My Shepherd. The Hebrew behind shepherd (rō‘iy, or rō‘eh, H7462) is one of many words that have a truly ancient history. It goes all the way back to the Akkadian (re‘û) (an extinct Semitic language that existed in Assyria and Babylon), and is then subsequently found in Phoenician, Ugaritic, Aramaic, and Arabic.
Appearing some 170 times in the OT, rō‘iy pictures the simplicity of ancient civilization. Shepherding was the most common occupation throughout ancient Palestine, and this common, ordinary word simply refers to the feeding of domestic animals. Such a mundane word, however, was transformed by biblical usage. It was used to describe the true function of the leaders of God’s people. A true leader is not a despot or dictator who not only drives his sheep but sometimes even slaughters them. Rather, a true leader is a shepherd who leads, tends, feeds, and protects his sheep at the risk of his own life.
Our Lord, of course, is the Great Shepherd. As Charles Spurgeon writes in his The Treasury of David, “What condescension is this, that the Infinite Lord assumes towards his people the office and character of a Shepherd!” Think of it! God descended and assumed one of the lowliest occupations in the ancient world. Likewise, the true function of the king of Israel was to be a shepherd (2Sa_5:2; 2Sa_7:7; Jer_3:15), as was that of other leaders, although at times they did it badly (Jer_2:8; Jer_22:22; Eze_34:2-3; Eze_34:8; Eze_34:10).
Coming to the NT, the word pastor is the direct descendant of that OT precedent. The word “pastors” in Eph_4:11, in fact, is a translation of the Greek poimēn (G4166), which means shepherd (poimēn is used to translate rā‘â in the Septuagint). In Classical Greek, it referred to the herdsman who tended and cared for the sheep. It was also used metaphorically to refer to a leader, a ruler, or a commander. Plato, for example, compared “the rulers of the city-state to shepherds who care for their flock.” This meaning was carried over into the NT. A pastor leads, tends, feeds, and protects the sheep that God has entrusted to his care. What a solemn responsibility!
Scriptures for Study: Read the “Shepherd Trilogy,” noting that in Psalms 22, the Great Shepherdredeems the sheep (cf. Joh_10:11); in Psalms 23, He rescues the sheep (cf. Rev_7:17); and in Psalms 24, He rewards the sheep (cf. 1Pe_5:4).
ISRAELITES OR JACOBITES??
William Andrew Dillard
Much is heard of Israel in their present conflict with a radical segment of Arabic people. Most of the Christian world, and this writer, too, are pro-Israel. The children of Abraham through Isaac and Jacob were the recipients of the Law Covenant from God, and though left desolate in their official rejection of the Messiah, the nation has a future in the work of God. However this should not blind the Bible student to obvious truth regarding the subject, and how that applies to the present people of New Testament Covenant relationship with Him. Please put on your thinking cap!
To be anti-Israel is to be anti-Semitic. But wait, to be anti-Arab would also be anti-Semitic since both descended from Abraham and are by virtue of that Semites. However, Bible students know that God rejected Ishmael, the father of Arabic people as the heir of Abraham, choosing instead the son of Promise: Isaac. To Isaac was born two sons: Esau and Jacob. Covenant lineage is traced through Jacob due to the faithless rejection of Esau of his birthright. Stay with me in this thinking.
“Jacob” (trickster) received a name change from God to that of “Israel” (He who contends with God and prevails) in his wrestling with an angel all night, signifying his hot pursuit of heavenly help in view of what he considered the Imminent, murderous wrath of Esau. Thus does his name have such marvelous and practical meaning. Quite naturally, Jacob’s children then became known as the children of Israel whether their faith and deportment merited the name or not. Happily, much of the time it did.
But in the fullness of time, God sent them the promised Messiah whom they rejected on a wholesale basis officially. While their rejection of Him is more than ample evidence that they were no longer Israel in meaning, a remnant of the faithful received the Messiah, and were by virtue of their faith and obedience to Him the sole nucleus of the New Covenant expression of God on earth, His New Testament Church. They were then the true Israel, and the New Testament Church continues to be so today. Gal. 6:16. What about the political nation that rejected Jesus, the Messiah? Jesus said their house was left to them desolate (devoid and separated from the presence and protection of God as they had known it). This precipitated the massacre and destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 by the Romans. It caused the great diaspora of the last near 2,000 years. It precipitated the holocaust in WWII. It has brought on them the many and continued conflicts with Arab nations presently. The present political nation is mainly the children of Judah; hence, Jews. They have chosen to use the term Israel, but they do not have its meaning. They are in fact Jacobites. But, one day, the nation will become Israelites again. May the Lord hasten that glorious day when they shall look on Him Whom they have pierced, know true repentance, and be brought into New Covenant relationship with Him to once again be “Israel” in the sight of God.
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Tagged as Arab, covenant, covenant relationship, Esau, Esau and Jacob, God, Hebrew, Israel, Jacob, Messiah, Semitic, The children of Abraham, the Messiah