“The Lord! My Shepherd! I lack Nothing!” (Psalm 23:1, CMR )
Many standard translations of Psalm 23:1 read, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.” (NIV). However, the poetic structure of the opening line of the Psalm could just as easily be read as three exclamations about our relationship with the Lord. First, he is our Lord, our master, and the one who we worship. But secondly, he is also our shepherd. And, thirdly, as a result, we lack nothing. The Lord, our king, is our perfect protector and provider.
What follows in Psalm 23 is a description of the ways in which we experience the protection and provision of our Lord: he shepherds us, and he hosts us. These two experiences portray the trust we have in the Lord in the present, and the confidence we have in the Lord for the future.
In the present, we trust God to provide all of our needs. He provides rest for us, and he guides us in the way we should go. These “paths of righteousness” are not always easy, and in fact, they may lead us through “the valley of the shadow of death.” But the Psalmist is expression that even as we walk through the darkest times, we do not fear evil. Why? Because the Lord is with us. As we experience the presence of the Lord, we do not have to “live in fear” or be paralyzed by “what if this happens, or what if that happens.” The Lord is with us. No matter what takes place, we join with the Psalmist in expressing our confidence in the sufficiency of the Lord's presence to get us through anything.
Our experience in the presence thus causes us to see that the Lord helps us in whatever future challenges we may face. Yes, there will be enemies and trouble in our lives. But the Lord goes before us to prepare a table of hope and reconciliation. The imagery of the head being anointed with oil, and the cup overflowing, recalls a celebratory banquet. Here the Psalmist pictures the Lord as hosting us at a great banquet, richly causing our lives to overflow with abundance and joy in his presence. In the Lord, goodness and mercy follow us throughout our lives as we dwell with the Lord forever.
We may think about Jesus as embodying this perfect shepherd of Psalm 23 when he says in John 10:14, “I am the good shepherd.” Or, as I Peter 5:4 describes Jesus “our Chief Shepherd” who “will appear and provide us with a crown of glory that will never fade away.” Psalm 23 expresses our experience with Christ: the trust that we are to have in the Lord now, and the confidence that we have in him as we look to the future! In all things, with Christ, the Lord, as our Shepherd, we lack nothing.