Dear Friends in Jesus Christ…,
“The Lord is my Shepherd I shall not want”, Psalm 23 is this week’s Responsorial Psalm. Psalm 23 is probably one of the best known passages in the Bible, but sometimes we can become so familiar with these words that we may forget the meaning behind them. This Psalm makes us feel better. In reality, it not only brings comfort, but it also brings very challenging words. Words which challenge us to have complete confidence and total trust in God’s ability to shepherd us. Words which challenge us to rely on God’s promises to protect us and provide for our every need. Words which challenge us to give God full control of our lives. Words which challenge us to have a real personal relationship with God, knowing that we belong to Him and are safe and secure in His care.
Think about what the words of this Psalm mean to you. Do you just think it is a nice poem which somebody else has written or can you also call the words your own? Do you let the words penetrate deep into your heart recognizing your need for a Good Shepherd in your life? Like the Psalmist, do you truly know the Lord as your Shepherd? Many people can recite this Psalm, but the true meaning only comes alive when you know in your heart that the Lord is your Shepherd. The knowledge of that relationship not only comforts and strengthens us, but also it challenges us to look into our hearts, to see the love the Good Shepherd has for us and to respond by faithfully following Him and committing our lives to Him.
Only when you can say, ‘The Lord is my Shepherd’, can you say ‘I shall not want’ – the second part of the statement is dependent on the first. So can you truly say that the Lord is your Shepherd and that you are His sheep? Maybe you are happy to call the Lord your Shepherd but are you happy to be known as a sheep? I always had this question, why does the bible compare us with sheep? Sheep are not the brightest of creatures – they’re stupid and stubborn – I would rather be likened to a soaring eagle or a cunning tiger! But the point is that no one cares for the sheep in the same way that a shepherd does and despite their stupidity, the shepherd still shows continual care for His sheep. A good shepherd is all a sheep needs since a good shepherd, by his very nature will always provide and protect his sheep at all costs giving each one individual care. The good shepherd knows and understands his sheep but the sheep also need to know the shepherd and to listen to his voice – it is a relationship. We are His sheep, but, will you allow the Lord to be your Shepherd? The Psalmist says that when the Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. We live in a consumer culture where most of society wants everything. So many people are trapped in a ‘prison of want’ – always wanting something better – a new car, a new job, a new house, a new relationship and they assume that getting that one thing will give them satisfaction and yet if they do get it, they end up just wanting more!
I was reading the Mathew Kelly’s book, How Modern Culture is Robbing Billions of People of Happiness: The Biggest Lie in the History of Christianity. The book says how you can be so easily seduced into thinking that happiness comes from getting everything you want instead of recognizing and wanting what you already have. So often, we are more aware of what we don’t have and can become consumed by what we lack instead of grateful for our many blessings – driven to get more instead of content to celebrate enough. True contentment isn’t found in having an abundance of wealth but rather it is found in knowing you already have a wealth of abundance. A relationship with God brings true contentment – He is our satisfaction. In fact, He exceeds whatever we may think we desire. As the Psalmist says, ‘The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.’ In a sense, this first verse summarizes the whole Psalm, while the rest of the Psalm speaks of why this statement is true. In his book, ‘I Shall Not Want‘, Robert Ketchum tells the story of a Sunday school teacher who asked if any of the kids could quote the entire Psalm 23: A four-year-old girl raised her hand and the teacher was a bit skeptical whether she could recite the whole Psalm. However, the little girl stood up, faced the class, bowed and said, ‘The Lord is my Shepherd, that’s all I want.’ She then bowed and sat down again. The girl may have missed a few verses, but she really captured the Psalmist’s heart of being utterly contented in the Shepherd’s care and not desiring anything else but that.
When you truly know the Lord as your Shepherd, you know you have a God who hears you; you have the power of love behind you; the Holy Spirit within you; all heaven ahead of you; you have grace for every sin; direction for every turn; a candle for every corner; and an anchor for every storm – you have everything you need. May we truly know the confidence and contentment which is found from a relationship with God and may we like the Psalmist be able to boldly say from deep within our hearts that, ‘The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.
God Bless You,