Today’s Text and Thought of Encouragement:
“Yet to us God has unveiled and revealed…by and through His Spirit for the Holy Spirit searches diligently, exploring and examining everything, even sounding the profound and bottomless things of God, the divine counsels and things hidden and beyond man’s scrutiny…Now we have not received the spirit that belongs to the world, but the Holy Spirit who is from God, given us that we might realize and comprehend and appreciate the gifts of divine favor…and blessing so freely and lavishly bestowed on us by God.”
“Dwell deep, my soul! Forbid thou shouldst stay shallow!
Dwell deep in thought, in purpose, wish, and will!
Dwell deep in God, - let His own presence hallow;
Thy inner being let His presence fill.”
J. Danson Smith
Today’s Study Text:
1. “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not be in want.”
2. “God, my Shepherd! I don’t need a thing.”
The Message Bible
3. “The Lord is my Shepherd to feed, guide, and shield me. I shall not lack.”
4. “The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want.”
Psalm 23 – Part 6
“What More Do I Need!”
“‘I shall not want.’ The God who is named in Psalm 23 is trustworthy – with our lives, with our choices, with our fears and losses. Living out of a fundamental attitude of trust is counterintuitive, even countercultural, in modern Western cultures. To say with the psalmist, ‘I shall not want,’ directly challenges all of the advertising that is designed to create a felt need that a particular product can satisfy. It is not easy for us to resist all of the voices that seek to heighten our sense of dissatisfaction with the gifts we have from God: life itself, community/communion with persons and with all creation, the capacity to feed and shelter and cherish each being…‘I shall not want’ is a statement of fact, based on trust, that is a reality check against our feelings of neediness.”
Catherine L. Kelsey
Feasting of the Word
Year C, Volume 2
If I made a list of my “wants,” what would be on that list?
When Psalm 23: 1 states, “I shall not want,” what do I think this phrase means?
“My God will liberally supply, fill the full, your every need according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”
“Oh, bind this bright assurance to your heart; and whatever perils may menace and threaten you, whatever wants may assail, go forward, stepping out into the dark, encouraging your heart by this sweet refrain: “The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want.”
F. B. Meyer
“‘I shall not lack’…this term is a present-tense assertion that Yahweh’s (Jehovah’s) protective attentiveness assures that the speaker has everything needed in order to live a full and whole life. The Shepherd-King has anticipated and supplied all needs. This is an enormous word in a consumer society of endless wants and unfulfilled desires.”
Texts for Preaching
N.R.S.V. – Year B
There are many great advantages living in a small town. Neighbors you know and friends you easily make are just two of the “treats” Jim and I have found endear us to the small-town life.
One of the special features that still takes place in a city as small as the one we live in relates to the bi-weekly newspaper which details all of the activities taking place throughout each week. This, I might add, includes the reporting in the Thursday issues of the Red Rock News the sermon titles prepared by the pastors of many of the local churches. Author Robert J. Morgan, is his terrific book, The Lord Is My Shepherd, observes that many newspapers, no matter the city size, used to routinely carry sermon titles in their Saturday newspapers. Referencing this tradition, he shares a story regarding the city of Norfolk, Virginia. As he tells the story: “Reverend R. I. Williams of Fairmont Park Methodist Church picked up the phone and called the local paper to give them his sermon topic. ‘The Lord is my Shepherd,’ he said. The person on the other end said, ‘Is that all?’ Reverend Williams replied, ‘That’s enough.’ The next day the church page carried his sermon topic as ‘The Lord Is My Shepherd – That’s Enough!’” As Robert Morgan goes on to share, “(God) is enough. Enough to meet our needs calm our nerves, clear our vision, restore our souls, ensure our future, and bless our day.”
Over the last few months, as I have read Psalm 23 over and over again, it has been the power of Psalm 23: 1, which I have found to be of indescribable encouragement to me each day. On numerous occasions, when I’ve felt squeezed and stressed, pressed beyond my own human endurance, I’ve found a strength in the words, “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want,” that has, quite honestly, surprised me.
As I dug deeper into the four words which are contained in our study text for today, “I shall not want,” I began to recognize that looking at the original Hebrew text helps illuminate the Psalmist, David’s, words in a most enlightening fashion. Roy Heller, a professor of Old Testament Theology provided me with new insight as I studied the phrase “I shall not want/lack.” He points out that this second phrase in Psalm 23 is “unusual in two different ways. First the verb ‘hasar’ does not have an object.” And then to clarify for his students, Professor Heller provides two examples from Scripture which underscore the point he is making. In Deuteronomy 2: 7 and Deuteronomy 8: 9, Moses told the Children of Israel that through all their wilderness wanderings, they “lacked nothing.” And furthermore, Moses encouraged the people with the fact that they were going to a country, Canaan, where they would “lack nothing.” There’s one more example that Roy Heller offers where the word “lack” is followed by an “object,” and it is in Psalm 34: 10 where we are told, “The young lions do lack, and suffer hunger; but they that week the Lord shall not want (lack) any good thing.”
You may be wondering where this little grammar lesson is leading? Heller gives this explanation: “Here in Psalm 23, no object appears at all! The point is that “lack” simply is not a part of the experience of those whose shepherd is God.” In showing the second way this phrase is unusual, Heller notes that “there is no ‘so’ or ‘therefore’ between the two clauses. The fact that ‘the Lord is my shepherd’ and the fact that ‘I do not lack’ are so connected…one fact does not ‘cause’ the other. The shepherding of God and the absence of lack are simply the two sides of the same coin. They are the same.”
Now if this has your head spinning, don’t fret. When I first read this commentary, I didn’t get it. But as I pondered how I often relate to my Shepherd, especially when I’m feeling needy and lacking, I came to recognize that, indeed, I frequently say to God, “You’re my shepherd so I should not lack.” In Dorothy’s world, I find myself in the quicksand called cause and effect. If I do something, then a certain result should be the end product. If I follow God, no evil should befall me. If I have God as my Shepherd, I should have my wants met.
In his book, The Lord Is My Shepherd, Harold Kushner explains that part of the problem in deciphering exactly what the phrase, “I shall not want” means is clarified if we look at the Hebrew which renders this phrase, “The Lord is my Shepherd, what more do I need?” Kushner offers a perspective that I find helps me understand what David was conveying in this four word phrase. “In our society, we have tended to confuse God with Santa Claus and to believe that prayer means making an inventory of everything we would like to have but don’t have, and persuading God that we deserve it…You will be a happier, a more content person if you focus on what God has provided you with, rather than wishing you had more.”
In summing up his thoughts on Psalm 23:1, author Harold Kushner penned an extremely thought-provoking reading which helped me, as I hope it does you, to focus on our Shepherd, whose world is not one where we will lack. For in truth, we will find that our Shepherd is, indeed, enough. He is all I could ever need or want.
“The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall often want. I shall yearn. I shall long. I shall aspire. I shall continue to miss the people and the abilities that are taken from my life as loved ones die and skills diminish. I shall probe the empty spaces in my life like a tongue probing a missing tooth. But I will never feel deprived or diminished if I don’t get what I yearn for, because I know how blessed I am by what I have.”
Harold S. Kushner
The Lord Is My Shepherd
In Heavenly Love Abiding
“In heavenly love abiding,
No change my heart shall fear;
And safe is such confiding,
For nothing changes here.
The storm may roar without me,
My heart may low be laid;
But God is round about me,
And can I be dismayed?
Wherever He may guide me,
No want shall turn me back;
My Shepherd is beside me,
And nothing can I lack.
His wisdom ever waketh,
His sight is never dim;
He knows the way He taketh,
And I will walk with Him.”
Anna L. Waring
1820 – 1910
Dorothy Valcárcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
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