Whether Psalm 23:1 is translated, “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want” (ESV) or “Yahweh is my shepherd; I will not lack for anything” (LEB), it is not about having everything, but about never being without the care of God, even when needy and in trouble.
In the past two years, we have lived in a home that is perfect for us. It is the right size, the right layout, and in a great location. But yesterday that changed as we discovered a problem that is going to require major renovations. Instead of feeling utterly blessed, I’m feeling a bit confused. Why has this happened?
While I’m not comparing myself to anyone else, the author of Psalm 73 voices a similar question. He is in trouble and looks at those around him who do not trust God and sees only blessing and contentment in their lives. At first he makes a rash conclusion then he begins to ponder it according to what he knows about God . . .
Behold, these are the wicked; always at ease, they increase in riches. All in vain have I kept my heart clean and washed my hands in innocence . . . But when I thought how to understand this, it seemed to me a wearisome task, until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I discerned their end . . . Nevertheless, I am continually with you; you hold my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. (Psalm 73:12–26)
While God promises to take care of His people, He does not promise heaven on earth. Being a follower of Jesus Christ does not exempt me from trouble. Actually, it could bring even greater problems than my current trial and dismay; I could be persecuted for trusting Jesus.
In the days of the early Christians, it was Saul (Paul) who was the most bent out of shape toward those who believed in Jesus. Look what he did, but more than that, look how they reacted . . .
But Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison. Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word. (Acts 8:3–4)
Those Christians carried on with their primary task of telling others about the grace of God and the salvation He gives through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Threats, abuse, and being hauled off to prison did not stop them. They scattered to escape Saul, but they did not let this dispersion silence them or rob them of their joy in Christ (see verse 8).
Saul earlier witnessed the stoning of Stephen who died with a glow on his face and forgiveness on his lips. That didn’t stop him or change his rage against Christians, but then Jesus encountered him. From that point on, his life changed. He learned that God cared for him and that he didn’t need to take matters of any kind into his own hands. With Christ as his Shepherd, he realized that no matter what else he might lack, he had all he needed.
Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:11–13)
I’m thankful for these words today. My house is going to be turned upside-down, but my emotions and confidence need not change. The Lord is my Shepherd also. I will lack nothing because of His care and because in Him and because of His grace, I can do all things, including this.