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“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…”

Famine and lack is on the brink of breaking out worldwide after 2020 was riddled with locust plagues, record breaking storms that wiped out crops, as well as the man-caused destruction of perfectly good beef cows, chickens, lemons, and other meat sources and produce. And now there are rising meat prices, while the moneyed elite are calling on all to eat lab created meat. On top of that, we are on the brink of world war. Ethnic group is rising in hatred against ethnic group in country after country. Persecution against Christians has risen by 60% worldwide in just the last year of 2020. And then there is the trampling of freedom in nation after nation as overwhelming pressure is being put on their citizens to get the deadly shot, with threats of not being able to travel or shop or go certain places without a vaccine passport or the like. And to add insult to injury, we had a gas crisis on the East Coast of the U.S.

In the midst of all this insanity, what does “I shall not want” mean?

When I was young, my family fell on hard times financially. I don’t recall why, but I do know that we did not have much money. Christmas was small, and we ate many a meal without meat on our plates. Now for American Christians who are used to going to the grocery store whenever they want to, putting Christmas gifts on credit cards and vacationing twice a year or more, what my family went through may seem like “wanting”. But, that assessment would be completely wrong. You see, we had what we needed. We had “our daily bread”, which is all Jesus says to pray for anyway. We had grown a large garden the past summer so that when the unforeseen hard times hit we had plentiful vegetarian bounty. And my Mom had made two delicious pickled treats called “chow-chow” and “dilly beans” that brightened our evening meals. And for Christmas there was the warmth of our wood burning stove, a cup of homemade hot cocoa, fresh popped popcorn in the oiled old pot, and brand new slippers. Now, ordinarily I may not have remembered those slippers, but because of our circumstances, those slippers stand out to me as precious treasure in my memory.

I Shall Not Want” Does Not Mean…

“I shall not want” does not mean having a new car or a $100+ steak dinner or a leather jacket or a million dollar mansion. And sometimes it doesn’t even mean being able to go to Dairy Queen for a $2 cheeseburger or to McDonalds for a $1 Coke. “I shall not want” does not mean that we will never go through hard times or suffering or loss. James 4:3 states, “Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.” In other words, we often think we need something when in reality we don’t really need it at all. And we may think that God is not meeting our needs, when really we are a bunch of spoiled brats who are not valuing the plenty that He has already given. We are disgruntled sheep. We are dissatisfied sheep. We are discontent sheep. If the little lambs of God’s fold are always looking for the illusory sweet clover when they want it and for mirages of sunshine and continual happiness, they will always be wandering off without the protection of the Shepherd.

What Does It Really Mean?

What “I shall not want” does mean is that when I go through hard times and suffering and loss and sickness and questions, I will never lack what I really need. As the Apostle Paul says in Philippians 4:4, 11-13, 19, “Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice…11 Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.12 I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.13 I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me…19 But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”

“I shall not want” also means that we will have “meat to eat that you know not of” just like Jesus in John 4 when ministering to the woman at the well. Upon coming to the well, Jesus had been exhausted and very thirsty, and His disciples went into town to buy food because they were hungry. But, after Jesus had spoken with the woman and she had left to tell her town the good news of the Messiah, Jesus was refreshed. It was then that He puzzled His disciples by saying that He had meat to eat that they knew not of, and they wondered if He had snacked on something while they were gone.

This is spiritual food, spiritual treasure. After all, man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God (Matthew 4). Like Jesus said in the Gospel of John, He is the spiritual bread that came down from heaven, the spiritual water that quenches deep thirst so that one ever thirsts again.

In this, we truly shall not want.

Psalm 23 goes on to express the ways in which the LORD makes sure that we do not want.

He Maketh Me Lie Down In Green Pastures”

Sheep need green pastures.

Historically it has been well-known that sheep will destroy grazing lands by eating the grass down to nothing, root and all. Cattlemen hated sheep on their lands because of this. Sheep do not have a clue when to move on and cannot sniff out better pastures even if they wanted to do so. Though some may wander off, they have no sense of direction. And thus, sheep cannot be left to graze on their own, but must have a shepherd to guide them. The shepherd will direct them to other grazing land when it is time to do so, and he’ll know because he’s paying attention to the needs of the sheep.

When in those lovely lush grazing lands, sheep will not rest or stretch out on the ground unless they feel safe, healthy, and are content and at peace with one another. If the sheep are being harassed by bullies among them, are ill or unkempt with dirty, itchy heads and weeds sticking in their fleecy backs and their hooves untrimmed, or they are not happy with their food, they will not lie down nor be at rest. Instead, they will be restless and unhappy. Even in the lushest of fields, unless these issues are addressed, the sheep will not be content.

The verb “maketh me lie down” that is used here in the Hebrew is Hiphil Imperfect which is a causative verbal form wherein someone or something is causing another to do something. This means that the shepherd in Psalm 23 is causing the sheep to lie down. It means “to stretch out, to lie stretched out.”

Does this mean the shepherd is literally forcing each lamb to lie down whether they want to or not? No. Rather, it is the presence of the shepherd that “causes” them to stretch out in peace and security, for he disciplines the bullies; he cleans each one of them up; he lovingly, consistently leads them time and again to food that will nourish them. The shepherd is the reason for the restfulness of the sheep. The shepherd is the cause. Thus, because of the shepherd‘s presence and love and attentiveness, the sheep are in perfect peace.

He Leadeth Me Beside The Still Waters”

Rushing water is dangerous for sheep. It’s not that they cannot cross a stream. It’s that they shouldn’t. There is a BIG difference between cannot and should not. They should not cross because if their fleece gets saturated the water will weigh them down, which will in turn throw them off balance and will cause them to drown.

On top of this, most sheep are afraid of the sound of rushing water. Does the sound hurt their ears? Do they just know instinctively to stay away because they could drown? No one fully knows. But, a good shepherd will lead them to quiet, still waters. And sometimes this has meant that a shepherd will dig alongside a creek or river until quiet pools of water form for the sheep to drink from safely and without fear.

The verb in this case for “leadeth” (5095) is a Piel Imperfect Hebrew verb, which means that the definition is intensified and is often a repeated action. According to Chaim Bentorah “a Piel imperfect form…is a continuing process”. And thus, the shepherd leads the sheep and keeps on successfully leading them to still waters. This is not a one time thing. It is continual, and it is intensive.

Not only this, but the word itself means “to lead or guide to a watering place, bring to a place of rest, refresh”. Thus, the Shepherd is not just going in front of them, but is leading them to a place of refreshment and restoration. Just as Jesus said to the woman at the well, He is that place of refreshing; He is that living water that we can drink of and thirst no more (John 4).

Incredibly, Jesus is this living water, the likes of which the world cannot comprehend. He is the One who quenches the thirst of my soul. He is the One whose Holy Spirit bubbles up from deep inside of me even when persecution looms, evil attacks, life is hard, health is poor, and my finances are low. He is my source of life – the living water that will never, ever run dry!!

He Restoreth My Soul”

The Hebrew word for “restoreth” actually means “to return,” “to turn back,” “to repent,” and is often used of God’s people after they have wandered away from Him. He calls them “to return”, to be restored to Him. Furthermore, this verb is Piel imperfect again, an intense continuous verb, expressing that shepherd cares so much for each individual lamb that He very much and completely restores them to the fold, even over and over as necessary.

Why does a lamb need to be turned back, returned, restored? Because they wander off. Because some are prone to doing their own thing. This can lead to the shepherd breaking a leg of the continuously wandering lamb so that it learns to quit wandering off. After breaking its leg, the shepherd will carry the lamb on its shoulders, and while the lamb’s leg is mending, the shepherd and lamb will bond. When it is set back on its feet again, the lamb will usually remain close to the shepherd like a loyal puppy dog.

Reflections

Jesus is my Good Shepherd. The God of the universe, Creator of all, the One who dwells between the cherubim, Savior of the world, the soon and coming King, is my Shepherd. Because Jesus is my Shepherd, I shall not want. Even in hard times, I shall not want. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Whether living in abundance or in hard economic times, the Lord provides for all my needs according to His riches, not mine. He is my rest. He is my peace. Because of my Shepherd, I lie down in safety; I am cared for and loved; and all the flock is minstered to in just the way each individually needs it. Because of my Shepherd, I am refreshed with the eternal water springing up from the Holy Spirit deep inside of me. Because of my Shepherd, my soul is restored, for when I wander, when I get a little lost, He comes after me and draws me close and gives me life and life more abundantly. I shall not want because my Shepherd makes me safe, He gives me rest, He is my peace, the one who continually leads me to refreshing waters, and continually restores me to fellowship with Him amid His flock.

Why are we limiting our good Shepherd? Why are we so fearful of what is in the news, of what is coming, of being alone or loneliness or both, of what man is doing, of pandemics, of losing our jobs, persecution, death — fear of any and everything under the sun? Is our God so small, so limited, so unable to care for us — the very ones that He made?

I want to remind you as a fellow lamb, Jesus is your Shepherd. He cares for you! He knows what you have need of before you ever ask Him or even need it yourself. When each of us stays close to the Shepherd, we will not lack spiritual sustenance nor physical necessity nor redemption.

As the end of the age draws to a close, let us not scatter upon the mountains or fearfully wander but instead, draw near to our Shepherd for protection. Let us not willfully think that we are lions instead of lambs and charge ahead without our Shepherd, our protector. Though we may lose all — all possessions, all family, all finances, our homes, our dreams — Jesus is coming soon, and He is calling us lay it all down and to take up our crosses and follow Him. He was the Lamb of God who came as the bread of life, the living water, the redeemer of our souls, and we are the sheep of His hand. Fear not, little lamb. The Shepherd loves you, and His return is immanent.

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For Part 1 of this series please select this link:

For Part 3 of this series please select this link:

For Part 4 of this series please select this link:

Sources

Bible Hub, “Psalm 23,” https://biblehub.com/interlinear/psalms/23.htm

“What Do The Hebrew Verb Tenses Mean?” https://www.blueletterbible.org/help/verbtense.cfm

“Hebrew Word Study – Patiently Waiting,” by Chaim Bentorah, Jan 2021, https://www.chaimbentorah.com/2021/01/hebrew-word-study-patiently-waiting/

“Learning Hebrew: Hiphil Stem,” http://www.becomingjewish.org/pdf/hiphil_stem-hebrew.pdf

“Stem Hiphil,” https://uhg.readthedocs.io/en/latest/stem_hiphil.html

“Learning Hebrew: Piel Stem,” http://www.becomingjewish.org/learning_biblical_hebrew/pdf/piel_stem-hebrew.pdf

“Definitions and Examples,” https://hebrew4christians.com/Grammar/Unit_Eleven/Piel_Imperfect_Strong_Verbs.pdf

“Why do Sheep Prefer Still Water?” https://www.farmanimalreport.com/2020/03/24/why-do-sheep-prefer-still-water/

“Phillip Keller – A Shepard Looks at Psalm 23,” http://www.trutharchive.net/phillip-keller—a-shepard-looks-at-psalm-23

“Dumb, Directionless, Defenseless,” https://www.challies.com/christian-living/dumb-directionless-defenseless/ https://www.challies.com/christian-living/dumb-directionless-defenseless/embed/#?secret=VofGvTGTU2

“10 Things I’ve Learned from Lambs,” https://modernfarmer.com/2013/12/10-things-learned-lambs/ https://modernfarmer.com/2013/12/10-things-learned-lambs/embed/#?secret=vIcWUA2F0N

“Tending Sheep,” https://choosinghimministries.org/tending-sheep-by-angela-scott/ https://choosinghimministries.org/tending-sheep-by-angela-scott/embed/#?secret=1Pqh9A45H2

“9 Shocking Reasons Why God Compares Us to Sheep in the Bible,” https://momremade.com/god-compares-us-to-sheep/ https://momremade.com/god-compares-us-to-sheep/embed/#?secret=KW6mZk33QH