“The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures.”—Psalm 23:1-2
Perhaps the most popular chapter in the whole bible, Psalm 23 has had its fair share of misrepresentations. The most popular one has to do with verse 1b which says “I shall not want”. To many of us, this means that God, our shepherd, will provide whatever we want.
The writer of this Psalm is extolling God for his grace and care and prays that like a sheep which stays under the care of the shepherd, he will stay in the care of his God and do only what his God requires, not what he wants.
The shepherd does not give the sheep what it wants, he gives it only what it needs. For starters, the sheep don’t know what they need. They are lost in the web of wants and will not waste any time crossing over into someone else’s wheat field and eating it all up before moving to the next one.
We are in so many ways like sheep. We jump onto anything that promises life even if it really spells death. We have come to the disastrous conclusion that for our lives to have worth and meaning, all we need is money or a Galaxy 8+ and then later, if we remember, we will add: “…and may be God.” But the reason we want God is not because He is God but because we think He has stuff to give to us. That is how we have reduced this beautiful Psalm to a program of self-aggrandisement.
The truth of the matter is that what the sheep need is not the corn or wheat in the plantation across; all they need is the Shepard. He leads the sheep to where he knows the grass is good not where the sheep decide to go. The shepherd does not give the sheep whatever they want, He offers only what they need—Himself.
Jesus Christ the Great Shepherd offered to die in place of the sheep so that the sheep could have Him as their Shepherd in this life and beyond it. Because He infinitely knows that what the sheep need, first and foremost, is not all the grass under the sun but Him who created the grass and makes it grow.