“The Lord is my shepherd; I have what I need.” – Psalms 23:1
There’s a reason I encourage reading several different translations of the Bible. I’ve read the 23rd Psalms hundreds of times in my life, and it’s always read, “the Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.” This morning I was doing my daily reading from the Christian Standard Version, and this is what I read. And it stopped me short.
"The Lord is my shepherd; I have what I need. He lets me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside quiet waters. He renews my life; he leads me along the right paths for his name's sake. Even when I go through the darkest valley, I fear no danger, for you are with me; your rod and your staff- they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Only goodness and faithful love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD as long as I live."
The subtle difference in wording makes a huge difference in meaning, which is why it caught me off guard. Most of us never want for anything we really need. We take it for granted we’ll always be able to find something to eat, something to wear, a place to live, transportation. All the things we consider necessities. Even so, there’s always something else we want. Newer, more fashionable clothes, a house with all the newest gadgets, a nice new car. “I shall not want” doesn’t sound as much a statement of sufficiency as a command to be content and stop wishing for more stuff.
But “I have what I need” sheds an entirely different light on the verse. It made me realize I do have everything I need. We have food to eat, a nice comfortable home, clothing to wear, and money to pay the bills. We have also been blessed to live in a beautiful place, a glorious part of God’s creation. As Rita and I have grown older together we’ve learned there’s not much we need to live a life of contentment. God continues to provide the things that are necessary, and a whole lot more.
But stop for a minute, go back and read that verse again in its entirety, or you’ll miss the real meaning of what David is saying. “The Lord is my shepherd; I have what I need.” Those aren’t two different thoughts; they’re one. The rest of the psalm explains David’s initial declaration. Having the Lord as the one who protected and guided him was all David needed. Because the rest goes with it. What David is saying is essentially this: “Because I have the Lord as my shepherd I have everything I need, and here’s why.”
When God is your shepherd and you belong to him, you can stop worrying. He’ll guide you into peaceful rest and protect you from danger. He’ll always be there to comfort and assure you even when things get dark and scary. He’ll make sure you have what you need. He will care for you.
It’s hard to believe that when you’re having trouble making ends meet or wondering where the next meal might be found. When your health fails, your family and friends reject you, or you find yourself in a very dark place, it’s hard to claim those promises. But when the Lord is your shepherd, you have one who will carry those burdens with you. Listen to what the Shepherd himself has to say.
“Therefore I tell you: Don’t worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Isn’t life more than food and the body more than clothing? Consider the birds of the sky: They don’t sow or reap or gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren’t you worth more than they? Can any of you add one moment to his life span by worrying? And why do you worry about clothes? Observe how the wildflowers of the field grow: They don’t labor or spin thread. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was adorned like one of these. If that’s how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and thrown into the furnace tomorrow, won’t he do much more for you—you of little faith? So don’t worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you.” (Matthew 6:25–33)
“I am the good shepherd. I know my own, and my own know me, just as the Father knows me, and I know the Father. I lay down my life for the sheep.” (John 10:14–15)
Jesus is our shepherd. He did lay down his life for his sheep (that’s us) so Satan and his wolves could no longer come in and savage the flock. When you surrender your life to Jesus you come under his protection and care. And he promises to take care of you. I like how the last verses are translated this version. “Only goodness and faithful love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD as long as I live.” No matter what this world tries to do to you, Jesus will always care for you, and he will see to it that even in the hardest of hard times goodness and His faithful love will pursue you all your days. Even here and now we’ll dwell with God and He with us. The world will try to overwhelm us with hopelessness and anxiety, but by looking to our shepherd they’ll be stopped in their tracks. Jesus is what we need. If we have him, it’s more than enough. That’s why with joy in our hearts we say along with David, “The Lord is my shepherd; I have what I need.”