The following post is an excerpt (chapter 3) of When the Lord is My Shepherd: Finding Hope in a Hard Time.
I am happy to share one of the 23 daily readings on the 23rd Psalm that I wrote in the early days of the Pandemic. We were all locked down with plenty of time on our hands. I had just read Psalm 23 in the course of my Bible reading. Somehow it seemed to speak more and more to me. And when I inserted the word ‘When’ in front of the psalm all the images, hopes, metaphors, and passages became like promises. Saying, “When the Lord is My Shepherd” opened up the psalm in new ways.
The book is available on Amazon now. It is also part of the daily reading plan that we have developed for the annual stewardship and generosity program for the ACNA. (Go to The Evergreen Project for more information.)
Can you imagine singing Psalm 23? The word “psalm” is very much like our word “song.” These verses are lyrics, text for singing. It was for praise and worship; it was for truth and instruction. Many Psalms are written for the congregation to sing.
We are sure David did…and the first line of the song declared something amazing. The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. It is a strong statement. It is a bold statement. It occurs as early in the Psalm as it can, and most people who attempt to recite this poem by heart know this short phrase.
But do we understand the magnitude of this little phrase? It is one of the strongest statements of faith that we can imagine. I shall not want!
What does the poet mean? I think there are two areas that can be explored here. First, David means that because he has recognized the Lord in the role of a shepherd over his life, he knows he will lack for nothing.
He trusts God. And he trusts God to go with him everywhere and to provide what is needed every time. He has confidence that he will always have more than enough. He has hope that whatever happens to him as his life unfolds (and a lot would happen to him), he would always know that God would provide for him.
We should be careful about what we think is meant by this. Some have perverted this promise of provision into a promise of prosperity. David surely didn’t mean it this way. David is not saying that God has a supply chain of goodies direct from heaven for those who have faith. God did NOT provide for David that way all the time. There were times when he was in danger, fear, thirst, or deprivation. Even then, he had enough.
But second, the statement, “I shall not want” means something else; it means something more. He means that when the Lord is the Shepherd of my life, a quiet conversion begins to take place. The worldly things we have always wanted, begin to loosen their grip. We really do begin to think and feel differently about the things we want. A wise pastor once said that when a person comes to faith in God through His Son Jesus Christ, the new convert’s ‘wanter’ begins to change.
It is true. The conversion of the ‘wanter’ begins however slowly, but little by little we experience something we have been looking for our whole life. We have ‘contentment.’ We are no longer in want.
David is not saying that a loving God will deliver to us all the material wants we can imagine. There’s no end to those. King David is not promising financial and material blessings, although those might come. “I shall not want” means I shall have something that eludes most people today. I shall have contentment, security, fellowship with God, and that is enough.
When the Lord is my shepherd, I always have enough.