Psalm 23 is one of the most popular chapters in the Bible, and many have said it is one of the wonders of the literary world. It is so deep that scholars are perplexed, and yet so simple that children can enjoy it. However, in all of its beauty and profound wisdom, we should pray that we do not lose our reverence for its interpretation.
It is easy to allow familiarity to make us cold and indifferent to chapters such as this and others, like John 3, Romans 8 and 1 Corinthians 13. Being spiritually lukewarm is deceptive and it simply means we are not on fire and have allowed our fervent excitement to become as smoldering embers. When we come to the place where we begin to roll our eyes and say that we have heard something a thousand times and think that we know all there is to know about it, then we have lost our passion and love for it.
Let us consider the first verse. "The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want." We notice the passage does not ask if the Lord is our shepherd, but rather it states that he already is. I personally see this beautiful Psalm as a prayer confession of faith. As a minister, I've asked many people to say this chapter with me, especially at funerals because the words are comforting, but they are also words that publicly declare that we are his sheep and we follow his voice. I wonder how many people have read these words and have never given serious thought as to what they really mean? It's common for pastors to ask gatherings of people to quote this chapter with them, and this includes those who are not a Christian. But what about those who claim to be a Christian and yet are not actually following him? Let's look carefully at each word of the first verse.
The first word is "The." God is not "a" god or just another god. He is "the" God. Believing he is the Lord of Lords and the King of all Kings is something we need to settle in our hearts in order for us to comprehend who he is and who we are.
"Lord" is the term used over 600 times in the New Testament to identify Jesus Christ. It means master and supreme authority. So the shepherd is Jesus. Many today want to be free and independent and do not like the idea of anyone being their lord, but these are the same ones who accept the idea of a Savior and free salvation. For those who are truly God's sheep, they are dedicated to love and serve the one who died on the cross and rose from the dead so they could spiritually live with him forever. Jesus said in John 10: 27, "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me."
"Is" is a small word, but it's extremely powerful. It means "current," which God has always been. He is infinite, from the beginning and has no end, omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent. He is loving and listening to you right now.
"My" is our next word. It may seem elementary, but this is what separates having a personal relationship with Christ from just another collection of words we are familiar with like "Amazing Grace" or "The Star-Spangled Banner."
"Shepherd" means someone you completely trust, you strive to hear every word he says, you love and worship and are always ready to do everything he tells you to do.
Who is Jesus to you? Are you committed to living with him and loving him even if everyone else chooses not to? Jesus is quoted again, in John 10:14, "I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine." The great shepherd loves you where you are, but will never leave you like he found you.
In closing, the verse ends by saying, "I shall not want." What does this mean? We all have things we desire. I believe this is saying that when we are the sheep of his flock and his presence alone is more than enough to fulfill us far beyond what the world can offer. Many have vast amounts of riches and blessings, yet are not satisfied, grateful or filled with spiritual joy. God is the only one who can saturate our souls with his peace and contentment.
Read more about the Christian life and Billy Holland's new book about miracles, "Receiving Our Healing," at billyhollandministries.com.