Reflections on Psalm 23: “I Shall Not Want”


“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.” Psalm 23:1

Many works have been written about the life of a shepherd and the ways it parallels to God’s care for His children. I won’t go that route today. What I want to explore is the fact that Psalm 23:1 is one sentence. I’m a language junkie – I love words and punctuation. So I pay attention to commas, periods and semicolons. They matter to me. In this verse we see a semicolon. While the Hebrew language didn’t utilize this particular form of punctuation, we find it here because English translators are conveying the writer’s intent: these two phrases are linked inseparably. He means to say, “Because the Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.”

Wanting conveys lack. What do you believe you are lacking today? And what do you do when you sense that you lack something you need? Do you strive to gain that thing through human means? Do you ask friends or family to provide it? Do you jump on the hamster wheel of worry, wearing yourself out with endless thoughts of ‘what if’? The answer is ‘yes’. We all do it.

We all want to be our own shepherds. We want to direct our lives and see success come based on our merit, intelligence and wit. We want to be able to look in the mirror and believe we are enough, all by ourselves. But we were never meant to function in this way. We are designed to be lacking.

We are designed to be lacking.

God created us with holes. We can’t see the future. We don’t know how to do everything. We aren’t able to be everywhere at once. And even before there was sin in the world, humans lacked these things. On purpose. God didn’t want us to be self-sufficient. We were created to be dependent on Him.

When I’m faced with my lack, will I look to the Shepherd? Will I remember that He provides all that I need? that I don’t have to see into the future to believe He’s there and already has a plan? that I can trust His providence and goodness to lead me and keep me and grant me joy in the process?

Sometimes I will. And sometimes I’ll worry and strive and look to the wrong shepherds. Praise His name that, by His Spirit, He’s always leading back to Himself. Always reminding me that He’s enough. Am I listening?

Questions for Reflection:

  • What kinds of things do I most often worry about lacking? 
  • Is there a chance that these things are idols in my life? Is that why I’m worrying about them so much?
  • Was there a time in my life when I believed God wasn’t my shepherd? If so, I need to process that pain and confess it to Him, saying out loud that I do trust Him and believe He is my shepherd at all times.
  • Where else in Scripture does God promise to provide the things I’m lacking? 
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