Scripture: Psalm 23:1 The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
Observation: In ancient times kings were often referred to as “shepherds” of their people. It was their job to secure provision and protection for their subjects. We also know David, to whom the psalm is attributed, was once an actual shepherd before becoming king, so such language was especially appropriate.
God was David’s king, so David trusted God for protection and provision “I shall not want”. David also had moments of fear and doubt as recorded in some of the psalms of lament. For instance, here’s Psalm 13:1, “1 How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?” But that sort of edge is not present in Psalm 23. Instead there is a confidence that, no matter the external circumstances (“though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death” v.4) God would provide and protect.
Application: First, I love the humanity of David (and other authors) we read in the psalms. Sometimes David was very brave and confident, other times – not so much. But that’s what makes the psalms so powerful. They echo the highs and lows of the human condition.
And while on one level I believe the Lord God is indeed my shepherd, that he will provide provision and protection, I don’t always live that way. Sometimes I do, but many times I don’t. Instead I’m anxious as if I’m not sure what God will do – despite the fact God has demonstrated his faithfulness over and over and over again. Still, the doubt remains.
And when I’m doubtful I get anxious. I worry. Instead of trusting in the Lord, I start striving – as if my world depends on me, my industry, my productivity, my capacity, my ingenuity. In short, I begin to live as if I have no heavenly Father. As if I have no Shepherd to guide me, to provide for me, to protect me. In my head I know this is not true, but my actions betray my stubborn doubt. Lord have mercy…
Prayer: Heavenly Father, this morning I find the words of your servant David compelling. I read in his words an ease, a trust, a confidence in who you are. You are the Shepherd who cares for your children. Today I ask that you would give to me a renewed sense of the truth of this verse. Not just something I understand in my head, but a confidence that comes from the inside out, a confidence that is given by grace. I pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.