The 23rd Psalm has been a favorite among many believers for centuries. Many of us the learned this passage when we were a child. I remember quoting this verse as a young boy in public school as our daily prayer before class began.
There is just something calming about this passage of Scripture that speaks to the longing of our soul to be connected with our Creator. It’s not just a coincidence that David, a shepherd boy soon to become the greatest king Israel has even known, would pin this unique passage of Scripture. His firsthand account of how a shepherd loves, cares and disciplines his sheep is a perfect picture of how the Good Shepherd (Jesus) loves and cares for us.
When you observe the 23rd Psalm from a shepherd’s point of view there is depth to the passage that ascends normal human understanding. It becomes a picture of our Savior’s unique but complete care of His children. Each phrase tells of a different level of care and love that Jesus has for His children.
In this passage Jesus is the Shepherd and the sheep are His children. Because each phrase in this Psalm is packed with a unique truth I want touch on just a couple of phrases that are especially meaningful to me. “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.”
“The Lord is my Shepherd” – This speaks of the believers submission to God’s ownership, guidance and care. Many want to claim Jesus as their Shepherd but they are far from full submission. They want to live their life without accountability to His will. It’s like a sheep who keeps wandering off from the flock and starts grazing among poisonous weeds. Or the sheep who wanders from the flock and becomes easy prey for the wolves and coyotes. A sheep on his own puts himself in danger that he doesn’t have the wisdom to foresee or discern.
The same is true in our life. Anything but full submission to the Lord Jesus puts us in danger of going down a road we never intended. Submission is not following certain rules or regulations but living in a state of daily dependence upon the Savior for every aspect of our lives. It’s having such confidence in the Good Shepherd’s care that whatever comes in our life we know our Sovereign God is fully aware and in control, even though we may feel out of control.
“I shall not want” – This phrase is connected to the first phrase. Because the Lord is my Shepherd then I live in a condition of wanting nothing. It’s a phrase of contentment. When we are utterly dependent upon Him for our provision, care and love then our life is complete.
- He is our provision – ” And my God shall supply all your needs according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:19)
- He is our care – “Casting all your anxiety on Him for He cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7)
- We are the beneficiary of His unconditional love – “For I am convinced that…nothing shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
God’s plan of complete dependence upon Him allows us to find our contentment in Him, not in things, status, or acceptance by the culture. We are to be so dependent upon Him that when loss occurs we know our Shepherd is in control and has our back. We don’t crave or desire anything more. It frees us from the trap that satan sets to ensnare us into believing that we need more to be truly happy and content. As a follower of Jesus, contentment is truly the key to our happiness.
Is the Lord Jesus truly the Shepherd of your life, or are you trying to live life in two worlds? Can you say that you are content by resting in His love and care?
A partial surrender is not surrender at all. A shepherd cannot care and protect a sheep who thinks the grass is greener on the other side of the fence. Without true contentment we will live a life of always needing more.
Our life has a destiny and it can only be found as we give our life in full surrender to His control and leadership. As the Scripture declares, “He knows the plans He has for us.” (Jeremiah. 28:11)
Philip Keller in his classic book “A Shepherd Looks At Psalm 23” writes the following words:
“As I have moved among men and women from all strata of society as both a lay pastor and a scientist I have become increasingly aware of one thing. It is the boss/master in peoples lives who makes the difference in their destiny.”
Who is the boss/master of your life?