The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
~ Psalm 23:1
I remember as a kid learning the 23rd Psalm in Sunday School. I remember reading verse 1 and thinking, Why is God my shepherd, and why do I not want him? Now clearly that's not what the verse is all about, but when you're a kid, you miss the importance of the semicolon. You see, a semicolon is...
You see, as a kid, I missed the fact that verse 1, shares two separate thoughts. As an adult, I sometimes forget that these two thoughts are not what I thought when I was a kid. Yes, the Lord IS my shepherd, and in him all my needs are met.
The 23rd Psalm is one of those sections of Scripture that I think we too often misuse. Most of us would agree that when we think of the 23rd Psalm, we think of the comfort that comes at the bedside of someone ill or recited at a funeral service. For many these verses are a comfort and hope in a time in need. Now, I don't want to take anything away from that, but I don't think David thought, 'Hmm, this would make a great funeral reading...'
David spent years in the hills and wilderness areas around Bethlehem, watching over his families herds. As a shepherd, David shouldered the full responsibility that came with job. From providing the sheep with suitable grazing grounds to protecting them from the dangers that lurk in wild territories to being a constant presence of comfort and assurance for the sheep. David understood what it meant to care for, protect, and lead his flock. And when trouble came, David stood to face it, deal with it, and overcome it. Whether it was finding food and water or taking out a bear or a lion, David took care of his sheep. So when he writes, 'The Lord is my shepherd...' David is knows what he's talking about.
So what is he talking about?
David recognized God as his shepherd. What that means is, David saw God to be the one who cared for, protected, and watched over his life. Like every shepherd, God, assumes the responsibility to provide, protect, and to be a constant presence for his sheep. David expected God to do for David what David would do for his sheep.
Now for the semicolon. The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. It's the responsibility of the shepherd to make sure that the sheep have what they need. The sheep don't go looking for food and drink, the shepherd leads them to where they find their food. It's the shepherd that provides. The sheep benefit from the shepherds care.
You see, I think what David writes is not a Psalm of comfort and hope, but a declaration of acceptance in knowing who God is and where he (David) stands. David says, God is the one who cares for me, and if he takes care of me, then I know, I will have all that I need. That is a significant admission that shows us the condition of David's heart. David looks to God for his needs for that day.
Can we say the same thing? Or more appropriate, do we believe the same thing?
Do you believe that the Lord IS your shepherd? And, do you believe that he WILL take care of your every need?
As you go through your day today, think on the truth of Psalm 23:1. Ask God to show you what it means to surrender to the loving lead of your Shepherd and how to trust in his daily provision for your life. And where there are areas that need the tender discipline of the Shepherd, ask God to make the changes needed so that you can believe the awesome truth of God's love!
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