Psalm 23 is and has always been a very powerful poem. It is also part of the Holy Bible. It was penned over three thousand years ago by King David the shepherd who became the most notable King (besides Yeshua) in the history of Israel. He birthed the golden age of Israel (in antiquity), which his son Solomon carried on. He was a man after God’s own heart. He was a warrior, a worshiper, a brilliant strategist, loyal, compassionate, yet ruthless, wise, yet foolish, crafty, diligent, determined, ambitious, emotional, passionate, a lover of love, and faithful. He was a very complex man.
The Psalms that King David wrote are beautiful and reflect his complexity and the glory of God in such a resplendent way. I have been in a season of life lately that has been… different than any before it, and Psalm 23 seems to be the theme of this season.
The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I lack.
This is such a lovey pair of phrases. They are so complete in how resolutely they express the emotion of the message they convey and are so wonderfully married. One of these two ideas can sort of exist separately. You can (if you are filthy rich) be in a state of lacking nothing in the physical sense. However I don’t think either of these phrases can really work at all if they are opposed within the heart of a person.
Lets explore the first phrase: The Lord is my shepherd. A shepherd is the most important being in the life of a sheep. The shepherd leads the sheep to food, water and shelter. The shepherd watches out for and defends against predators, thieves, and calamity of any sort. The shepherd cares for the wounded. The shepherd stays. The shepherd lays down his life for his sheep, because to the shepherd the sheep are life. In the book The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho there is a lovely section about how a shepherd feels about his sheep. The story is lovely but that has always stuck out to me. I would quote it here but I cannot as I loaned my copy of the book out and never got it back which is fine (really!). Anyway you get the drift. The Shepherd is the man.
In order for a sheep to know where to got it must trust that the shepherd knows what he or she is doing. The sheep must also trust that the shepherd is not out to get them, and go where the shepherd leads. If the sheep don’t follow the shepherd than he is not a shepherd but instead he is just a dude hanging out with a bunch of sheep. Which is kinda sad… and weird.
So the point: in order for the Lord to be my shepherd I have to trust Him, and follow otherwise He is not a shepherd.
Lastly lets take stock of the second phrase: there is nothing I lack. In America where materialism and capitalism thrive this is a hard phrase to mentally grasp sometimes. I can almost always think of something I want or need. However in reality, my bills are paid, I have a fulfilling job, a running car, more shoes than make sense, a roof over my head and good food to eat everyday. I have family that loves and supports me, friends that love me, and my health. Really I lack nothing, yet I am always fighting the feeling discontent over the few things in my life that aren’t exactly how I want them to be. Why on earth is that? Okay so I still live at home, have a bigger waist than I’d like, have excess skin due to extreme weight loss, and am single. I realize those are not petty shallow things to not be thrilled over, but still. It’s a matter of perspective. Why focus on what I don’t like? Instead I need to see all that is right and good so I can more easily trust that God will guide me to a good place with those things that aren’t quite right still, just as He has with the things that are good in my life. Really the good FAR exceeds the bad.
I think this last phrase makes the first one possible and is the key to unlocking a new level of relationship with God. “There is nothing I lack” is a declaration of truth and it is also a statement of faith to the things that still are in the process of coming to a good place. If I can’t say that then I don’t trust my Shepherd. If I don’t trust my Shepherd than I will lack all sorts of things.
Sheep can go rouge and they can survive but…You can read about this guy here: http://www.neatorama.com/2013/07/28/This-Sheep-Wasnt-Shorn-for-Six-Years/
I don’t know about you but I don’t think that guy looks very happy. I bet he could barely move. He definitely was not living in a state of lacking nothing. What a mess! If I can’t trust my Shepherd then I can’t say I lack nothing, and if I can’t say in faith that I lack nothing than I can’t move my heart to a deeper place of trust in my Shepherd. This sheep named Shrek is a great picture of not trusting the shepherd. He didn’t like being shorn so he hid in a cave for six years. Being shorn may indeed be unpleasant but it is actually good and helpful to the sheep. Sometimes God asks me to do things that don’t make sense (like stepping out of ministry) or are unpleasant (like being emotionally transparent, honestly I would rather lick my floors clean), but these things are for my good. I must learn to trust Him, all of the way even when I am afraid, or uncomfortable.
The Lord is my Shepherd; there is nothing I lack.
© Rachel Anne Redfield 2015