Psalm 23: I Shall Not Want
As Candy and I walk with you through the gold mine of Psalm 23, it is vitally important that we grasp the very first verse because it sets up the rest of the verses in this psalm. The first part of verse one accurately positions the Shepherd as the source of our love and care. The second part of verse one positions us to receive his love and care for us. If we fail to believe, trust, and embrace verse one, the rest of Psalm 23 will have no power in our lives.
“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.”
Living in a westernized culture, we view things completely different than the ancient world of the Bible would view things. Often, our viewing lens is out of focus from the correct view of a passage. When we read “I shall not want” we can come up with an entire list of things that we want: a new car, a higher salary, a better relationship, etc. If we are not careful, we can stumble right out of the gate with Psalm 23.
A better interpretation for “I shall not want” is literally, “I have all that I need.” Putting it all together, the meaning of verse one is: “Because the Lord is my shepherd, I have all that I need.” The first truth of this passage today is an important one for us to remember:
Truth #1: The ultimate responsibility is on the Shepherd, not the sheep.
It is the shepherd’s responsibility to meet the needs of the sheep. As we walk through the rest of this great Psalm, the shepherd will provide exactly what the sheep need exactly when they need it.
If you know anything about sheep, you’ll know that they are incapable of taking care of themselves. When they believe they know better than their shepherd and run off to a different pasture, they soon find themselves in danger or lost.
There are three results when we believe our Good Shepherd will provide for us. The first one is CONFIDENCE. The longer we walk with our Shepherd and we experience provision after provision from the Lord, our confidence in Him will grow. Over time, the well of our confidence will run deep.
We will also experience INNER PEACE & TRUST. If we honestly believe in our Shepherd to be our provider of what we need, when we face a situation where it appears that our need is not being met, we will come to believe, “If I don’t have now, I can conclude that it’s not good for me or I will have it in God’s timing.”
The third result of believing the ultimate responsibility is on the shepherd to provide and not the sheep, we will have CONTENTMENT. Whenever I do not have peace and rest, I will not be content. It’s impossible.
Our little dog, Rusty, is a piece of work. After finishing his bowl of food, he will look at us and begin to cry, whine, and complain. He can be so pathetic when he does this. But as soon as we refill his bowl, he will go over to check on it to see if it is indeed full. Then, he will walk away, lie down, and be at rest. In his little dog-like insecurity, Rusty is a complete wreck until he can actually see his bowl is full of food again. Even when he is no longer hungry.
How often do we cry, whine, and complain to God when what we “need” doesn’t show up in our timing? I’m afraid, all too often. If we truly trust in our Shepherd to meet our needs, we will have inner peace, trust, and contentment. When actual sheep are not close to the shepherd, they are so easily frightened, scared, and discontent. However, when sheep are close to their shepherd and a scary sound or a site appears, the sheep who look to their shepherd and keep their eyes on him are the sheep who don’t panic and run away in fear.
The second truth from this passage is this:
Truth #2: Our Shepherd loves and cares for us
The reality is, God provides our refuge, our protection, and our provision. Everything we need comes from Him. We must remain anchored in this truth: our Shepherd loves and cares for us. Jesus tells us in John 10:14-15 that he is the Good Shepherd and he will lay his life down for his sheep. That’s exactly what Jesus did on the cross. So, if you ever wonder if you are loved and cared for by Jesus, just look at the cross as your reminder that he does.
As you think about the Shepherd, I believe it is helpful to remember when you felt the love and care from God. It can be helpful to look back into the past and remember the times where God provided what you needed and when you needed it. But let’s not forget to remember how much God loves and cares for us in the present. If we have eyes to see, we will notice how much God is providing for us all the time.
God usually speaks to me through His word and through devotionals on Instagram. Typically, they are Instagram pictures of scripture which I call scripture on a screen. Although I don’t journal as much as I used to, I can pull out my phone and see all the pictures of when God gave me a verse at just the right time. Recently, I was anxious and then received an Instagram picture of Psalm 55:22 that says, “Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you.” Underneath the verse was this following saying:
Instead of praying, “Anywhere but here!,” we start to pray, “Since I am here, sustain me because I trust you.”
God has shown His love and care for me in the big things in my life. But God also shows His love and care for me all along the way, every day.
I agree that it is vital to do both. We need look back to the times where God provided at just the right time because these moments become pillars and markers of your faith. Years ago we were down to $5 to our name but still needed to buy groceries for our family. The next morning God sent someone by our house who had no idea what we were facing. He told us, “God told me to pick some things up for you.” We went to his van and it was filled with bags of groceries. He truly had no idea. But our Shepherd did.
We also need eyes to see the little blessings, provisions, and answered prayers that God delivers to us all the time. As a parent of three adult children, when I see God answering our prayers of provision for our kids, it’s just as if He provided for me. Be on the lookout for examples of how our Shepherd loves and cares for His sheep.
“The Lord is my shepherd, I have all that I need.” Psalm 23:1
If you are settled in your heart and mind with who God says He is in verse one of Psalm 23, you will be able to fully grasp and hold onto verses 2-6. Verse one will ANCHOR you for the other things our Good Shepherd will do for you. Even when you might be uncomfortable with what he is doing in your life. Here are some closing scripture that pulls together the truth of Psalm 23:1:
“Fear the Lord, you his holy people, for those who fear him lack nothing.” Psalm 34:9
“For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless.” Psalm 84:11
I will close with a verse from the Apostle Paul. Although Paul was in prison for preaching the good news of Jesus, he continued to rest in the love and care of his Good Shepherd:
“And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19