I SHALL NOT WANT
A meditation on Psalm 23
H. P. Wotton
The Lord is my shepherd: I shall not want Rest. “He maketh me to lie down in green pastures” (v. 2).
We think of rest as “the end of the day”, but God’s ways are not our ways, neither are His thoughts our thoughts. So our first acquaintance with the Good Shepherd brings us to the green pastures of the rest of forgiveness. This is understandable when we remember that the Shepherd Psalm follows the Psalm of the Cross. Had not the Good Shepherd been to the place where He was constrained to cry out, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” He could not
have brought His people to the place of true rest. But now He does so.
It is not the rest of sleep. It is that of the soul when it finds its rest in God. Thrice happy sheep! Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: and I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand” (John 10. 27, 28). The Lord’s people shall not want rest in a world torn by turmoil. When men’s hearts are failing them for fear, the Good Shepherd will care for them and comfort them, and lead them in the way everlasting.
The Lord is my Shepherd: I shall not want Refreshment. “He
leadeth me beside the still waters” (v. 2).
The imagery is that of a lake of pure water. There is not a ripple on its surface as it reflects the sun shining overhead and the trees that receive moisture from the take as they grow on its banks. The still waters are a mirror of truth and the winds of change are not there to disturb the reflection. For the water of God’s Word in its purity reveals the lovely reflection of the Good Shepherd Himself as He leads His sheep to satisfy their thirst, for these waters are living waters. They are the water of life, of which whosoever drinks shall live indeed.
Jesus said, “Whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life” (John 4. 14).
The Lord is my Shepherd: I shall not want Restoration. ‘He
restoreth my soul’ (v. 3).
In every sphere of life we need restoration. Our physical and mental powers are in continual use. This being so, we use up energy, and without its restoration we could not continue to live. It is God who sustains our lives, and renews our powers from day to day. The same is true of our spiritual lives. The psalmist learnt the meaning of
the verb ‘to backslide’ by bitter personal experience, and we would doubtless do the same were not God’s mercies of grace new to us every morning. Of ourselves we have no power of continuance. Says the psalmist, “He restoreth my soul”. It is because of this that believers are preserved in the way of life. “He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1.6).
The Lord is my Shepherd: I shall not want Counsel. “He leadeth me in paths of righteousness” (v. 3).
The believer needs guidance. He wants to know what the Lord would have him to do. The question may be, “Should I continue in my present work, or should I seek some ‘full-time service for the Lord?” This may be a difficult question to answer. But the leading promised to Christ’s sheep is more important. He is more concerned with why we go and why we do than He is with where we go and what we do. So He leads His sheep in the paths of righteousness. Absolutely devoid of righteousness in himself, the believer’s personal righteousness for living is grace wrought in him by the Holy Spirit, for “grace reigns through righteousness.”
Having in these things sought first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, what He would have us to do will doubtless be made known unto us. “As many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God” (Rom. 8. 14).
The Lord is my Shepherd: I shall not want Companionship. “For Thou art with me” (v. 4).
The Lord’s people cannot be where He is not. He was with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the fiery furnace. Nebuchadnezzar testified to this when he said, “Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God” (Daniel 3, 25).
Those who are led by the Lord Jesus in the paths of righteousness shall not want companionship. Whatever company they may lack they shall not want that of the Good Shepherd. It is far better and infinitely more blessed to have Him and be without such company than it is to have many companions without Him. “In thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore” (Psalm 16. 11).
The Lord is my Shepherd: 1 shall not want Comfort. “Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me” (v. 4).
It seems strange that the psalmist should speak of comfort in terms of a rod, though we may understand it when he speaks of a staff. A rod is a symbol of chastisement and a staff something on which we may lean. We are told in the epistle to the Hebrews that
God chastises every son whom He receives, and so the rod is a mark of God’s fatherly dealings with His children. It is a symbol of sonship. As for the staff it may well refer to the Word of truth that cannot fail those who use it as the staff of truth to uphold them in the Christian way.
The Lord is my Shepherd: I shall not want Provision.
“Thou prepares a table before me” (v. 5).
The Good Shepherd is never short of food for His sheep. While others feed on husks. His people sit down to a right royal feast prepared for them by their royal Master. It is a feast that no physical eye can see. But it is seen by the eye of faith and enjoyed by those who partake of its goodness. It is a feast that does not depend on man’s favour or provision, for, says the psalmist, “Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies”. Paul and Silas were partakers of this feast when they sang praises to God in prison, their feet fast in the stocks. “He brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner over me was love” (Song of Solomon 2. 4).
The Lord is my Shepherd: I shall not want Power. “Thou anointest my head with oil” (v. 5).
Oil is a symbol of power. It is the oil of the Spirit that sets the wheels of Christian service in motion. And so, when the Lord wants me to do something for Him Â— which is continuous everyday duty Â— I shall not lack power to do it, for He has oil sufficient to enable His people to do all He requires them to do.
When God gives His people the oil of joy. His service is their delight, and the burden of responsibility rolls smoothly off from their shoulders that cannot carry it to His that can.
“. . . the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness” (Isaiah 61. 3).
The Lord is my Shepherd: I shall not want anything here. For
“goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life” (v. 6).
Wrote C. H. Spurgeon of goodness and mercy/These twin guardian angels will always be with me at my back and my beck. Just as when great princes go abroad they must not go unattended, so it is with the believer. Goodness and mercy follow him always Â— “all the days of his life” Â— the black days as well as the bright days, the days of fasting as well as the days of feasting, the dreary days of winter as well as the bright days of summer. Goodness supplies our needs, and mercy blots out our sins. And of the final sentence of the psalm Â— “I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever” Â— the same writer says, “While I am here I will be a child at home with my God; the whole world shall be His house to me; and when I ascend into the upper chamber I shall not change my company, nor even change the house;
I shall only go to dwell in the upper storey of the house of the Lord for ever”.