The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters,
3 He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
for his name's sake.
4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
forever. Psalm 23
The church I grew up in only used the King James Version (KJV) of the Bible, not the New King James but the old, Shakespearean version. This was a great boon when it came to reading Shakespeare at school and it made me gooderer at English. I still love the KJV, especially its poetic lilt but I am also aware that sometimes archaic or stuffy English can be a hinderance to understanding. For me Psalm 23 verse 1 was one such place, “The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.” For years this verse baffled me, why would I not want the Lord? We would even sing it, “The Lord’s my shepherd, I’ll not want.” Surely I need and want the Lord!!! Due to my shyness I never asked anyone why David would say such a thing. It was only as a teenager when I read the NIV translation, “The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.” That things fell in to place. For all those years I had been interpreting want as desire as in, “I want a Lindt slab of chocolate.” Instead of understanding it as lack.
What an amazing promise, to lack nothing. Of course if you have been a Christian in a faithful church for any period of time you will know, from theology and experience, that lacking nothing does not mean always having a full bank account, never getting sick, or never experiencing sorrow or heartache. According to David the lacking nothing is primarily spiritual, notice verse 3, He restores my soul. God knows that your soul is what is most important, your body will perish but your soul will live on.
Verse 4 tells us that the Lord doesn’t remove the valley of the shadow of death or give us a shortcut around it, while verse 5 doesn’t inform us that our enemies magically disappear. The promise is that the Lord will be with us in all these experiences to comfort us. Sometimes that comfort includes the rod (v4). Sometimes lacking nothing includes the chastening of the Good Shepherd. Consider these verses:
"Just as a parent disciplines a child, the LORD your God disciplines you for your own good." Deuteronomy 8:5
"I have refined you in the furnace of suffering." Isaiah 48:10
"It is good for me that I have been afflicted!" Psalm 119:71
"For the Lord disciplines the one He loves, and chastises every son He receives." Hebrews 12:6
The end result of this chastening is eternity in the house of the LORD (v6). Within the psyche of every human being is the desire to have a place where you belong, a place of safety and love. Some of us may have experienced small foretastes of this at home or in the church community but they are little solar powered garden lights showing us the path to our true Home.
Martin Luther said, “The sweetness of the gospel lies mostly in pronouns, [such] as me, my, thy – “Who loved me, and gave Himself for me”, “Christ Jesus my Lord”, ” Son, be of good cheer, thy sins are forgiven thee”.” David knew this truth and it is why he could write the Lord is my shepherd. To make it Home you must know the Lord as your shepherd. He is the most beautiful, tender, faithful and courageous of all shepherds; He is the True Shepherd. The Good Shepherd who laid down His life for such foolish, undeserving sheep as you and me. Are you able to say the Lord is my shepherd? If you truly can, then you lack nothing and you are currently on a short trip Home.