“The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.” Psalm 23:1
We begin at the beginning. The first verse of the 23rd Psalm is packed with so much. And yet we tend to just fly right through as we rattle off this well-known Psalm. Let’s take a moment and look at all the stuff packed in this short verse.
Have you ever noticed what New International Version® of the Bible does with the word “lord?” The translators of the NIV®, whenever they came across the name of God, “Yahweh,” in the Hebrew, chose to note it as “l-o-r-d” in all capital letters.
Oh, and just as an aside, never use the name Jehovah in the presence of a Concordia Seminary professor. I did that once. I emphasize “once.” There’s a reason that they have empty crosses in seminary classrooms. So they can crucify students who mangle Hebrew. Of course, I’m joking, seminary professors aren’t that bad – as least most of them are not. But I was chastised quite vociferously once by a seminary professor that God’s name in the Old Testament is no “Jehovah” but rather “Yahweh.” I never forgot that lesson.
Anyway… in this first verse of the Psalm right away we know who our shepherd is. It is God Almighty, Yahweh, the God who created the heavens and the earth. It is the God that spoke to Moses from the burning bush. It is the God that parted the Red Sea and led the Children of Israel to the Promised Land. This is the God who is our shepherd.
That’s almost insulting.
This great God is a lowly shepherd? But it fits. For it makes us lowly sheep. I heard once that sheep are “smelly and stupid.” And that is what we are, in a sense. Our sin stinks to high heaven and we’re so stupid we can’t find our way to God. We need a shepherd to guide us and that shepherd is Yahweh, God Almighty.
Yahweh is all-powerful (omnipotent – remember that word from Catechism?) and because he is omnipotent and is also our shepherd, we shall never lack anything we need. The King James Version of Psalm 23 says, “The Lord’s my shepherd, I shall not want” (emphasis added). This doesn’t mean we do not want the Lord to be our shepherd. It means that we shall never lack anything thing we need. We will “never be in want.” This is an important point, because it defines our prayer life. We pray for so much, but we learn from the Scriptures and the Catechism that God gives us what we need, not necessarily what we want. Yet we will never be in want.
This is what we are confessing when we say the first verse of the 23rd Psalm.