Tuesday, March 14, 2017

God as the Mighty One, the Shepherd and the Rock - Genesis 49:24

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Genesis 49:24 "But his bow remained firm, and his arms were agile, from the hands of the Mighty One of Jacob
(From there is the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel)."


The opening text of today's post features one of the earliest mentions of the term "shepherd" as a Divine title for God. The verse above occurs in the context of Jacob's blessing of his son Joseph. Joseph was used mightily by God in a series of circumstances to save his family (see Genesis 50:20). The surrounding context of Genesis 49:24 gives us a clearer picture as to why God is called "the Shepherd": “Joseph is a fruitful bough, A fruitful bough by a spring; Its branches run over a wall.
23 “The archers bitterly attacked him,
And shot at him and harassed him;
24 But his bow remained firm, and his arms were agile, from the hands of the Mighty One of Jacob (From there is the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel),
25 From the God of your father who helps you, And by the Almighty who blesses you With blessings of heaven above, Blessings of the deep that lies beneath, Blessings of the breasts and of the womb."

Three Divine titles are mentioned in the verse. We can see reference to God as "Shepherd", "Stone" as well as His identity as "the Mighty One of Jacob". 
As is often the case, Divine titles that occur in tandem function together to reveal the multifaceted character of God. Today we want to observe how these three titles function to reveal to us the character of God.

1. Mighty One of Jacob.  

The Old Testament's revelation of God as "the Mighty One" speaks of God's omnipotence. Psalm 50:1 for example states - "The Mighty One, God, the Lord, has spoken, And summoned the earth from the rising of the sun to its setting." To associate God as a shepherd with this title "Mighty One" first and foremost refers to the strength He has to lead His people. Such a title carries a second connotation, namely God's covenant relationship to His people. King David's desired had been to build a temple for God. God's plans were different from David's with God choosing his Son and heir Solomon to be the builder of The Temple instead. Psalm 132:1-5 records David's desire and God's response: Remember, O Lord, on David’s behalf, All his affliction;
2 How he swore to the Lord And vowed to the Mighty One of Jacob, 3 “Surely I will not enter my house, Nor lie on my bed; 4 I will not give sleep to my eyes
Or slumber to my eyelids, 5 Until I find a place for the Lord, A dwelling place for the Mighty One of Jacob.” So we can say that as "Mighty One", God possesses unlimited strength as the Shepherd of His people. 

2. The rock 

In Genesis 49:24, we see a second title associated with "shepherd", and which accentuates the idea of God as shepherd - namely God as "Rock". 1 Samuel 2:2 states - “There is no one holy like the Lord, Indeed, there is no one besides You, Nor is there any rock like our God." God as "the Rock" gives the imagery of shelter, protection and provision. In the New Testament, the Apostle Paul would refer to Jesus Himself as the Rock that accompanied Israel throughout her journeys (see 1 Corinthians 10:1-6). So just like the previous Divine title, the "Rock" fortifies the imagery of the title "shepherd" as communicating the "Shepherd's protection and provision for His people. 

3. Shepherd

We come lastly to the title "Shepherd" itself. When we consider the other two titles of "Rock" and "Mighty One of Jacob" in association with "Shepherd", we find an enriching picture of the Lord God. Shepherds tended the sheep in Israel. Joseph had tended the flocks of his father and so would had connected to Jacob's words to him. Although the shepherd's job was important, shepherds typically occupied the lower rungs of the social ladder. Despite the shepherd's humble position, God chooses to use this very title as a revelation of Himself. 

Many have been blessed by hearing the 23rd Psalm recited or preached. When David starts out with the words: "The Lord is my Shepherd", we find the tenderness of the Psalm reaching to our heart. Psalm 80:1 uses this title "shepherd" in an exalted sense: "Oh, give ear, Shepherd of Israel,
You who lead Joseph like a flock;
You who are enthroned above the cherubim, shine forth!"  Why is God so pleased to reveal Himself as "Israel's Shepherd" or as "my Shepherd"? God's stooping down of Himself to the level of our understanding is the quintessential heart of the meaning of Divine revelation. Is it no wonder why Jesus Himself referred to He being "the Good Shepherd" (John 10:11). The Divine Son humbled Himself by taking unto His Person true humanity - revealing Himself as the God man. Such an act was truly God stooping down to make Himself known to us - not only by words, but by the Person of the Son assuming true humanity. 

Closing thoughts

Today we considered how three Divine titles worked together in Genesis 49:24 to reveal to us the character of God. We noted how the titles "Rock" and "Mighty One" work with the title "Shepherd" to show us what kind of Shepherd God is to Israel and to all that trust in Him by faith. If we were to summarize everything we have discussed, we could do it the following way:

1. As "the Mighty One" God is the Mighty Shepherd

2. As "the Rock", God is the protective Shepherd"

3. As the Shepherd, God shows His strength and protection by How He reveals Himself to His people. 

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