The twenty third Psalm begins with the words, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.” David, an experienced shepherd, is helping us to see God as someone who cares for us as if we were his sheep. He’s reminding us that we are in a dependent relationship with the God who made us, and who loves us. He won’t wander away from us, even though we may wander away from him. He’s our loyal and faithful shepherd. “I myself will search for my sheep and look after them. As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so I will look after my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on a day of clouds and darkness” (Ezekiel 34:11-12).
Jesus claimed this very role when he said, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:11). He went before us and gave his life on the cross so that our sins would be forgiven. We have life eternal because of our good shepherd.
As sheep in God’s flock, David says, we will not be in want. Sheep have poor vision, and it’s possible that we do not see all that the Lord is doing for us. With the shepherd’s watchful eye, God’s care involves leading us away from predators and into the places where we may be safe and find our personal needs met.
Our part is contentment. To the Philippians Paul writes, “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:12-13).
Staying close to the shepherd keeps us from wanting. We receive strength and everything we need in life by going to God. Jesus told us, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33). Our needs are met by God, and we are not to be striving for the things of this world. “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’ So we say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?’” (Hebrews 13:5-6).
We stay near the shepherd through a number of habits.
We listen for his voice. Prayer isn’t just talking, it’s listening to God speak.
We stay with the other sheep. In fellowship we sheep help one another with needs we all have.
We stay on the path. God’s word provides a road for us to follow which is safe, and trustworthy.
We look to the shepherd. In worship we remember His sacrifice for us. It keeps us in a dependent relationship with him. With God we are content. We need nothing else.
John Piper wisely said, “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.” “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want” (Psalm 23:1).
Pastor Ken Atchison
All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com.