The Lord is my Shepard; I shall not want.
ESV - 1 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
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This phrase used to confuse me a lot when I first started reading the Bible because I thought the author meant he didn't "want" The Lord as his Shepherd. First of all, if you read the entire statement as it is in context, it's important to notice the semicolon [See note below] separating it from the first part of the statement: "The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want." These are two separate statements, and the second statement is an extension of the first, a "magnifier" of sorts: 1) God is my Shepherd, and 2) I shall not want. To "not want," or to "lack nothing," is a result of God being our Shepherd, who loves us, cares for us, and provides for us. It helps to realize that Psalms is a poetic book and a song book, so the words may read differently than they would in a narrative form. In addition, certain translations of the Bible use wording that reflects Old English, which can be harder to understand. When you read this verse in its original language, Hebrew, the word "want" (Strong's 2637) translates to these meanings: chacer | khaw-sare' | a primitive root; to lack; by implication, to fail, want, lessen:--be abated, bereave, decrease, (cause to) fail, (have) lack, make lower, want. The psalmist is stating that because God is his Shepherd, he will not lack or have want of anything; he will not decrease or become bereaved; God will not fail him as the Good Shepherd; God will uphold the psalmist and keep him from diminishing to a lowly state. In short, the psalmist is proclaiming his faith in God as his Shepherd to provide for all of his needs; he has all he could ever want because he trusts in God, and his God will never fail him. [Note: I realize that in the original language, semicolons were not used. The semicolon in our English usage in this instance helps us to understand how this entire statement was originally intended to be read. These are two separate statements, the second one being dependent on the first.]
Psalms 22–24 form a very important group. They are like a sandwich, though people tend to lick the jam out and leave the bread! Let me explain. These psalms really belong together – we may possibly call them the cross, the crook and the crown. They present us with a Lord who is first of all Saviour, then Shepherd, and then Sovereign. If we just extract the well- known Psalm 23 from the middle of the ‘sandwich’ and claim that Jesus is our shepherd, we miss the lessons of the two psalms on either side of it. Psalm 22 begins with the cry that Jesus would later quote from the cross: ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ Whereas Psalm 23 begins: ‘The Lord is my shepherd.’ The order of the two psalms implies that until we have been to the cross and found the Lord as our Saviour, we are not able to regard Him as our Shepherd. Psalm 24 then says: ‘Who is this King of glory? The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle. Lift up your heads, O you gates; lift them up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in’ (verses 8–9). Or, to paraphrase: ‘Open up the gates – the Lord is coming as our Sovereign, our King of kings, our Lord of lords.’ So we only have Jesus as the Good Shepherd because He was first our Saviour and is our coming King. Those three psalms fit so beautifully together. Therefore, we become fulfilled. When once the One Who paid it All becomes our Shepherd! And we can boldly and with loud confidence proclaim "The LORD IS MY SHEPHERD, I shall not be wanting or lacking..."
First, see the big picture: • Psalm 23 • In the Pasture–Adequacy (vv. 1-3). • In the Valley–Serenity (v. 4). • In the Fold–Certainty (v. 5). • In the Father’s House–Eternity (v. 6). The Lord is my shepherd, 2 I lack nothing. 3 want, n. [Originally an adj., from Icel. Vant, neuter of vanr lacking, deficient. The state of not having; the condition of being without anything; absence or scarcity of what is needed or desired; deficiency; lack; as, a want of power or knowledge for any purpose; want of food and clothing. [1913 Webster] 1 Psalm 23. In Psalm 23:1-4 the psalmist pictures the Lord as a shepherd who provides for his needs and protects him from danger. The psalmist declares, “The Lord is my shepherd,” and then extends and develops that metaphor, speaking as if he were a sheep. In Psalm 23:5-6 the metaphor changes as the psalmist depicts a great royal banquet hosted by the Lord. The psalmist is a guest of honor and recipient of divine favor, who enjoys unlimited access to the divine palace and the divine presence. 2 sn The LORD is my shepherd. The opening metaphor suggests the psalmist is assuming the role of a sheep. In Psalm 23:1b-4 the psalmist extends the metaphor and explains exactly how the LORD is like a shepherd to him. At the surface level, the language can be understood in terms of a shepherd’s relationship to his sheep. The translation of Psalm 23:1-4 reflects this level. But, of course, each statement also points to an underlying reality. 3 tn The imperfect verbal form is best understood as generalizing; the psalmist highlights his typical or ongoing experience as a result of having the LORD as his shepherd (habitual present use). The next verse explains more specifically what he means by this statement. He takes me to lush pastures, 1 he leads me to refreshing water. 2 1 tn Heb “he makes me lie down in lush pastures.” The Hiphil verb? (yarbitseniy or in Hebrew, יַרְבִּיצֵ֑נִי) has a causative-modal nuance here (see IBHS 445-46 §27.5 on this use of the Hiphil), meaning “allows me to lie down” (see also Jer 33:12). The point is that the shepherd takes the sheep to lush pastures and lets me eat and rest there. Both imperfect verbal forms in v. 2 are generalizing and highlight the psalmist’s typical experience. 2 tn Both genitives in v. 2 indicate an attribute of the noun they modify:? (deshe’) characterizes the pastures as “lush” (i.e., rich with vegetation), while? (mÿnukhot, Hebrew מְנֻח֣וֹת) probably characterizes the water as refreshing. In this case, the plural indicates an abstract quality. Some take? In the sense of “still, calm” (i.e., as describing calm pools in contrast to dangerous torrents) but it is unlikely that such a pastoral scene is in view. Shepherds usually watered their sheep at wells (see Gen 29:2-3; Exod 2:16-19). Another option is to take? As “resting places” and to translate, “water of/at the resting places” (i.e., a genitive of location; see IBHS 147-48 §9.5.2e). sn Within the framework of the metaphor, the psalmist/sheep is declaring in v. 2 that his shepherd provides the essentials for physical life. At a deeper level, the psalmist may be referring to more than just physical provision, though that would certainly be included. Psa 23:1] I Shall Not Want I shall not want: in deserts wild Thou spread’st Thy table for Thy child; While grace in streams for thirsting souls, Thro’ earth and Heaven forever rolls. I shall not want: my darkest night Thy loving smile shall fill with light; While promises around me bloom, And cheer me with divine perfume. I shall not want: Thy righteousness My soul shall clothe with glorious dress; My blood-washed robe shall be more fair Than garments kings or angels wear. I shall not want: whate’er is good, Of daily bread or angels’ food, Shall to my Father’s child be sure, So long as earth and Heaven endure.
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