Names of God

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want – Psalm 23:1

Often the impression that people have of God in the Old Testament is that he is all fire and brimstone, judgment and holiness; but here we see a hint of his humility, condescension, and intimacy. The Lord is my shepherd.

Embedded in this pastoral imagery are two clear lessons regarding, first, the predicament of the sheep and, second, the provision of the shepherd. The very statement “I shall not want because the Lord is my shepherd” implies a cavernous need without the shepherd. Indeed, all sheep are quite helpless without their protector and provider close by.

In comparing us to sheep, the psalmist suggests the danger that we are in (sheep have no claws or other natural defenses), the understanding we lack (sheep are stupid animals), the direction we need (sheep can’t hunt or find their own way), and the frailty we show (sheep are relatively fragile creatures). We need a shepherd to provide for us, direct us, help us, feed us.

Remember this is your condition, dear reader, without your Shepherd. We are sheep in our understanding, vulnerability, and weakness. Therefore, when you least understand God’s will—when it frustrates you the most, when it seems the most contrary to all that you desire—know this… it is at that moment that you are most wrong about what is good for you. Do not try to go your own way: follow your Shepherd and trust in his wisdom.

The good shepherd is watchful, he is faithful, he is tender; he knows his sheep intimately, and he is willing to sacrifice for them (remember how David risked his life to save one sheep from a lion and a bear?). Our good Shepherd provides for every need of each of his sheep, and he is intimately acquainted with our condition. He tenderly follows and embraces us when we go astray.

Can you say today, “the Lord is my shepherd?” If so, then rest assured: you shall not want.