The Lord is My Shepherd, I Shall Not Want

If you’ve spent even a small period of time in the Christian Church, it would be hard not to know Psalm 23. One of the most recited passages in the Bible, this scripture has been transformed over time from a song (psalm) to a prayer, to sermons preached throughout the world.

Our goal here is to provide our readers with a basis to explore and understand the scripture text, making us more informed believers and more valuable to the body of Christ.

The Lord is My Shepherd Prayer

23 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.

He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

Psalm 23 King James Version (KJV)

Psalm 23 Meaning

The book of Psalm was written by King David who, himself, was once a shepherd in his youth. David understood what it meant to lead a flock of followers. Although the work of a shepherd was considered menial work in Israelite culture, the work provided David with perspective to understand how God cares for his people.

In this text, the shepherd represents a loving and caring guide who shields and protects his flock from danger and harm. David recognized that the work of a shepherd involved an intimate relationship with the flock, knowing each person one by one.


Even Jesus recognized the special bond between a shepherd and his sheep. in Luke 15:4, Jesus asked:

What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it?

Luke 15:4 King James Version (KJV)

Jesus’s question implies that it would be unimaginable that a shepherd would leave even one lost sheep behind. And that is how much God cares for each one of us. When we are hurting, God knows. When we are grieving, God knows. When we are lost, God knows.

But we find our reassurance in the fact that God not only knows, but he cares enough about our individual problems to leave the flock and reclaim us from our lost state. Who wouldn’t serve a God like that?

Sheep in the Bible

Bible scriptures refer to God’s people as sheep more than 200 times. Besides Psalm 23, two notable verses are Isaiah 53:6 and John 10:

All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.

Isaiah 53:6 King James Version (KJV)

Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber.
But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.
To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out.
And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice.
And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers.
This parable spake Jesus unto them: but they understood not what things they were which he spake unto them.
Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep.
All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them.
I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.
10 The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.
11 I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.
12 But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep.
13 The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep.
14 I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine.
15 As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep.
16 And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.
17 Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again.
18 No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father.
19 There was a division therefore again among the Jews for these sayings.
20 And many of them said, He hath a devil, and is mad; why hear ye him?
21 Others said, These are not the words of him that hath a devil. Can a devil open the eyes of the blind?
22 And it was at Jerusalem the feast of the dedication, and it was winter.
23 And Jesus walked in the temple in Solomon’s porch.
24 Then came the Jews round about him, and said unto him, How long dost thou make us to doubt? If thou be the Christ, tell us plainly.
25 Jesus answered them, I told you, and ye believed not: the works that I do in my Father’s name, they bear witness of me.
26 But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you.
27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:
28 And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.
29 My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand.
30 I and my Father are one.
31 Then the Jews took up stones again to stone him.
32 Jesus answered them, Many good works have I shewed you from my Father; for which of those works do ye stone me?
33 The Jews answered him, saying, For a good work we stone thee not; but for blasphemy; and because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God.
34 Jesus answered them, Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods?
35 If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken;
36 Say ye of him, whom the Father hath sanctified, and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest; because I said, I am the Son of God?
37 If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not.
38 But if I do, though ye believe not me, believe the works: that ye may know, and believe, that the Father is in me, and I in him.
39 Therefore they sought again to take him: but he escaped out of their hand,
40 And went away again beyond Jordan into the place where John at first baptized; and there he abode.
41 And many resorted unto him, and said, John did no miracle: but all things that John spake of this man were true.
42 And many believed on him there.

John 10 King James Version (KJV)

Jesus describes the wayward and meandering ways of the sheep. And yet, the shepherd loves them one and all. This is the way that God loves us as demonstrated by the birth, the life, the death, and the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Sheep are not very smart

Sheep are mindless animals that need guidance and direction. They are prone to wander. Do you know anyone who fits this description?

Sheep respond to the shepherd’s voice

Even in their wayward mannerisms, the sheep respond to the familiar commands of the shepherd. Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27).

Sheep are valuable to the shepherd

The sheep are the property of the shepherd. He owns them and has paid a price for them. He values them so much that he is not willing to lose even one of them.

The shepherd guides the sheep with a rod

When David says, “thy rod and thy staff comfort me” in the text, he refers to the guidance and correction from God. This implies that God demonstrates love and care for his sheep by guidance that is sometimes stern.

Conclusion

David didn’t write the 23rd Psalm in a season of abundance. He wrote it articulating his faith and trust in God (his shepherd) during a dark season in his life. But if you notice, David didn’t say “I shall not need.” However, during his time of need, he said, “I shall not want,” recognizing himself as the sheep and placing his total trust in God.

As believers, we too must hold tight to our faith and recognize, especially during hard times, that God (our shepherd) will never fail us. The Lord is our shepherd, therefore, we lack nothing.

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