The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. Here, David proclaims that God was his shepherd! What great confidence he had in who God was. From his personal experiences with God, David came to see what kind of a person God was— he was a shepherd-like person. David himself had been a shepherd in his youth, so he knew exactly what qualities shepherds had. He knew that they were more than just hired hands; they had complete concern and devotion for sheeps’ wellbeing. Even they were willing to lay down their lives for sheep.
How happy and proud David was to be identified as God’s sheep!
When sheep have this complete trust in their shepherd, they can say, I shall not be in want. But this kind of trust does not come naturally. When sheep are first born or bought at a market, the shepherd is a stranger to them. They tremble at his presence or run away at the sound of his voice.
However, the shepherd knows that sheep are naturally fearful and skittish creatures; he also knows their helplessness to lead themselves and fight off predators. As a result, the shepherd’s struggle becomes to establish a trust relationship with them and to reveal himself as one they can rely on. Day after day, he comes to them, calling them by name, getting to know their quirks and personalities, feeding them, and grooming them; when they stray too far, he firmly yet tenderly navigates them back with his staff; when they are frightened by a thunderstorm, the shepherd soothes and comforts them.
Over time, sheep come to recognize the shepherd’s love and desire for them; he has no ulterior motives or bad intentions. So they learn to put full trust in the shepherd. Eventually, whenever the shepherd calls his sheep by name, the sheep happily skips to the shepherd. The sheep’s confidence becomes, I shall not be in want. How does this happen? Not because of the sheep’s diligence and hard work to get to that point; but it is the shepherd who diligently seeks to form such a beautiful relationship with them.
Verse 2a says, He makes me lie down in green pasture. Sheep usually do not lie down even in such a wonderful place. They are fearful animals. They don’t have very good defense mechanisms and their vision is not so great. They know that dangers lurk all around them. So sheep can’t help but suspiciously and nervously glance this way and that way, ready to run away at the first sign of danger.
This illustrates humans very well. In the world today, there is no shortage of difficulties, betrayals, neglect, and injustice. As a result, people are on guard 24/7. They have a hard time trusting others. They worry about the worst case situation happening to them. Even in the church, people are burdened because they think God pins them down with regulations. Although they have accepted that God has guided them and has given them his words, still they are fearful. Without absolute trust, they can never appreciate nor enjoy the green pasture God leads them to.
David says, he makes me lie down. To make them lie down, the shepherd does not have to wrestle and pin sheep down to the ground. This might cause a heart attack for the sheep. No sheep can truly lie down without complete trust in their shepherd.
This was King David’s personal struggle. Due to constant threat and danger from his enemies, David could not lie down; rather he was ready to flee at any time. If he made just one mistake, he could be killed. If he was caught in his enemies’ snare, it would be all over for him. So he could not trust anyone; he couldn’t even sleep peacefully or eat well.
But after experiencing God’s protection and provision over and over again, David became confident that God guided his life. He exclaims, “I will be glad and rejoice in your love, for you saw my affliction and knew the anguish of my soul. You have not handed me over to the enemy but have set my feet in a spacious place.” (Ps 31:7-8) So when God brought him to green pastures, he could lie down. There was no more suspicion, no more mistrust of others or fear of the situation; only complete faith in God.
As God reveals himself to his sheep and intervenes in their lives continuously, they are healed from their mistrust, doubts, and worries. They become fully confident that because of God, they will never perish; no one can snatch them out of his hand; they can truly enjoy life to the full. It is God who makes us lie down in green pasture.
I grew up under the care of a generous, protective father who seemed to provide an endless stretch of green pasture through financial security, moral stability, and involved family life… But rather than being a content and happy person, I became spoiled and materialistic, taking many things for granted. Also, my father’s love or many materials and experiences could not heal my sin-sick heart. I remained a very self-conscious, reserved person, afraid of the selfish and competitive nature of society around me. I grew an inferiority complex in constantly comparing myself to my sisters, friends, anyone around me, even random strangers on the street. I became used to hiding my feelings of incompetence and bottling up my depressed, dark way of thinking. Doubt and mistrust were cancerous sins to my soul; it completely damaged my way of thinking and understanding about life, of people and of God. I kept on going through the motions of life, but felt everything was meaningless since I despised my present reality and had little hopes for my future.
But the Lord is my shepherd, who knew me and called me at the right time. In Spring 2009, my 2nd year at CSULB, God used one of his servants to teach me the bible and lead me to the green pastures of his words. When I studied the book of Genesis during that summer, I was humbled by the realization that I barely knew about the God I had grown up learning about. Genesis revealed to me God as the God of covenant and the God of vision after he uncovered the real meaning of my name, mother of many. When I accepted to trust God and follow him, then I began to see God indeed had a plan and purpose for everything. He had not left me alone, but was with me all along, working on his salvation plan to restore me as one of his sheep and to fulfill his vision to make me a mother of many nations.
In this new life, he has led me to many green pastures, including his living and active words, sincere fellowship with other sheep in his sheep pen, and the adventurous mission life. God blessed me in so many ways to have new life with renewed purpose and hope. But due to my remaining mistrustful and worrying nature, I had a hard time finding complete peace and rest. Even though much of my external situations had changed, my inner condition remained in conflict. I had lived my whole life trying to hide myself, so I struggled to open my heart up to others; Also due to my ingrained fatalism, I could not fully believe that God could help me overcome my weaknesses and shortcomings. Many times, I felt like Sarah from Genesis who had suffered from her barren condition for so long that she remained in unbelief about God’s promises.
But God as my shepherd continued with his work to heal me from many of these past wounds and infirmities. As I have kept going forward, putting my trust in God and remaining in him, He has not failed to reveal to me that he is with me, guiding me, and blessing me, even in the most seemingly impossible aspects of my life…
Teaching the bible for me has been nothing short of a miracle. I never thought I could teach the Bible because like Moses, I was slow in speech and tongue. I wondered, who would listen to my words?? Also, I had little desire to help people because of my closed heart. But I kept going to campus every semester to find students who would accept to hear the gospel. As I did, so many times I failed miserably to teach students well. Whenever I felt I could not go on any longer because my failures seemed too much to bear, God helped me to overcome my sorrows. Over time, I found myself growing more of a heart for sheep and finding deep passion in teaching God’s words. Even now, as I work full time at my job, still I drive 30 minutes to my mission field to find and teach God’s sheep. Even after 10 years, I can keep on going. How can this happen? Not because I loved people and felt capable; on the contrary, such personal and social interactions were so painful. But only because of God’s grace and guidance could I overcome and grow up to be a bible teacher and shepherd for college students.
God also has not failed to reveal his intervention in the matter of my future career. Because of worldly security, I never had the need to work, nor did I ever want to. I was a spoiled sheep who was used to running away from life’s challenges. I only got my first part time job at the suggestion of my bible teacher after graduating. And after that, I jumped from job to job, working at 5 different places within 6 years. Whenever I started working at a new place, I spent the first few days or weeks crying in defeat because of the new challenges. The only reason I could keep working was because I believed that my job was a means for God’s kingdom purpose and to reveal his glory. So that meant my future was not limited to a certain job or my failures, but rather God would use it as “famine training” or “storm training” so that I could grow up.
Now, as a full time middle school art teacher, I have more work than ever before. After marrying and getting a new teaching position last summer, I was completely overwhelmed with the most challenging moments. Each day felt like survival; many nights I hoped God would take my life away rather than having to face the next day’s painful battles in the classroom and in my heart.
But this summer, as I reflected on last year’s experience in preparation for the upcoming year, I was touched to see how it was God all this time who allows me to say confidently, I shall not be in want. Working as a public school teacher was surely not easy, but God was using it to help me overcome my fear of people, conflict, and my desires for the easy going life. Because of this, I was reminded about the true purpose of my career, which was for God’s kingdom work.
In starting to spend a lot of time setting up my home and investing in my job, I was exposed to my desire to secure stability and comforts in this life. But studying the book of Daniel reminded me to put my hope in God’s sovereign plans in the midst of terrible beast wars. Inspired by Daniel’s steadfast obedience and faith one night, I made a decision to fully offer my life for God’s kingdom work. I made a personal vow with God, that if he grants me victory and success at my job this year, then I could finally retire from job training and live as a full time shepherdess. I don’t need to hold onto a job simply for increasing my spending money and living comforts or for the recognition; rather I can move on, fully equipped for the real mission of God’s soul saving business.
The Lord is my shepherd. He has brought me to green pastures where I can grow up very sound and well, not just gaining some spiritual experiences but also where my mental, emotional, social, and physical wellbeing is secured. Knowing God wants the best for me, I can continually live my life freely and fully. He makes me lie down in green pastures.
I thank God for for his deep shepherd’s concern for me, for guiding me to this point. I once was a blind, hopeless sheep, as good as dead; but thanks to his amazing grace, I was found and restored as one of his own. Praise God!
One word- The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.