The Great Shepherd

I recently presented two sermons about the 23rd Psalm. I genuinely believe these six verses may be the most beloved passage in all of Scripture. It seems that the message of these verses is timeless and has resonated for centuries because it provides peace, strength, and even focus for those who are lost and hurt. 

Beginning at 23:1, we can observe something significant. As David begins, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want,” he draws our attention to the Lord Himself. That preeminence should be something we value at both the beginning and end of every circumstance. If there is anyone who should know the value of God’s role in our lives, it should be David. From his early years as a giant slayer (see 1 Samuel 17:45-46), to his misdeed with Bathsheeba and Uriah (see 2 Samuel 12:13), and finally at his deathbed (see 1 Kings 2:1-3), God was an important part of his life, perhaps the most influential. This meditation on who God truly is comes from a source that understood why God should be the beginning of any discussion. We would do well to begin our thoughts, decisions, and even our days with a thought as simple as 23:1. 

Psalm 23:1 does something else that’s noteworthy. It connects the God of Moses and the God of David to the Savior who died on the cross for our sins. The word used in 23:1, “Lord” is Adonai. That word means “master, owner” and is used frequently in the Old Testament. In Exodus 3:15, as God is speaking to Moses, He tells him to explain who sent Him as:

The Lord (Adonai) of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, (who) has sent me to you.

Compare that statement to Acts 2:36, when Peter finishes the sermon at Pentecost and says:

Let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.

The word “Lord” in Acts is the Greek word kyrios which is the equivalent of Adonai. There is no irony in that statement. Peter knew the Lord who sent Moses and who David followed was now his master. Consider what Jesus said in John 11:10-14 as well:

I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep. But a hireling, he who is not the shepherd, one who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf catches the sheep and scatters them. The hireling flees because he is a hireling and does not care about the sheep. I am the good shepherd, and I know My sheep and am known by My own.

Finally, 23:1 also declares a truth meant for all generations. I am not my shepherd, I am merely a sheep in need of a protector, a guide, and a provider. “I shall not want,” means God is my everything. We have to step back from our place of importance and put God where He belongs. More than likely that, “I shall not want,” will be the hardest part of this Psalm to say and practice. By my estimation, that makes it the most important to say on a regular basis. 

If the Lord is my Shepherd, what more do I need? Psalm 23:2-6 tells me I’ll need absolutely nothing. He leads me, feeds me, protects me, and gives me peace. Therefore, I am full. Remember what it means to say, “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. ” For by that knowledge, we can see the beauty of this beloved Psalm and its relevance thousands of years after it was first written. 


All Scripture is taken from the New King James Version. Copyright (c) 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by Permission. All rights reserved.