The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
As familiar as the 23rd Psalm is, it’s worth revisiting not just as a Psalm relegated to special liturgical occasions, but as a prayer and song for everyday life. Today we’ll sit with the second half of verse one to consider the kind of life that the writer of the Psalm 23 is offering.
The more traditional rendering of this psalm is to use the phrase, “I shall not want” (NKJV). The NIV 2011 along with other versions translate the Hebrew to a more contemporary, “I lack nothing” (Psalm 23:1, NIV 2011). This phrasing clarifies that it isn’t lack of desire that the Shepherd-led life brings, but a fullness of God’s goodness—a fullness that results in no need for anything more. It is the abundant life of following the Shepherd.
Interestingly, Jesus uses this shepherd imagery for himself in John 10, claiming to be a “good shepherd” (John 10:11) and a “door” for the sheep through whom abundant life comes (John 10:7). One can imagine that Jesus (and his listeners) had Psalm 23 in mind when Jesus referred to himself as the good shepherd. Jesus points to himself when telling his listeners about the Psalm 23 quality of life, life that lacks nothing and has unending abundance.
Believing that God offers a life that lacks nothing might be theologically simple for some, but for everybody there comes a time when our daily lives clearly don’t feel like a life of abundance. We get a cancer diagnosis. We lose our sobriety. The investment doesn’t work out. A relationship sours. Depression comes back. Our leadership is criticized. A rumor spreads. An unjust rule hinders us. When life seems to crumble, where is this “life without lack” that Psalm 23 offers?
As we continue to meditate on the 23rd Psalm, we will be reminded that the writer actually believed God was a good provider even though it appeared he lacked many necessities. Jesus proclaimed abundant life for all who followed him even though he himself was heading toward the cross. Perhaps you also might need to be encouraged that God has not abandoned you during an apparent season of lack. Tomorrow we will delve into this further as we capture a more specific vision of the abundance that Psalm 23 offers.
Something to Think About:
Dallas Willard prayed every day his own paraphrase of Psalm 23, beginning the Psalm like this: “The Lord is my Shepherd, I have life without lack.” A book was posthumously released by Larry Burtoft based on Willard’s lectures to a Sunday school class and aptly titled Life Without Lack: Living in the Fullness of Psalm 23 (Thomas Nelson, 2018). Apparently up until his death Willard believed and lived his life experiencing the abundant life that Jesus offers. He truly believed God at his word: that those who followed God would lack nothing as they centered their lives around the good shepherd, Jesus.
Something to Do:
Write down a list of things that you may think are “lacking” in your life.
I don’t have enough…Money. Time. Experience. Beauty. Patience. Support. Friendships. Chemistry. Followers. Energy. Health.
Or consider how a converse statement might help you see this from a different angle.
I have too many…Options. Critics. Problems. Deficiencies. Voices. Deficits. Disabilities. Weaknesses. Issues. Faults.
Where do you sense the Lord nudging you toward an insight into your life and leadership?
“Lord Jesus Christ, We are so thankful to you that you have said, ‘Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.’ We are thankful for the ease with which you walked upon this earth, the generosity and kindness you showed to people, the devotion with which you cared for those who were out of the way and in trouble, the extent to which you even loved your enemies and laid down your life for them. We are so thankful to believe that this is a life for us, a life without lack, a life of sufficiency.” (Dallas Willard, Life Without Lack, p. xiii).