When I first set out to write this post, initially I thought about doing some type of exposition on every verse of Psalm 23, but when I really gave it some thought, it occurred to me that I could spend an entire post just unpacking one verse at a time. So, for this post, I want to focus only on verse 1 of Psalm 23. Let’s take a gander at it real quick:
Psalm 23:1 – “The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.” (KJV)
Before I knew how to “translate” the scriptures from the old King James English to modern English, this verse made absolutely no sense to me. The word “want” threw me off, because I thought it meant “desire” or “wish for”–you know, like it does in modern-day language. So when I would read it, it always sounded to me like “The Lord is my shepherd that I don’t want.” I would think to myself–“Why would I not want the Lord?” The wording simply threw me off. But then, I started digging some more, and realized that there were several other scriptures where the word “want” was used in a context that had to do with being in a state of poverty, lack or insufficiency. For instance, in Philippians 4:11, Paul used the word “want” to describe deprivation, or experiencing some type of shortage: “Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.” He was basically saying that he’s not feeling any real kind of lack or insufficiency, because he has learned how to be content (literal Greek for “content” is “self-sufficient”) in whatever condition he found himself in.
There are also other scriptures that talk about being in “want”, such as in the Parable of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15:14: “And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want.” We know that this basically meant that the Prodigal Son ran out of money. Also, in Psalm 34:9-10, we have a very clear picture of what the word “want” means in the King James English: “O fear the LORD, ye his saints: for there is no want to them that fear him. The young lions do lack, and suffer hunger: but they that seek the LORD shall not want any good thing.” Long story short, if you’re in a state of want, you’re in a state of need or deprivation of some kind.
Now, carry this back over to Psalm 23:1. David was simply saying “The LORD is my shepherd; therefore I will not experience lack or insufficiency of any kind.” The verb is strong and definite: “I SHALL not want.” There’s an air of absolute confidence in David’s voice. Notice that this fundamental understanding expressed by David regarding God’s ability to fully take care of him produced the rest of the details of this Psalm. It’s only when you are fully confident in God’s ability to provide for you that you can trust Him to lead you beside still waters, restore your soul, prepare a table, etc., etc.
That’s the main thing that Psalm 23:1 speaks to me…God is a God of absolute provision. He will take care of your every need.