"Jehovah is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures; He leadeth me beside still waters." (ASV)
For many of us, the 23rd Psalm is very familiar. It's one of the most quoted passages of scripture, and for a very good reason. This particular Psalm is written with very descriptive language. Like any good poetry, it is written to evoke a response within the reader. It paints a picture of peace and tranquility.
Psalm 23 compares God to a good shepherd. Of course, this is a metaphor that is also quite familiar to anyone who has studied the Bible. Jesus Himself even said "I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep." (John 10:11 ASV) It is a very apt comparison. It was also very relevant to the people who lived in Biblical days. Back then shepherds were plentiful. King David, the writer of this Psalm, started out life as a shepherd, so he was well acquainted with their duties and characteristics.
"I shall not want." These four short words convey so much about God and our relationship to him. If we are truely allowing God to be our shepherd, to guide our lives, we will want for nothing. "Delight thyself also in Jehovah; And he will give thee the desires of thy heart." (Psalm 37:4 ASV) The more time we spend in God's presence, the less we desire the things of this world. As we learn to walk closer to Him, we begin to see how fleeting and hollow all of our former treasures really are. As we learn to see the world as God sees it, we realize that the only thing we really need is Him. And of course, since He also desires a relationship with us, that is something He is always willing to grant to us.
"He maketh me to lie down in green pastures" God knows that we need rest to restore ourselves. In our hectic and crazy world, it seems like everyone is running around, trying to do more, to do better, to be faster. This is not the life God has designed for us. Way back when he created the world, God set for us an example. "And on the seventh day God finished his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made." (Genesis 2:2 ASV) As our shepherd, God wants us to rest and wait on Him so that we can refresh ourselves.
"He leadeth me beside still waters." God has our safety in mind as well as our well being. Sheep need to drink water to survive, but rapidly moving currents can be quite treacherous to them. A good shepherd knows this and plans for it by finding calm, still drinking sources. God provides for us in the same way. He knows that it is easy for us to get swept away in the current of sin, so he provides our needs in ways that will not take us away from His presence. "but whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall become in him a well of water springing up unto eternal life." (John 4:14 ASV)