“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.”
— Psalm 23:1 ESV
This is one of the most beloved passages in all of scripture. No one knows exactly when David penned these words. Some believe he wrote it as an old man approaching physical death and that this is a hymn of reflection over his full life. Others think it came as a youth. Either way imagine the shepherd boy sitting under the shade of a huge tree, watching his flock feast on the pasture around him or drinking from a babbling brook meandering through the meadow.
David begins by saying “The Lord”, using one of the primary and regular words for Jehovah in the Old Testament. The name identifies God has the One who is, who was, and who is to be. In other words, He is the eternal One. This is the One, the Word made flesh – Jesus.
The sentence continues, “The Lord is MY shepherd.” There is not idea here of a mere shepherd. He did not even say he was THE shepherd, although He is. David says, He is My shepherd. David is singing out that he has a personal and powerful relationship with HIS shepherd and because of this relationship he would never want for anything.
The fact that God makes available for us the possibility of a genuine personal relationship with Him is incredible. No religion on earth makes this claim. He has not given us a set of rules to follow, a dogma to live by, or a moral code to meet. Jesus has not said, “be better … get good …try harder … study more” … or any such thing. The crux of knowing Him is by grace through faith. A personal relationship with Christ is the result of His redeeming work on the cross. Paul said, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8
Read in context from a modern translation this passage from Romans brightly clarifies the love of God towards us.
“Christ arrives right on time to make this happen. He didn’t, and doesn’t, wait for us to get ready. He presented himself for this sacrificial death when we were far too weak and rebellious to do anything to get ourselves ready. And even if we hadn’t been so weak, we wouldn’t have known what to do anyway. We can understand someone dying for a person worth dying for, and we can understand how someone good and noble could inspire us to selfless sacrifice. But God put his love on the line for us by offering his Son in sacrificial death while we were of no use whatever to him. Now that we are set right with God by means of this sacrificial death, the consummate blood sacrifice, there is no longer a question of being at odds with God in any way. If, when we were at our worst, we were put on friendly terms with God by the sacrificial death of his Son, now that we’re at our best, just think of how our lives will expand and deepen by means of his resurrection life! Now that we have actually received this amazing friendship with God, we are no longer content to simply say it in plodding prose. We sing and shout our praises to God through Jesus, the Messiah! Romans 5:7-11 MSG
It is only through acceptance of this great love that we are able, like David, to say “The Lord is MY shepherd.”