Summary: Psalm 23 gives us God's personal Top Ten list of fulfillment. As we read David's psalm we see how God fulfills all of our deepest needs. The New Testament expands on this to show that Jesus is indeed our Good Shepherd, giving us life more abundantly.
The All-sufficient God
How would you finish this sentence? “I will be happy when _______.” “...when I start feeling better; when that cost-of-living increase kicks in; when I get a better doctor, or the right med; when the food around here improves; when that neighbor moves out; when my surgery is over; when I get married; when I get divorced.” How would you finish that statement?
The Apostle Paul wrote, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances” (Philippians 4:11). The writer of Hebrews advised, “Be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you’” (Hebrews 13:5). Today’s passage gives the source of true contentment. Perhaps we don’t have to be bound to our circumstances. Perhaps we can be fulfilled in God right where we are. Perhaps God can be our all in all.
David’s 23rd Psalm is undoubtedly the most familiar psalm in all the Bible. Yet, with familiarity comes complacency. Let’s examine this image of God as our shepherd. In the phrases of the psalm, I want to suggest ten distinct ways God fulfills us. Consider it God’s own “Top Ten” List! First,
1. God satisfies
1 - “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.”
I’ve been reading a lot lately on minimalism, how to do more with less stuff. Do I really need 25 pairs of shoes? Where can I reduce clutter in my life, so I can concentrate on the things that really matter? Here the Psalmist makes a bold claim: If I have God, I lack nothing. God is my all in all. He is everything I need.
Do you know that when you crave something to fulfill you, that you are ripe for idolatry? Now don’t misunderstand me; it’s ok to have things, but just make sure they don’t have you. If something or someone in your life becomes more important than your relationship with God, it’s an idol. We like to make fun of the ancient Israelites for their golden calves, but we have our own. It might be our work. It could be our spouse or grandchild. It could be a nice new car or that perfect outfit that will complete us. It could be anything. Make sure you keep God first in your life. Then you will never want for anything. God satisfies, and ...
2. God provides
2 - “He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.”
Here we see three of the things sheep need most: food, water, and rest. Shepherds would search the fields for these things for their sheep. We learn to be content in God when we realize he meets our deepest needs.
God knows what you need. And he’s promised to meet your needs. To paraphrase Jesus, if God clothes the wildflowers in beautiful splendor and gives the Grackles all the food they need, won’t he take care of you? He summed it up in Matthew 6:33, “Seek first [God’s] kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”
When I hear the phrase, “He maketh me to lie down,” I always think of my own body. If I don’t factor in rest and replenishment, if all I do is go, go, go, then at some point my body conks out. God gives me a migraine to force me to bed and rest. God knows your needs better than you do. God satisfies and God provides. Those two go together. And as God does these things for us, #3,
3. God restores
3 - “He restoreth my soul...”
God brings vitality to my very being. He cleanses me from the inside out. Paul talks about this when he says in 2 Corinthians 4:16, “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.” God renews us. God replenishes us. God restores us. His loving care puts our minds at ease, as we turn over every problem, every burden to him. As I’ve said before, if you know how to worry, you know how to pray. Give God your worries and receive his peace. Allow him to restore you. And #4,
4. God guides
3b - “He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.”
Ancient shepherds guided their sheep through treacherous paths around the mountainsides. The prophet Jeremiah talked about false prophets and quoted God as saying, “My people have been lost sheep; their shepherds have led them astray and caused them to roam on the mountains” (Jeremiah 50:6). God will never misguide you. Our good shepherd guides us through difficult paths of life. When we follow him, he keeps us on the straight and narrow path. And it all reflects back on his good character: “for his name’s sake.” You can count on God never to lead you into harm but always into good.