(Note: I’ve created some new categories for posts. One of these is the “Sunday Psalm,” which will contain either songs I’ve written or snippets from the book of Psalms in the Bible. This is the first such post.)
Since I’m starting a new feature that closely involves Psalms, I figure it would be appropriate to begin with the most well-known psalm of the 150 we have in the Bible:
A while back, I looked through this psalm and considered the words David chose. I found that all of it tied into one key point: God is the One I need.
(Unfortunately, I later lost the files and the notes for that study. So now I get to recreate it.)
I’ll take it one verse per post, because these time-tested verses contain something of lasting value, worthy of careful consideration.
The Lord is my shepherd,
I shall not want. (NASB)
God, my shepherd! I don’t need a thing. (MSG)
God is the One.
David starts with “the Lord.” Not “Lords” or “Gods” or “the Cosmos” or “my true inner spiritual self” or any such thing.
In ancient Israel, monotheism was one of the key religious points that separated the Jews from the nations around them. Starting with Moses, the message was “Hear O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One.” Other commandments clarified that the Lord was to also be their only God. “You shall have no other gods before me.”
David sets his focus clearly right from the beginning. No other god, no other name, no spiritually vague concept will suffice. David’s eyes are on the Lord.
God is the One who cares for me.
David chooses his own childhood experience and sees how God exemplifies that role. The shepherd loves and cares for the sheep. But the shepherd is not merely a friendly or fawning pet owner with their favorite animal. Shepherds take on several roles-as we’ll see in future verses.
Most importantly, I think of modern, socially-acceptable spirituality, which leads us to a Buddy Christ that loves us too much to discipline us, a Santa-God that gives us whatever we want if we are good boys and girls, an Oprah Spirit that stands back and encourages us to do whatever we think is best for us. Too often, the god we like to hear about is the one that is on our level.
The shepherd is not on the sheep’s level. He’s not their buddy all the time. He’s not out to let them “discover themselves.”
The shepherd can’t treat the sheep that way. Sheep need correction and firm guidance. They go through circumstances they don’t like because it’s healthy for them. They aren’t left to their own devices. They need a watchful eye.
God assumes the responsibility to provide all that for us. He steps up and says, “Let Me take care of you. This is My job.”
And let’s be honest. Look around. On our own, we can’t even do it right anyway.
God is the One who meets our needs.
The older meaning of “want” is used in most familiar versions. It doesn’t mean there will never be a time that I feel a desire for something I do not possess. It doesn’t mean that I will always have anything I wish. Again, God is not Santa. He’s not the ATM.
It means that I will have my needs met. Real needs, not just “really wants.”
“I really want that video game, God… Your Word says I shall not want, so… I need 60 bucks. Hook me up?”
The Message captures the meaning well. David is saying, “If I have God, I don’t need anything else. I’m good.”
Consider Paul’s comments in Philippians 4:11-13.
I don’t have a sense of needing anything personally. I’ve learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I’m just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I’ve found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am. (MSG)
This is where Paul speaks about God the Provider – “My God shall supply all your needs” (Php. 4:19 NASB).
Did Paul endure hardship and tough times? Absolutely. I have no doubt in my mind that there were moments where he had some wants, maybe even some valid needs.
But his experience was that in every situation, God came through, whether the answer was “yes” or “no.”
God is the One who genuinely cares for us and meets our genuine needs.