Psalm 23 – A Psalm for the living not just for the dead

If you were to describe God in one word what would you call him? David called him a shepherd but that also meant that David called himself a sheep. David had himself been a keeper of sheep, and understood both the needs of the sheep and the many cares of a shepherd. But David, (as should we) in admitting that he was a sheep also admitted the nature of the sheep and his own nature; weak, defenceless, and yes even foolish.

Sheep are not brilliant creatures. Leave a sheep without a shepherd, and he nibbles a bit of grass here, wanders over there for some more, sees a patch just past that rock; and before you know it the sheep is lost, or has fallen into a ravine, or been devoured by a wolf.

David opens the Psalm with a noble tone of confidence. The Lord IS my shepherd; there is no “if” nor “but”, nor even “I hope so”; but he says, “The Lord IS my shepherd.” In doing so he declares that he has cultivated a spirit of assured dependence upon his heavenly Father.
But he also follows this declaration of faith with another; “I shall not want.”

That response, “I shall not want,” immediately puts us at odds with our culture, in which we are conditioned to be consumers who always lack something. If people lived by Psalm 23 (lacking nothing because the Lord is their shepherd) our economy would collapse. So, we look at the Hebrew text which is perhaps better translated as, “I shall lack nothing,” or “I shall lack no good thing.” Think about it, our whole life is about wanting: I want, I shop, I look, and when I have it, I want new stuff. So here is a question we need to ask ourselves. What do I lack? Well? Perhaps I lack the latest iPhone or a great job and lots of creature comforts. I lack a beautiful house and I lack… We can fill in the blank endlessly.

To live by Psalm 23 would mean ignoring the constant barrage of messages saying, “you are unhappy, you need more stuff.” Psalm 23 resets that consumer mentality. If we genuinely and in the marrow of our being believe that God is with us, then the only logical consequence would be, “I shall not want.”

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