Nine Words

The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want;

The 23rd Psalm is probably one of the best know scriptures. Biblegateway.com states, “simply tallying the most-read verses results in a top 100 list that consists almost entirely of John 3:16 and verses from 1 Corinthians 13, Genesis 1, Romans 8, and Psalm 23.” And, although I have read or heard read this chapter of the bible many times, I had one of those lightbulb moments this weekend in church. It wasn’t so much that I had a revelatory moment regarding the content, bot more regarding the magnitude of what it contains. We spent an entire church service on just the first verse alone and that is what I want to share today! I love the Lord and how He can take something so “familiar” and make it like new; take something that I may even skip over and cause it to “make my baby jump” … as a former pastor would say! So … let’s take a look:

LORD: The word LORD (all upper case letters) is the Hebrew name יהוה, which is often transliterated as Yahweh or Jehovah. In this case Jehova Rohi or Shepherd.  That is, He helps us to find food, water, work, love, friends and all that we need.  He also protects us from evil.  He also gently or firmly prods us when we step out of line and deviate from the way of living set down in the Bible as being correct. In David’s day, the shepherd would spend day and night with his sheep. The sheep would know his voice and follow his commands.

Shepherd: The Hebrew word for shepherd is the verb ra’ah (Strong’s #7462) meaning to “feed” and “tend the flock,” which are the responsibilities of a shepherd; but the shepherd is also a friend to the flock. Note that the translation uses the noun “shepherd” to translate this verb; this is an indication that this verb is written as a participle, a way of changing a Hebrew verb into a noun. Our pastor related to us a time when he was pastoring in a very rural part of another state and preached on this passage. He talked about various aspects of sheep, in particular how sheep are literally one of the dumbest animals on the plane! (Having lived in Alaska, I would say moose give them a good challenge!) After the service a man who actually raised sheep came up to him and confirmed each of the characteristics the pastor had shared and invited him out to his farm! Not that humans are dumb, per se, but that we definitely need a shepherd!

Want: This is the verb chaser (Strong’s #2637), which means to be lacking in something that will cause failure. I think this is where we (humans, but Americans in particular) can get distracted. One scholar writes, “I shall not want” also expresses or is an affirmation that my life will not be controlled by ‘wanting’ all the time.  Always wanting things is a miserable way to live, but a common one.  A somewhat similar idea is expressed in the Tenth Commandment given to Moses in the Old Testament: “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”  So this is another way of understanding this line of the psalm.

LORD, thank You for making Your word fresh and new! Nine words out of the whole Bible and I have only scratched the proverbial surface! Thank You for being our Shepherd! Thank You for Your grace and patience when I (daily) look and act so much like a sheep! Father, may my “wants” be what You want for me! In Jesus name, Amen!

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