The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. –Psalm 23:1
Shall not want?
Is this possible? In our culture? Flesh wants. It wants approval and food and decadence and material things and, and, and… a list a mile long. It has a lot of things it has no business wanting. But…
I shall not want.
It would be easy to interpret this as an admonition: We shall not—should not—want. But I don’t picture the Lord standing over us wagging a finger for being greedy or needy. Based on the words that precede it, I believe “shall not” here means “need not.”
I need not want.
I need not want because I have entered the gate to freedom. The Lord is my Shepherd—He takes care of me, He leads me in the right direction, He keeps me safe, He provides for me, He loves me unconditionally and without fail.
I need not want because in Him I have all I need—whether it feels like it or not. Often, I believe our definition of a full life is severely out of whack. If I begin to “feel” dissatisfied, this verse helps put things back in perspective for me. If I was left with nothing but Him I would still have everything from A-Z.
The Lord is my Shepherd, there is nothing more to want.
The Gate to Freedom
Yes, I am the gate. Those who come in through me will be saved. They will come and go freely and will find good pastures. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. – John 10:9-10
“They will come and go freely.” It’s interesting that free will can actually be the very thing that keeps us in bondage. Once we realize that using our free will to wander around in the wilderness is dangerously exhausting, we enter our Shepherd’s good pasture.
But the thief doesn’t let up—saved doesn’t mean safe; free doesn’t mean trouble-free. Even in the pasture of Christianity we can temporarily lose our way if we wander off alone, but sticking close behind our Shepherd will keep us on the path of life, even through the valleys.
Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me. – Psalm 23:4
You Can’t Make Me!
He makes me to lie down in green pastures. – Psalm 23:2
Have you ever seen an overtired kid? Not the sweet, dozy, rubbing-the-eyes variety—I’m talking about the on-edge, crabby kid that’s overwhelmed with exhaustion but insists she IS NOT TIRED and DOES NOT NEED a nap. As adults we find this so odd… wouldn’t we love to have someone “make us” take a nap? Well, actually…
The original Greek for “makes me to lie down,” can also be translated “leads them to rest,” or “cause to, make to lie down, make to rest.” Are you feeling tired and weary, but insistent you can handle this on your own–maybe even take on more? Your Shepherd may be telling you it’s nap time.
Forego, ergo Forgo (say what?)
My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. – John 10:27
Last week, while listening to my Shepherd’s voice I heard “Forgo.” I’d been feeling worn out (admitting I needed a nap), so I assumed He was counseling me to forgo—give up or let go of—some of the fruitless worries I’d taken on. I took this to heart, but there was more. He didn’t pass along a bit of kindly advice and leave it at that for me to handle alone. I later discovered with delight that the word He whispered has two spellings and two definitions—forgo (abstain) and forego: to go before, precede.
My shepherd foregoes (goes before) me, therefore I can forgo (let go of) my worries. I’ve not found much success in simply telling myself to stop worrying. But what does help is remembering that Jesus is ahead of me, leading, clearing the path ahead. It is only the thought of putting my trust in and following Him that makes it possible for me to stay calm, even in the storm, knowing still waters are just ahead.
He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. – Psalm 23:2-3
The 23rd Psalm Revisited
King David was not only a poet, but a prophet. The Psalms clearly show that the Lord revealed His deep mysteries to him. His Psalm 23 has inspired volumes of commentary, entire books and numerous sermons—not surprisingly—it says so much, so beautifully. I humbly add my contribution to the pile:
The Lord is my all, I don’t need anything else. When I take time to sit with Him, I find renewed strength. When I follow Him, I see things differently… I find goodness. I remember it’s all about Him, not me, and that brings me peace.
He alone sustains me when I go through tough times. Even when darkness threatens at every side, with Him I need not be afraid—He is my light. I am thankful that my love for Him helps me say no to things that are temporarily tempting, but would ultimately bring pain… maybe even hurt someone I love.
He blesses me beyond measure, welcoming me as His very own—an honor I did nothing to deserve. He not only leads me, but He has my back—surrounding me with His protection, goodness and grace.
And I get to be with Him forever.
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness, For His name’s sake. Yea, 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. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; And I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever. – Psalm 23