"The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever" (Psalm 23 NIV).
No other scripture is better known or more quoted than this wonderful shepherd psalm of David. Ryrie introduces this psalm, "In his most beautiful song of trust, David pictures the Lord as the great shepherd who provides for and protects his sheep (vv. 1-4) and as the gracious host who protects and provides abundantly for his guests" (vv.5-6).
"The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want." Perhaps David wrote those words as he sat out under the stars, guarding and tending his father's flock.
The life of the shepherd was not an easy one. There were many cold and lonely nights - nights fraught with danger.
Jesus said of himself, "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd who owns the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me" (John 10:11-14 NIV).
During these daily thoughts we will be examining this wonderful passage from Psalms. But let me begin by asking you a simple question - do you personally know the good shepherd?
I am not asking you if you know about him. I am asking you if you know him.
Those who know him know that he will tenderly care for them in their every circumstance. They know what it is to "not be in want," or if I may paraphrase that a little, to be satisfied with him and not wanting more - not desiring something else.
I run into believers all the time who are wandering sheep (shepherds call them fence hoppers). For these sheep there is always something better in the next pasture. They are not satisfied being under the care of the good shepherd, they want to explore what's outside the fence.
The sad thing about fence-hoppers is that they teach other sheep to follow, leaving the safety of the shepherd and wandering into a world lurking with danger. I have counseled many of these fence-hoppers.
Here's what I know: not one of them will ever be convinced that they should stay in the fold when they are in the fold. They look longingly beyond the fences of protection and desire the freedom of the world. Sadly, the story doesn't end there. Not one of these fence-hoppers ever find what they are looking for. Instead they discover the barrenness and emptiness of the lost and dying world, and I have seen these fence-hoppers come sadly back to the fold sick and emaciated by sin, wounded and bleeding and bearing scars they would have never had to bear had they but trusted the good shepherd and learned what it is "not to want."
Perhaps someone reading these words today is grazing at a fence, head down but eyes focused covertly on some dead and dry pasture just outside the fence. "What can it hurt?" You may be musing. I implore you, pick up your head and run that straying sheep body immediately to the arms of the good shepherd. There you will find all you really need; apart from him you will find nothing you need.
Dr. John Pearrell is pastor of Gateway Community Church. Write him in care of the church at 11677 Brown Bridge Road Covington, GA 30016. Or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org For more information visit the Gateway website at www.gatewaycommunity.org