The Lord is my shepherd . . .
Familiar words that have been heard so often they recall in an instant the words that follow after.
. . . I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures.
And without much thought the phrases trickle forward from the recesses of the mind.
. . . He restores my soul . . .
. . . though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil . . .
. . . thy rod and staff comfort me . . .
. . . You prepare a table for me . . .
. . . surely goodness and mercy shall follow me . . . and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever . . .
Familiar words that even those who would not identify themselves as Christian would recognize. After all, Psalm 23 has been the cornerstone of thousands of funeral messages, regardless of ones religious affiliation. The words — in their many variations — can be seen embossed on napkins and coffee mugs, or etched on plaques of lacquered wood that are mounted on the wall of grandma’s bathroom. They have become so very common place that we often miss seeing them at all.
One of the accounts I follow on Twitter is ESV Daily Verse. Every day one single verse of Scripture from the English Standard Version sent directly to my phone. It comes in the early morning hours before I am awake and when I turn my phone on in the morning it is usually the first tweet that comes through. Sometimes the verse resonates and I meditate on what it has to say. Other times I go and read the other verses around it to gather the context. Too often, I breeze past it with a “that-is-good-but-it’s-time-to-check-my-e-mail-and-make-my-tea” attitude.
This morning was different. I was stopped in my tracks. Riveted by a verse that was so familiar it often seems mundane. The tweet today simply read, “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.” No follow up verses. No continuation into what the rest of the chapter promises. Simply verse one. And while my mind quickly raced forward remembering the phrases from the rest of the chapter, it was halted again and again as it returned to the opening sentence.
“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.”
And so I sat in the early morning pre-sunrise light and stared at my phone, convicted by the simple message on the screen from words I have known by heart since I was a little child. What hit me square between my eyes was the fact that I was trying to live my life resting in the promises of God. “Wait!”, you might say, “Isn’t that what we are suppose to do?” Yes, it is, but I think that for me I had taken it too far.
See, this morning I found myself realizing that I was resting on the promises of what the psalmist had written in verses two through six, but I had slipped away from relying on verse one. I was focused on my day-by-day’s being rooted in God’s “stuff” — His rod and staff, the green pasture, the table He has spread for me, and the joys of eternity — instead of being focused on God. It hit me that while there is incredible truth and promises in the last part of Psalm 23 — and I am so very thankful they are there — I don’t need anything more than verse one.
He is my shepherd. I shall not want.
There needs not be any discussion past that verse. My needs, wants, and desires are all culminated in God. To state it in a slightly different way, “God is enough.” Enough for what? For my fears, my sin, my failings, my worries? Yes! Does God comfort me? Yes, but the fact that He is God should be enough comfort. Does God provide for me? Yes, but He is God and that is enough. Do I find peace from the promises of His mercy and grace? Absolutely! But He is God and every promise that comes from Him is provided only when we first see Him.
The promises of God that follow after verse one are simply an extension of who God is. I lost sight of that. I was trying to find comfort in His staff and the green pastures without actually looking for the shepherd. I was attempting to eat from a table and rest in promises of eternal joy without seeing the One through whom provision comes. I have no need with God as my shepherd. None. God is enough. I had become so enthralled with the blessings, I wasn’t seeing the One who blesses.
He is my shepherd and that is all that I need.