We went over Psalm 23 a few weeks ago in Sunday school. I’ve been thinking quite a lot about it since then. What struck me, on this reading, was the first verse: The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.
I’ve always read that verse in context of today’s definition of “want”: desire, crave. Reading with that definition, the onus for the act of not wanting is on my shoulders. But that is not what God meant at all. The Hebrew word for “want” in this verse is the older definition: to lack. “I shall not lack” puts the responsibility squarely on the shoulders of the Shepherd.
I’ve been thinking about that difference in terms of specifics. Look at it in these two sentences:
I shall not crave peace.
I shall not lack peace.
Wow. “I shall not want” does require something of me. It requires me to stop striving. To rest. To trust. To keep my eyes off the things around me—both the good and the bad—and keep them on Jesus, my Shepherd, my Provider. And yet it goes beyond “me,” too. This same statement is made to every believer, so I don’t have to worry that my brother or sister in Christ won’t have everything they need, when they need it. They won’t lack, if Christ is their Shepherd, just as I won’t lack.
I think there is great freedom in realizing “I will not lack” versus “I will not desire.” Our flesh still desires so many things. But the way to combat that flaw of sinful man is by knowing, believing, clinging to the fact that “I will not lack” something vital and necessary to my life because the Lord is my Shepherd.
I’m sure I’ve heard a pastor say all this at some point in my life, but sometimes it takes me a while to get it. And I’m still not sure I get it completely. But isn’t that the best part? I will not lack for understanding—even when it comes a little at a time over the course of many, many years.