“The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.”
Many of us are familiar with these seemingly simple words, along with the rest of Psalm 23. While they may be simple, these verses do not fall short of profound truth and encouragement.
Many of my family members are farmers in Michigan. One spring morning, my mom drove my siblings and I to the Upper Peninsula to visit our uncle who raises sheep. While we were there, we witnessed lambs being born and tagged, we herded sheep, and had a great time. While it was a fantastic experience, I couldn’t help but notice that common sense was not a strong point of the sheep.
Though often thought of as cute, quiet, and gentle, it was my observation that the sheep were grouchy, loud, and well, not animals I would choose for companionship. Their attitudes were a blaring reminder of some of the reasons that the Lord refers to us as sheep in the Bible. He did not use this comparison to inflict shame on us, but rather so that we would be in awe of Him.
Our Lord is not a cruel shepherd, but a loving one who does not wish His sheep harm. He reminds us that we are like sheep so that our eyes might be focused on His gentleness. A shepherd watches over his flock, taking great care that they might not be harmed, even risking his life for them. Our Lord gave up Himself to rescue us from sin and evil and by this act of unrestrained, overflowing love we should feel truly cherished.
We Shall Not Want
What does David in writing this psalm mean by saying ‘I shall not want?’
David Roseberry writes, “(It) 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.”
We do not need anything when the Lord enters our lives, for He is the Great Provider who lavishly cares for us so that we cannot have an undersupply of anything necessary for contentment. Things cannot possibly satisfy and still our souls; only He can.Things cannot possibly satisfy and still our souls; only our Shepherd can. Click To Tweet
I tend to be so concerned with desires for safety, protection from harm, and my well-being that my prayers are often not of worship, but of petitioning. There is a time and place for each, but I desire that my life be characterized by gratitude and contentment and have a worshipful heart.
But even in my spiritual blindness, He is merciful and forgiving and He will complete His plan for me. A different translation says, “The Lord is my Shepherd, I lack nothing.”
The Voice of our Shepherd
In John 10:3-4, the author compiles two beautiful sentences that we can welcome …
“To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice; and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice.”
Even now, sheep are separated by what? The sound of their shepherd’s distinct voice.
Each group of sheep can tell when their master is speaking, and they follow him unwaveringly. Surprisingly, sheep are extremely gifted at hearing, much more than humans, and their ability to discern which shepherd is calling to them is remarkable.
What lesson can we see, and what hope can we draw as a people who hear and follow the distinct voice of Jesus? It’s hard in these modern times with the world shouting at us to follow after sinful desires. It’s difficult trying to recognize the Lord’s soft cry to come and follow Him. Our heads turn with our ears straining, and our hope rising and falling each time we follow an invalid voice coming from the enemy seeking to devour us.
Satan’s voice is smooth, deceptive and lures us into temptation. When Jesus was being unfathomably tempted by the devil in the wilderness what was His response when being faced with terrible temptations? He fought back with Scripture.
This is our greatest defense, our “shield of faith” to “extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one.” (Ephesians 6:16). That is why memorizing and hiding God’s word in our heart is of immeasurable worth in our lives as we face suffering, depression and temptation. Romans 10:17 sums it up well by saying “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” We hear His voice when we soak in the beautiful truths of His word.
Our Shepherd is With Us
Satan’s lies come at us from all directions and it’s overwhelming at times, but we never are on the battlefield alone. Our King Jesus is right there sharing our burden and shepherding us.
And we know He is “Gentle and lowly in heart.” (Matt. 11:29).
We can hear the distinct voice of Christ, our Shepherd through His Word. Full satisfaction and peace comes only as we listen and obey. And once we follow our Great Protector, we are safe and cared for under His staff.
Our Shepherd takes care of us, His sheep. If He is ours, we will not want.