Have you ever felt that the United States is filled with people that are never satisfied? We always want more. There is always something better, or something we would have done differently. We are not satisfied with what we have. It is never enough. Christians can get sucked into this mindset as easily as anybody else. The aim for personal wealth and security has become acceptable as a goal in life and is expected to be attained or provided by some outside means. But the Bible is clear that these goals are not to be our focus. According to Psalm 23:1, we already have everything we need because the Lord is our overseer, protector and provider. Our earthly desires must be replaced with the knowledge that we already have everything we need because Our Shepherd has made sure of it. This is not a simple task, but it carries more worth than all the riches this world could offer.
Craig Broyles in his commentary on Psalms noted that Psalm 23 a "journey of nourishment, both along the way and at the final destination". And the pictures painted in this psalm do depict that interpretation. We always tend to "see" this psalm in the settings we are used to: idyllic hillsides dotted with puffy white sheep grazing happily on lovely green grass and clover. But that is not the kind of shepherding that takes place in Israel! On the contrary, the grazing areas of the Negev and Judean hills are merely dotted with green amongst the sandy dirt of Israeli soil. The "green places" of Psalm 23 are actually found at the bottom of wadiis, those gorge-like ravines cut out by the spring rains. Sheep are notoriously poor at finding safety in them, which is why the shepherd must guide them. It is in these journeys to and from the green "places" (not pastures), that the shepherd must understand the lay of the land and how to navigate his way through it.
The wilderness can be a harsh and threatening place. And no one knew this better than the psalm's author, David, who was a shepherd in his youth. Spiros Zodhiates noted that Psalm 23 was written during a time when David was fleeing Saul. He was forced to wander from place to place, living in exile among strangers and enemies, and separated from his family and friends. And yet the Psalm begins with one of the greatest declarations in the Bible, "The Lord is my Shepherd, therefore I lack nothing." Do you, like me, find this to be an incredulous statement? When Hurricane Sandy hit our area a few years back she took out the power for a week. Of course we made do with what we could but I must confess, I wasn't always a happy camper! Thankfully towards the end of the week our neighbor was able to purchase a generator and hooked us up with enough power to run the refrigerator and an electric skillet but I must confess it was a battle to keep a positive attitude at times. And yet David, in the midst of his trials, affirms that as long as the Lord is his shepherd, he has everything he needs. The apostle Paul also echoed this same sentiment in Phil. 4:10-13.
Although David's situation could emphasize what he does not have, David uses it to remind him of the kind of Lord he serves. David recalls the days of his youth when he himself cared for a flock that completely trusted him for everything. He sees the Lord doing the same things for him. The Lord is often called the Shepherd of Israel (Gen. 48:15; Ps. 28:9; 79:13; 80:1; 95:7; 100:3; Is. 40:11; Jer. 17:16; 31:10; 50:19; Ez. 34:11-16). While the word in Hebrew that we translate "lack nothing" means to be needy, or in general a failure of something to be fully complete, whole or sufficient, David indicates in Psalm 23:1 that the one whose shepherd is the Lord, will not be found wanting in any way. Zodhiates put it this way, "What a vivid, comforting thought for him to conceive of the Lord as his Shepherd and then to sum up the whole thought of the psalm with the words, "I shall not want". This affirmation seems even more powerful in light of all that’s happening in the world today. David’s picture of the Lord as Our Shepherd is just as vivid and comforting today to the Christian who, in the midst of the turmoil and frustrations of life fully understands that the Lord is his Shepherd also, and therefore, he shall not want." I couldn't say it any better, but I hope when the power goes out next time that I live it better!
Ann LeFevre, M. Div.
https://www.annhlefevre.com; Olivetreeann@mail.com; https://www.linkedin.com/in/annhlefevre; https://www.facebook.com/ann.h.lefevre