The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. - Psalm 23:1
I could spend months talking about the Lord as our shepherd (and I have—just ask my ladies' Sunday School class), but for the sake of continuing our study through the book of Psalms, I'll try to reduce my thoughts to this one post.
As I understand it, shepherds have a personal relationship with their sheep. Not only does a shepherd know each sheep by name, but he is also aware of the personality, weakness, and quirk of each sheep. He knows them better than they know themselves. And as the shepherd, he has a huge responsibility to care for those sheep because, let's face it, sheep can't exactly take care of themselves. They're not the brightest animal among God's creation, now are they? (And of all the creatures God could relate us to, which one does He choose? That doesn't say much for our intelligence, now does it?)
The fact is that sheep are helpless. Unlike many other animals, sheep have no natural means of protection. No claws or sharp teeth or stink spray. Not only that, but they are navigationally challenged (like myself), making it difficult to find good pasture or clean water. They don't have any enhanced senses, so they are preyed upon by wolves and other wild animals. Helpless, completely helpless! And yet, anytime I see a field of sheep, they look so content and peaceful. Why? Because they are. As long as the shepherd is nearby, they feel safe, and a good shepherd never leaves his sheep.
Psalm 23 is one of the most familiar Bible passages of all time, and it paints a beautiful picture of the Lord's role as the Shepherd in our lives. Penned by David, a man who knew a thing or two about shepherding, this psalm begins with today's name: "The Lord is my Shepherd." And on the heels of that statement, David proclaims, "I shall not want."
As a young child, I was confused by that verse, for in my immature understanding, I took the verse to mean that David didn't want the Lord as his shepherd. I was too young and uneducated to realize that the word "want" here is not defined as "desire" but rather as "need, require, or lack." So, in fact, what David is saying is this: "Because the Lord is my shepherd, I need nothing else. There is nothing I lack." And then he explains that statement in great detail:
vs. 2 - He maketh me to lie down in green pastures. - The Shepherd provides rest.
vs. 2 - He leadeth me beside the still waters. - The Shepherd provides refreshment.
vs. 3 - He restoreth my soul. - The Shepherd provides salvation.
vs. 3 - He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake. - The Shepherd provides guidance.
vs. 4 - Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil. - The Shepherd provides peace and safety.
vs. 4 - For thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. - The Shepherd provides companionship and correction.
vs. 5 - Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies. - The Shepherd provides nourishment.
vs. 6 - Thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. - The Shepherd provides blessings above and beyond what we can ask or think.
vs. 7 - Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life. - The Shepherd provides the fruit of the Spirit by which we can live our lives.
vs. 7 - I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever. - The Shepherd provides hope for the future.
Let's face it, the psalmist could have simply said, "The Lord is my Shepherd. 'Nough said!" But he didn't. Instead, he made sure that there could be no misunderstanding. He spelled it out so that even the most ignorant or naïve among us could understand. If the Lord is our Shepherd (and if you're saved, He is), then He's all we need. No matter what comes our way, He will provide. Just like the shepherd, God loves His sheep and will do everything in His power to care for us. We've already established that there is no limit to His power, so what does that mean for us? It means there is no need too great, no situation too dire, no foe too frightening, and no wanderer forsaken. It means we're taken care of. It means the Shepherd is all we need!