It seems that no matter
what I am reading, studying or talking about lately I have come back to David’s
famous words in Psalm 23:1, “The LORD is my Shepherd. I shall not want.” I have
gone back and read that verse in several different English translations of
Scripture recently. Most stay with the King James Version but there are a few
that make what appear to be subtle changes. The New International Version says “The
LORD is my Shepherd. I shall not be in want.” Another version says “The LORD is
my Shepherd. I have everything I need.” And still another “The LORD is my
Shepherd. I am never in need.” The more I study and think about this verse the
more I wonder if we have somehow misinterpreted the spirit of David’s words. Was
David writing to others to motivate them to find all their wants and needs met
by following God? Was he making some sort of prosperous claim that would create
a desire for others to follow God or was he speaking to himself? Was this David’s
inner dialogue in which he was reminding himself that God was in control? Was he
slowing anxiety and stopping fear at the point of impact by declaring to
himself that situations and circumstances did not dictate his path of life but
instead it was the Shepherd that was leading, it was the LORD that was guiding
and like a sheep dependent upon the care, love and power of his shepherd David
could put all of his confidence in God and rest assured that even in the most
difficult of moments, he could trust God for comfort and find peace in the
goodness and mercy that were promised to follow him not just for all of his
life, but in every day of his life? Was this a promise that if God is my Shepherd
I will have everything I want or is it David saying “because God is my Shepherd
I choose to believe that I have everything I need”?

 

This is an entire change of
mindset for me. The challenge is not seeing God as a Shepherd; it is  seeing myself as a sheep. We have heard so many
different things about sheep, some true, some probably not, but the one thing
that I have seen is that sheep are dependent. Sheep need leadership, they need
protection, they need provision, they need care and they need constant
guidance. That sounds a lot like me. For sheep maturity is not being able to
outgrow the shepherd but instead growing into a place of following the shepherd
more closely. Mature sheep don’t wander off; their maturity has led them to
trust, to rely and to follow the shepherd. In Christendom we tend to believe
that maturity leads us to independence, to being more able than before, to
having so much wisdom that we live out of our maturity and strength. But I believe
the sheep and shepherd metaphor is supposed to continue, the more mature we
become in Christ the more we realize our need for Him, our dependence upon Him
and our opportunity to follow Him.

 

David was not telling us
that following God was the secret to having everything you ever wanted, he was
telling himself “I can be dependent because God is for me. I can yield because God
is able. I can follow because Christ is preeminent. Because the LORD is my
Shepherd I will not worry, I will not argue, I will not rebel, I will not need
all of questions answered and doubts settled before I can follow. Because the
LORD is my Shepherd I will follow Him down any path because at the end lies
green pastures, I can follow through any valley because the destination is beside
still waters and I can even endure any enemy simply because my Shepherd has
promised that He will always be with me.”

 

I am praying that David’s
inner dialogue that became his most famous Psalm could become my own
declarations to myself. I am tired of looking at God as my hope of getting what
I want out of life; I want to surrender to Him as my Shepherd which means I
need to humble myself to be His sheep. There is something powerful about
choosing to become powerless by placing all of our hopes, our hearts, our
dreams, our goals, our plans and our lives into the hands of the One who is
able to fend off the danger, provide for the journey and arrive at the destination.
“The LORD is my Shepherd. I will tell my heart, I shall not want.”

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