Sunday, August 16, 2015

The Lord is My Shepherd

The Lord is My Shepherd
August 17, 2015
Psalm 23:1  "The Lord is my shepherd, I will not lack anything."

You have heard the famous verse quoted as, "The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want."  It is a comforting verse, a pleasant verse, and a desirable verse to quote, inspiring peace and satisfaction.  It is quoted at many funerals, it is quoted when we feel we are lacking, and it is quoted when we need our hearts to rest by still waters.  But I do not believe many people understand what the verse, and immediate verses following it, really mean.  And if a few of us understand what it really means, then we don't live like it on a constant basis.  If you study the verses, you'll see it quite differently.

Just focusing on the first few verses of the full passage, the Lord is likened to a shepherd.  This first theme is inspiring of peace, suggesting the Lord is a care-giver, a protector, someone who is watching out for us.  The second theme introduced is, "I shall not want," as a state of stability, confidence in what the Lord will do for us.  The first full sentence is actually a summation of the entire passage.  "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want."  It tells us the Lord is our protector and care-giver, and we will not lack anything.  And this is precisely what most people believe the verse to suggest.  And most people would be wrong.

The passage starts out as a declarative statement.  Try reading it like this: "The Lord is MY shepherd."  The writer was making a bold statement of his relationship with the Lord.  If a person is to declare the Lord as a shepherd, and as MY shepherd, it conveys a sense of submission and a degree of ownership.  The author of this passage was saying he submits to the Lord's leadership.  This is further evidenced when the author writes in the subsequent verses, "He leads me beside still waters."  The Lord cannot lead if we are not submitted to Him fully.  In the analogy of the shepherd, the author is suggesting he is a sheep.  A sheep has absolutely NO say in where the sheep will be led.  A sheep will have absolutely no say in how the shepherd provides for it, and the sheep will not be his own, but under the protective ownership of the Shepherd.  The sheep MUST live in constant trust of the shepherd to fulfill his job.  While initially a comfortable verse, it can be quite unsettling if we want ownership of the direction for our lives.

It can be further unsettling if you, as a Christian, want to believe part of the verse but not all of it.  Read it in a modern version of the verse with emphasis and it sounds like this: "I submit to the Lord's leadership, and I will lack no GOOD THING."  If you want to believe the original "I shall not want" part of the verse, you have to submit to the fact that the second part of the verse CANNOT be true, unless the Lord is your shepherd, your leader.  Furthermore, it isn't that you will not ever be left wanting anything in this life, but that you will not lack the appropriate and healthy things in life.  You will certainly have "wants" in this world, even if the Lord is leading you, but He will not satisfy those wants if they are not healthy for you physically or spiritually.

Lastly, in order to have the peace of a sheep being led beside still waters, you must fully trust in the Lord at all times.  The Lord can lead you to rest by still waters, but if you don't trust in Him, then you can be sitting beside still waters with angst in your heart.  A sheep doesn't worry about the shepherd fulfilling his duties, so why would you worry about the Lord not doing His job if you submitted to Him?  If you still have worry in your heart, then it can mean either of two things--either you are not fully submitted to His leadership or you don't trust Him to do His job.

Let the Lord be your shepherd and you truly will have all you actually need in your life.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Ps 23:1-3, Ps 34:10, Ps 84:11-12, Matt 6:33, Romans 14:17, James 4:3

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