I Shall Not Want
Growing up in a Christian home, Psalm 23 was one of the first lengthy [or at least lengthy for a child] passages I memorized. I can still remember the chapter being written out in marker on a dry erase board downstairs where I'd play with my toys. Back then, I didn't understand the deep meaning of this passage, and the same was true for many other passages that have now become really dear to me. I'm definitely not claiming to now know all there is to know about this Psalm, but over the past few years and even more-so very recently, it has come to life for me as I dive into it more and more. [Quick little side note: When I first memorized this chapter, I seemed to always say the first verse as one fluid sentence, which made me confused. "The Lord is my Shepherd I shall not want"? So I don't want Him? What? Commas and semicolons make all the difference, people.]
Although not very long in the grand scheme of things, each individual statement in this passage could probably have its own sermon. I only want to focus on one part: "I shall not want."
I love how various versions put it:
"The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want." (ESV)
"The Lord is my Shepherd, I lack nothing." (NIV)
"The Lord is my Shepherd, I have all that I need." (NLT)
How many of us can genuinely say that? I lack nothing. I don't have a need for anything else. I'll never be in want. Why? Simply because the LORD is MY Shepherd. The Psalm elaborates from there, but I think it's interesting to note that "I shall not want" doesn't come at the end, as if to say "here are all the reasons, and that's why I won't be in want." No, The Lord is my Shepherd, and that's it. That's enough. I lack nothing. The rest of the chapter is simply a list of the many other benefits that come along with the Lord being my Shepherd.
I realize how much I want my heart to be able to say this at every moment. I'm convicted that this isn't the case, but at the same time I'm so overwhelmed in the best way at how much depth this one verse has, and that allows me to sink into the goodness of Jesus.
Something that has recently allowed me to learn more about not only this one verse, but Psalm 23 as a whole, is the book "A Shepherd Looks At Psalm 23" by W. Phillip Keller. A man with firsthand shepherding experience, Keller expounds on the Psalm, each line having it's own chapter. It's so eye-opening to read the perspective of this real life shepherd and get further confirmation on just how humorously similar we are to sheep, and how beyond qualified God is in His role as our Shepherd.
"He came to set men free from their own sins, their own selves, their own fears. Those so liberated loved Him with fierce loyalty. It is this One who insists that He was the Good Shepherd, the understanding Shepherd, the concerned Shepherd who cares enough to seek out and save and restore lost men and women."
In the chapter titled "I Shall Not be in Want," Keller writes:
"Actually the word 'want,' as used here, has a broader meaning than might at first be imagined. No doubt the main concept is that of not lacking - not deficient - in proper care, management, or husbandry. But a second emphasis is the idea of being utterly contented in the Good Shepherd's care and consequently not craving or desiring anything more."
I want. Regularly. I find myself being similar to a stubborn ewe that Keller describes in his book:
"She was simply never contented with things as they were. Often when she forced her way through some such spot in a fence...she would end up feeding on bare, brown, burned up pasturage of a most inferior sort. But she never learned her lesson and continued to fence crawl time after time." When I seek after other "pastures," I'm continually dissatisfied. How often do I lose sight of the lush green pastures that the Lord provides me with. Although He doesn't promise a life of no difficulties, He does promise that He will always be with me [Matt. 28:20b] and will supply all of my needs [Phil. 4:19].
We must understand that as believers, under the loving & compassionate care of our Good Shepherd, we can proudly boast "The Lord is my Shepherd - I shall not be in want. I am completely satisfied with His management of my life."
If you've grown up with this passage or are well familiar with it, it helps to have new and fresh perspectives of it. Being someone who really connects with the Lord through music, I recommend these songs. A lot of the lyrics came to mind even as I was writing this:
"I Shall Not Want" by Audrey Assad.
"When I taste Your goodness, I shall not want."
"King of Love" by I Am They.
HUGE favorite! The whole song is essentially all of Psalm 23, but the vocabulary is changed just enough that it might be easy to miss if you don't pay attention. It's beautiful.
"The King of Love my Shepherd is, Whose goodness faileth never. I nothing lack if I am His, and He is mine forever."
"The House of God Forever" by Jon Foreman.
"God is my Shepherd, I won't be wanting."
I'd recommend listening to and meditating on them as you ask the Lord make this statement true in your life!